Coach Mangini stares in the background
For the second consecutive week, New York Jets head coach Eric Mangini has been nominated for the NFL's Motorola Coach of the Week Award. After posting a 13-10 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Christmas night, Mangini and his 9-6 Jets are just one win shy of sealing an AFC Wild Card slot.
A loss on ESPN's Monday Night broadcast would have forced the Jets to rely on outside help in addition to a win over Oakland for a playoff invite. With so much at stake, Mangini's club was able to pull away from Miami and grab their sixth road win.
"The team collectively responded," said Mangini. "There were things that came up in all three phases that we had to respond to, and we were able to move onto the next play, deal with adversity, and finish the game which is exactly what we had talked about going in."
"Coach does a great job all year long preparing us for all types of weather: rain, cold, whatever it is," said rookie running back Leon Washington on Monday after playing in the driving rain. "We came out today, and we knew we had to make plays. Watching tape last night, we knew what type of situation we were coming into here in Miami. It was a good team. Their defense is tough, and they did a good job of stopping us all night."
The Dolphins and the Jets held each other scoreless for the entire first half before the Jets' offense marched 56 yards downfield in the third quarter to the Miami four-yard line. The Green and White were forced to settle for a field goal when Pro Bowl linebacker Zach Thomas made a shoestring tackle on receiver Jerricho Cotchery just yards from the goal line.
But the most critical play of the game came in the final minutes of the fourth quarter when Mangini and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called for a pass the offense had previously been unable to master. Starting at his own 20-yard line, quarterback Chad Pennington dumped a screen pass to Washington who then stretched it out for a 64-yard gain. That long run after the catch set up a game-winning 30-yard field goal from Mike Nugent.
"We haven't really completed a pretty good screen play all year long, and it was good to go out there and make that play. As an offense, we were really looking forward to hitting one," said Washington.
Earlier in the contest, the Jets called Washington's number with a shovel pass at midfield and he sprinted for 28 yards. But punter Ben Graham couldn't field a snap four plays later, and the Jets weren't able to attempt a first quarter field goal at Dolphins Stadium.
"I really like the way the team responded," Mangini said of the Jets' effort in Miami. "I thought offensively we made some big plays when we had to. Defensively, we really made some big plays on third down which is a key part of why we won. On special teams, I thought Mike made a great kick there at the end to seal the game."
Washington, who amassed 134 total offensive yards in addition to a couple of highlight reel plays, was also nominated for a weekly award. The Diet Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honor is up for grabs amongst running backs Washington, Reggie Bush and Maurice Jones-Drew, and quarterbacks Jay Cutler and Vince Young.
Both Washington's 64-yard reception and his 108 receiving yards are new career-highs. He has reached 100 yards of total offense on three separate occasions this season; the last coming in Week Seven against Detroit when he ran for 129 yards.
"He is always a step faster than most when he's in space," Pennington said of Washington, who also returned five punts. "Leon is unbelievable in space. He does a great job especially as a rookie to be as productive as he's been is refreshing to see."
"That last play there was the biggest play of his young career," added Mangini of Washington. "I am proud of him for that."