While the New York Jets coaching staff completes its self-scout from the 2006 season, we thought it would be a good idea if we went back to the videotape. Following an exhilarating 16 games of Green & White football, it's time to let you vote on the Jets' Plays of the Year.
Today, we'll start with the offense. In the weeks to come, we'll focus on defense, special teams, and a wild & wacky category. This was a difficult challenge because we were asked to narrow it down to four regular season plays for each. Without further ado, let's start with the offense.
1. Week One – Jets at Titans: Chris Baker 12-yard TD pass from Chad Pennington*
Following two shoulder surgeries in 2005 and a four-way quarterback battle in training camp, Chad Pennington wasn't going to let the Titans spoil his return to action. After the Titans knotted the opener at 16 in the fourth quarter with a 16-point run, Pennington calmly marched the Jets downfield. He culminated a 57-yard scoring drive with a 12-yard strike to tight end Chris Baker for the deciding score and just 2:12 remaining.
"Chad has done a great job in preparing himself and getting himself back to the point of being our starting quarterback," said receiver Laveranues Coles after grabbing eight catches for 153 yards. "I'm just happy that he now has a game under his belt and showed he's back."
You couldn't have written a better script for the seventh-year passer who was playing in his home state. Pennington was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week after completing 24 of 33 for 319 yards and two scores.
"It's just truly a blessing to be able to come out here and play this game. It's an honor to play this game, and that's the way I look at it," he said.
2. Week Two – Jets vs. Patriots: Laveranues Coles 46-yard TD pass from Chad Pennington
Spotting the eventual AFC East champions a 24-point lead during the home opener was not what the Jets had envisioned prior to this contest. But the resiliency they displayed down the stretch was a sign of things to come.
A seventeen-point second half run would send the Meadowlands crowd into a state of pandemonium. Trailing 24-7, Pennington threw a short pass across the middle to Coles, who would later be voted his Team's MVP. The 5'11", 193-pound Coles hauled it in and painted a masterpiece, cutting inside and then outside before somehow landing in the end zone after eluding approximately a half a dozen of would-be tacklers. It was Coles' longest touchdown reception of his career.
"Chad gave me an opportunity to catch the ball, and I got a lot of downfield blocking," said Coles, who had six catches for 100 yards.
The comeback fell short, but the effort by Coles and his teammates was valiant.
"I'm proud of the way these guys fought back," said Jets head coach Eric Mangini. "Down 24-0, we had a chance to tie the game at the end. I'm proud of that fact, but you can't dig yourself into a 24-0 hole."
3. Week Ten – Jets at Patriots: Jerricho Cotchery 22-yard TD pass from Chad Pennington
The Jets produced a landmark victory in the Patriots' backyard, and they won because they wanted it more than their counterparts. Played in the quagmire which was Gillette Stadium, the Jets moved to 5-4 on the season and began a 6-2 post-bye week surge.
Holding a rather precarious 10-6 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Jets went to the airwaves for the deciding score. Pennington lofted a jump ball into the air in the right corner of the end zone as Jerricho Cotchery and Ellis Hobbs battled for position. Cotchery wouldn't be denied, effortlessly hauling in a 22-yard grab which put the Jets on top 17-6 with just 4:45 remaining.
"I just wanted to put the ball up there and let him try to make a play," said Pennington of Cotchery. "They had a good job of covering our other routes and he was the one guy who was one-on-one. The guy was playing off coverage. But I just feel that if I can I get the ball to Laveranues, Jerricho and all these guys one-on-one, they'll win for me. It was just a great job by him."
The Jets scored 14 points off turnovers including Cotchery's touchdown.
"I think Ellis Hobbs kind of fell asleep a little bit. When I looked back, I saw the ball was in the air and it was just up to me to go up and get it," Cotchery said. "I guess he thought because I didn't come off the ball as fast, that it was just coming right down to him."
4. Week Sixteen – Jets at Dolphins: Leon Washington 64-yard pass from Chad Pennington
The Jets spent their Christmas in South Florida, and they ironically received a present on Christmas Eve from the Patriots. The Pats' 24-21 victory over the Jaguars allowed the Jets to control their postseason destiny. A win over the Dolphins followed by a week seventeen victory over the Raiders would give the Jets an AFC Wild Card.
But the Dolphins weren't gracious hosts. They battled all night long in the rain for head coach Nick Saban (the talented coach would leave his post and accept the head coaching position at the University of Alabama on January 4.) In an interesting move with his team out of the playoff hunt, Saban sent Olindo Mare out for a game-tying 25-yard field goal instead of going for it on a fourth and one from the Jets' seven yard-line. Mare connected the chip shot, tying the contest at 10 with 2:09 to play.
Overtime appeared to be a strong possibility, but Leon Washington had other ideas. On the Jets' first play following Mare's kick, Washington took a screen from Pennington and exploded for 64 yards. The shifty, speedy Florida native left defenders helpless as he raced up the field. Four plays later, Mike Nugent kicked a 30-yarder with 10 seconds left and the Jets captured a well-earned victory.
"That last play there was the biggest play of his young career," said first-year Jets head coach Eric Mangini of Washington. "I am proud of him for that."
"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 an excited Washington. "Our offensive line did a great job selling it. We caught them in a blitz and Chad got me the ball. It was great play calling. All I was thinking was make a big play, and our kicker will make the field goal."
Next Week: Defense