2005-01-07 / Sports

Jets Slide Into San Diego Playoff Matchup

By Michael Avallone



Tiki Barber is hugged by tackle David Diehl (left) after scoring the final touchdown with 16 seconds left in the game to give the Giants a 28-24 victory. (AP/Julie Jacobson)

Tiki Barber is hugged by tackle David Diehl (left) after scoring the final touchdown with 16 seconds left in the game to give the Giants a 28-24 victory. (AP/Julie Jacobson) Sports Columnist

The final week of the NFL regular season is now history. For the Jets and their fans, a Wild Card matchup with the surprising San Diego Chargers looms this Saturday. Unfortunately for Gang Green, they head into the postseason riding a two-game losing streak after falling to the St. Louis Rams, 32-29. As for the Giants, well, they should only be so lucky. Despite snapping their eight-game losing skid with a 28-24 win over the equally hapless Dallas Cowboys, Big Blue now heads home after such a promising start early on.

New York Jets

PASSING OFFENSE (C+)-Not pretty, as the Jets passing game was average at best. QB Chad Pennington was sacked a ridiculous six times but did manage to complete 21-of-36 passes. Unfortunately, he threw for only 181 yards and continued to look as if his arm still bothers him. Although never known for having the greatest arm strength, many of Pennington’s passes lacked that extra juice, particularly when he tried to throw downfield. WR Justin McCareins led the team for the second consecutive week, catching six passes for 62 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE (A)-After a horrendous game against the Patriots, RB Curtis Martin rebounded with one of his finest games of the year. His 153 yards gave him the rushing title by just one yard over Seattle’s Shaun “Stabbed in the Back” Alexander. Thought to be on the downside of his career, the 31-year-old back finished the 2004 season with 1,697 yards and 12 TDs.

PASS DEFENSE (D)-Granted, the Rams have WRs Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, but this was a little ridiculous. QB Marc Bulger threw for 450 yards and three touchdowns, shredding New York’s secondary while completing 29-of-39 pass attempts. The trio of Bruce, Holt, and Kevin Curtis combined for 301 yards receiving. Jets CB Donnie Abraham and S Reggie Tongue had horrendous games as the two were either out of position or were just plain beat too many times.

RUSH DEFENSE (A)-At least one thing went right for the Jets defensively. As they have done throughout most of the year, New York’s run defense continued to shine. Gang Green held St. Louis RB Steven Jackson to just 29 yards on 10 carries (though he did catch four passes for 51 yards). As a team, the Rams managed just 47 yards on the ground, 15 of them coming from former star RB Marshall Faulk.

The Jets (10-6) claimed to have found out about their inclusion in the playoffs early in OT. Funny, considering the Bills loss to the Steelers happened much earlier in the game. Still, New York enters the postseason with a clean slate, but riding a two-game losing streak. While the Rams (8-8) were fighting for their playoff lives, the game should never have been as ugly as it was from the Jets standpoint. This weekend’s re-match with the AFC West Champion San Diego Chargers will be a very different game than the one these two teams played in September.

Up Next: @ SD (12-4) Prediction: SD 24, NYJ 19

New York Giants

PASSING OFFENSE (B)-His overall numbers weren’t eye-popping, but rookie QB Eli Manning had his first three-TD game of his career, completing 18-of-27 pass attempts for 144 yards. Looking a lot like his older brother, Manning seemed to recognize defenses better and adjusted accordingly, looking much smoother than he had in past games. With good protection from the offensive line, he was able to stay in the pocket and bide his time until a receiver opened up. WR David Tyree led the team with seven receptions for 71 yards..

RUSHING OFFENSE (B)-Although his numbers were solid, it was the historical aspect that made RB Tiki Barber’s night significant. The Giants back gained 95 yards on 24 carries and scored the game-winning touchdown on a three-yard run that broke Joe Morris’ single season rushing record. With 1,518 yards on the season, Barber became the team’s all-time leader for most career rushing yards (6,927), a record formerly held by Rodney Hampton.

PASS DEFENSE (C+)-The secondary continued to show that it is going to need some help next season. Cowboys QB Vinny Testaverde completed 23-of-30 passes for 231 yards and one TD, and he looked very impressive during the late game drive that temporarily put Dallas ahead. TE Jason Witten led the team with seven catches for 77 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE (C-)-As he has since Thanksgiving, Dallas rookie RB Julius Jones tore up the opposing defense, gaining 149 yards and scoring what looked like the game-winning TD late in the fourth quarter. Big Blue’s run defense has been poor since DEs Michael Strahan and Keith Washington were lost back in November, and that trend continued through the final game of the season.

After a 5-2 start, the Giants (6-10) stumbled to the finish line but managed to head into the offseason on a high note after a rousing come-from-behind victory over the Cowboys (6-10). While a lot needs to be done in order for New York to be competitive next year, Manning gained good experience during his seven-game trial. His play over the final month of the season leaves the team confident that Manning will become the QB they envisioned.

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