Wild New Year's, Jets Secure Playoff Berth with 23-3 Win


Washington extends for the line

The New York Jets will begin their postseason Sunday afternoon in New England against the Patriots.  Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and the contest will be televised by CBS.

The New York Jets are going to the playoffs. Needing a win over Oakland in the regular season New Year's Eve finale, the Jets defeated the Silver & Black 23-3 at the Meadowlands. New York's AFC representative finished the season with 10 wins and will enter the postseason as a Wild Card.

"We have been playing this season one game at a time," said Jets CEO Mr. Woody Johnson. "We are going to continue to take that approach. I couldn't be prouder of our players, our coaches, and our fans. Our fans were a good 12th man out there today."

After a nip and tuck first half, the mistake-free Jets took control in a 13-0 second half against a team who tasted victory just twice in 2006. The Jets, who finished 3 in turnover differential on the afternoon, scored their touchdowns on a short pass from Chad Pennington to Chris Baker and a Leon Washington run. Kicker Mike Nugent added three more field goals. Defensively, the home team swarmed to the ball and shut down an anemic offensive unit.  The Jets were successful on 10 of 17 third down conversions, and they held the Raiders to just three of 11.

"What a great feeling, what a great atmosphere," Pennington said. "These fans have been just so supportive of us this year. It was electrifying out there and very exciting."

During the closing minutes of the one-sided win, three Jets defenders doused Mangini with a bucket of cool gatorade.

"We can now start talking about the playoffs," Mangini told reporters. "I told the team how proud I was of them - of the amount of hard work we have done collectively to put ourselves in the position we were in today, and then coming out and playing really well in all three phases and finishing the season. Finishing is a core Jets' value, and it goes back to the day-to-day finishing and the season finishing. This is exactly what we have been talking about for a long time, and I am really proud of the way they have worked."

In front of a frenzied partisan crowd, the Jets wasted little time jumping on their California foe. Pennington's 17th touchdown pass of the season – a one-yard dump to wide open tight end Baker – gave the Jets a 7-0 lead with 4:54 remaining in the opening quarter. Versatile rookie Brad Smith ran twice for 23 yards on the 44-yard scoring possession, including a 20-yard scamper around left end.

"To me that's what this game is all about – playing for a championship," said the accurate Pennington, who completed 22 of 30 for 157 yards. "We're excited to have that chance."

David Barrett, who made a start at cornerback in place of the injured Andre Dyson (knee), was responsible for the game's first takeaway and the short field. Johnnie Morrant grabbed a slant pass from Aaron Brooks, but Barrett stripped the ball away and fellow corner Hank Poteat recovered for the Green & White. Less than four and a half minutes later, Baker celebrated in the end zone.

But the Raiders – despite their poor record entering the contest - proved to be game competitors. Sebastian Janikowski connected on a 35-yard field goal early in the second quarter, closing the margin to 7-3. Safety Kerry Rhodes' third down sack of Brooks forced the kick.

Another Jets' safety very nearly recorded a dramatic punt block of Shane Lechler. Smith, a rookie from Michigan State, did manage to deflect the ball off the punter's right foot and limited the kick to just 30 yards. The Jets would take advantage of the short field possession as Mike Nugent buried a 30-yard kick three seconds prior to intermission. It was an evenly played first two quarters, as the Jets held a 111 to 106 edge in total yardage despite Justin Vargas' 75 rushing yards on 16 attempts.

The Jets' margin grew to 10 midway through the third period; Nugent's 17th consecutive field goal was a chip shot from 22 yards out. Pennington was six of seven on the possession for 66 yards.

An Oakland scare occurred on the ensuing kickoff. Return man Chris Carr sprinted 92 yards to the Jets' one-yard line, but safety Jarrod Cooper was flagged for holding and the Raiders began the drive at their 28-yard line. After allowing the Raiders to gain a couple of first downs, Bob Sutton's defense stuffed Brooks' quarterback sneak attempt on a fourth and one play. Brooks bobbled the snap, and then was swallowed up by a number or green defenders including defensive end Shaun Ellis.

Ten plays later, rookie Leon Washington scooted in from 15 yards out and this one was effectively over. The Jets were up 20-3 on a team that had scored just one offensive touchdown in its previous 17 quarters. There was reveling in the stands when two former Raiders combined for a second takeaway. Linebacker Eric Barton nailed Brooks and veteran lineman Bobby Hamilton recovered for the Jets. Eric Smith continued the thievery in the fourth when he picked off Brooks.

"It now turns into a one-game season throughout the playoffs," said defensive end Bryan Thomas.

"Everyone starts out 0-0. The records are out the door," added safety Erik Coleman. "It's all about just playing football now. We have just as good a chance as anyone."

The Jets will represent the conference as the fifth seed and face New England on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.  Mangini's club is in the dance and that makes it a Happy New Year here in New York.

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