Many consider them to be the most devoted and fanatical supporters in professional sports, but the New York Jets converted the Packer faithful into a flock of boo birds in less than 15 minutes of action Sunday.
Quarterback Chad Pennington was sizzling in near-glacial conditions as he and the New York offense devoured the Green Bay defense for a field goal and four touchdowns on the Jets' first five possessions. The Jets scored 31 unanswered points before Green Bay's Dave Rayner hit a 34-yard field goal midway through the third quarter.
"We weren't going to let the weather affect our game plan," said Pennington. "We were going to come out and we were going to be balanced. We were going to do whatever we needed to do to be successful."
Pennington threw to six different Jets players on the club's first drive, including a 17-yard pass to Justin McCareins on third and five from the Packer 32-yard line. Even though the offense set the tone with their up-tempo no huddle attack, they failed to convert on four red zone snaps before settling for the Nugent field goal.
"Coach Schottenheimer and myself, we have confidence in our passing game and confidence in our receivers from Jerricho to Laveranues, across the board to our tight ends and halfbacks," said Pennington. "We believe that if we can get these guys the ball in open space, they can do some good things."
Schottenheimer's offense was given another chance less than three minutes later after a Bryan Thomas strip-sack of Brett Favre. Defensive tackle Dewayne Robertson pounced on his first fumble recovery of the season at the Jets' 49-yard line and the visitors went back to work.
Pennington opened his second drive of the game by hitting Jerricho Cotchery 25 yards downfield. Cotchery totaled a career-high nine receptions Sunday for 99 yards. Running back Leon Washington got into the mix early as well as he hauled in a 13-yard reception to place the Green and White in the Packer red zone for the second time in less than 10 minutes of action. The seventh-year quarterback from Marshall went back to Cotchery from 12 yards out to put the Jets up 10 with less than five minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
"Our guys are doing a great job of getting open and doing a great job of running crisp routes," Pennington said. "I believe in all those guys. We are just going to keep working hard in practice and try to keep on getting better."
Fast-forward to drive number three where Pennington started from his own 17-yard line and didn't stop until running back Cedric Houston plowed his way into the end zone for his first of two scores on the day. Pennington was successful on four of five passing attempts inside that five and a half minute possession including deep plays to Chris Baker for a gain of 22 yards and Cotchery for 21 yards.
"I'm excited about our progress as an offense; I'm excited about the capability and potential that we have," Pennington said. "I'm also excited about how hard our guys work and these guys work hard every day. They don't gripe; they don't complain."
Pennington wrapped up the one-sided first half assault by completing his final eight pass attempts for 63 yards including a one-yard toss to a wide open Baker in the end zone with just nine seconds to go. Heading into the locker room, Pennington had already accumulated 241 passing yards and two touchdowns. The Jets had 340 yards in total offense in the first half. To put that in proper perspective, their previous season high in a game was 398 yards in a win over Detroit.
"I was really pleased, especially in the first half, with the way we were able to move the ball offensively," head coach Eric Mangini said. "Chad was able to spread the ball around. We ran the ball pretty well throughout the day today. It has been something that we have been working on and emphasizing on."
Although he opened up the second half with two interceptions over just four plays of action, Pennington's performance was still nothing short of outstanding. The last time he threw for two touchdowns in one game came on October 15 when he led the Jets to a 20-17 win over the Dolphins at the Meadowlands. His 263-yard performance gives him 549 total passing yards in his last two games after collecting 286 yards in a Week Twelve win over Houston.
"One of the trademarks of the offense is try to play fast," said Mangini of Pennington. "In doing that, different guys are going to come open based on whatever the scheme is and whatever the coverage is. One of the things Chad is always good at is understanding where the hole in the defense is and getting the ball to that receiver. I thought he did a nice job of finding those spaces and taking advantage of those spaces."
Despite Lambeau Field's frosty conditions, running back Cedric Houston was able to catch fire. The second-year Jets' rusher broke out with two career-highs in Sunday's 38-10 defeat of Green Bay Sunday afternoon.
Houston gained 105 yards on the ground, eclipsing his previous career-high of 84 yards set against Miami last season. Houston's two rushing touchdowns marked the first time in his career that he accounted for multiple scores. He now has four touchdowns on the season in just five games played.
"I think our whole offense did a great job; everybody came out firing on all cylinders," Houston said. "It started with our offensive line; they've been doing a great job. If it weren't for them, we wouldn't be getting all these yards."
Houston and Leon Washington shared the snaps today as Kevan Barlow was inactive for the first time as a Jet. Also contributing to the running game was rookie Brad Smith who busted loose with a 32-yard rush on a reverse – the team's longest rushing play of the season. Combined, the Jets rushed for 178 yards.
"I thought Cedric did a nice job and I thought the offensive line did a nice job. It was a nice mixture of Cedric and Leon," Mangini said. "They complemented each other, and I really like the job that the offensive line did as well."