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Jets Scrap but Lose Late to Texans, 20-16

The NFL's August theme is "Back to Football," and the Jets' mantra for the season is "Bring It Home." But on this night the Green & White could have supplied a subtitle, something catchy like "Hard Knocks II," emphasis on the "Knocks."

The Jets came into their preseason opener, a Monday night date deep in the heart of Texas, missing three starters on their offense — center Nick Mangold (neck), guard Brandon Moore (hip) and WR Plaxico Burress (ankle), not to mention backup QB Mark Brunell (finger). Then late in the first quarter, new starting center Rob Turner went down with an ankle injury.

And after a decent first quarter by the "ones," the Jets' second team didn't fare as well in the second frame as a strip sack of the temporary No. 2 QB, rookie Greg McElroy, led to the hosts' touchdown. It wasn't shaping up well.

Call it dramatic tension. The Jets' backups climbed off the deck and came back from a 10-point deficit with 13 unanswered points — two field goals by guys named Nick sandwiched around McElroy's first pro touchdown pass and Patrick Turner's first pro TD catch.

However, the Texans responded late with what appeared to be rookie T.J. Yates' 28-yard touchdown strike to fellow rookie Lestar Jean past the defense of Jets rookie CB Julian Posey and second-year S Emanuel Cook. Even though 2:24 remained on the clock, the NFL's new rule about viewing replays of all scoring plays resulted in a completion only to the Jets' half-yard line.

On the first play after the two-minute warning, Chris Ogbonnaya capped a strong night for the home side with a 1 -yard slash off tackle and the Texans had their 20-16 edge.

Yet the Jets nearly pulled  out in the final minute when McElroy found Michael Campbell alone streaking toward the end zone off a play fake and a double move. McElroy's throw was on the money but Campbell dropped the ball for the go-ahead score.

"I hate losing, my team hates losing," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan.  "I don't care if it's preseason or not."

Despite all the ups and downs, the Jets' second-half stars deserved perhaps a half-bow:

Well-traveled kicker Nick Novak hit a 35-yarder down the middle to bring the Jets back within seven. Then rookie DT Kenrick Ellis made his first play in green and white, swatting a Matt Leinart pass into the air, where it was picked off by LB Josh Mauga and returned to the Texans 20.

Four plays later, on third-and-goal, McElroy showed his celebrated accurate arm and Patrick Turner demonstrated his vise grips for the 2-yard score that made it 13-all with 5:56 left in the third.

And McElroy led the Jets 30 yards to the Houston 22, Nick Folk made it 2-for-2 in the field goal department by nailing a 40-yarder high into the netting in the Reliant Stadium end zone to give the Jets a 16-13 edge with 6:06 to play.

First-year LB Garrett McIntyre brought some heat down from Canada with a pair of sacks of Yates in the final quarter.

"It was good just to get back on the field," said Mark Sanchez, who worked nicely on his accuracy by going 6-for-7 despite some spotty protection. "It's been seven months since we were in full pads against another team. We accomplished what we wanted to. We got some early completions. Unfortunately, Rob Turner went down. Hopefully he'll be back with us soon. But I was proud of that first unit."

All in all, the Jets' debut had some low points but some redeeming qualities. Not an award-winner yet, but worthy of a second episode. And that will come Sunday night in their first game of the season in their new home, New Meadowlands Stadium, against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Jets started this last game of the first preseason weekend on defense, and a fine three-and-out the first possession it was. On first down, S Jim Leonhard came up to drop cutting-back RB Derrick Ward (the former Jets seventh-round pick). Leonhard looked fine in making his first serious contact since breaking his leg in practice last Dec. 3. Then on third down Mauga came unblocked off the edge to sack Matt Schaub.

Then came Jeremy Kerley's first pro touch, a punt return that the fifth-round rookie took 11 yards to the Texans 41.

And finally the offense took over. Sanchez wasn't taking any seven-step drops but he also wasn't handing off behind his rebuilt offensive line, completing his first four passes, two to Santonio Holmes. But as with the Texans, Sanchez's opening march was halted by a sack. Unlike the home team, the visitors were close enough for Folk to punch through a 33-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead 6½ minutes into the game.

An exchange of possessions later, the Jets received another injury blow at center as  Turner came up with a lower leg injury and was carted off the field. In came Center No. 3, Robby Felix. The drive bogged down and T.J. Conley came on for the Jets' first punt of the night, an "almost" drop punt that Brodney Pool couldn't keep out of the end zone.

With two series apiece under their belts, the first teams sat down and the "twos" came on for both teams. For the Jets offense, that meant rookie QB Greg McElroy made his pro debut. It didn't take long before the Jets could say, "Houston, we have another problem."

This time Vlad Ducasse, shifting from RG to RT, gave up a strong outside rush to Jesse Nading, who sacked McElroy and forced a fumble that DE Tim Jamison recovered at the Jets 14. The Jets' second unit almost got a huge fourth-and-inches stop at their 5, but "almost" didn't cut it on this drive. The Texans took the gift field position and big first down and converted into the game's first TD, a Matt Leinart flip to RB Chris Ogbonnaya on a play in which the safeties seemed to fall for a Leinart playfake. With 7:45 to play in the half it was 10-3, Houston.

McElroy almost committed another disastrous giveaway when his underthrown pass for Kerley was picked off by CB Antuan Molden and returned deep into Jets territory. But Molden was caught grabbing Kerley's facemask at the line, so the Jets retained possession. However, that drive, mired at second-and-28, stalled and the Texans took it close enough one more time for a Rackers 47-yard field goal.

"I did, I felt a lot better in the second half," McElroy said.  "I played a lot more confidently going through my progressions. I felt a lot more comfortable."

The last play of the first half was a sack of McElroy, making the Jets 1-for-6 on third-down conversions and giving the Texans a 13-3 lead to take into their Reliant locker room.

Game Notes

Kerley's returning was the highlight of the first half for the Jets. He had two KO returns out of the end zone for 65 yards and two punt returns, his first going for those 11 yards. On offense the TCU product had three catches for 20 yards and an 8-yard loss on a well-smelled-out end-around. ... Shonn Greene led the Jets in rushing with 32 yards on five carries. In the receiving department, TE Jeff Cumberland had six receptions for 77 yards and Patrick Turner also had six grabs.

RB Joe McKnight (head) and OL Chris Stewart (shoulder) suffered injuries, but Ryan didn't know their severity before the team departed left Houston. ... Ryan is 0-3 in Jets preseason openers, Jets are 0-for-their-last-4 in preseason nationally televised games (vs. Minnesota in '07, at Baltimore in '09, vs. Giants last year before tonight).

Jets game captains tonight were Sanchez, Holmes, Sione Pouha, Darrelle Revis, and long-snapper Tanner Purdum. It was Purdum's birthday and he's from Texas, so Rex made him ST captain for the night... Jets vs Texans Game Center
Photos: Jets vs Texans

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