Pennington Gets Inspired To Deliver Jets Victory Over Texans
One week in the National Football League can change the fortunes and in the case of the Jets starting QB Chad Pennington, he was in dire need of rediscovering the confidence that returned him to the starting lineup this season.
For the first time in his playing career, the veteran was not feeling his ebullient self. Throwing two interceptions in a loss two weeks ago to Chicago was the cause of why head coach Eric Mangini had to make clear during the practice week that his starting QB job was secure.
So instead of Gatorade placed on the sidelines to help their energy and endurance, maybe the Jets replaced the buckets with Red Bull. It seemed to be the answer that the Jets offense and Pennington in particular needed in their 26-11 victory over the Texans as he was on target in completing 24 of 31 passes for 286 yards.
He rediscovered the early season success he found from his wide receiving tandem of Laverneus Coles and Jericho Cotchery, who both had 100 yards of receiving and tore up the Texans secondary.
What he also rediscovered was his connection to the Jets fans. They had plenty to worry about when Pennington, who has recovered from two shoulder surgeries on his right throwing arm, was slammed down to the turf by DE Mario Williams.
Blowing by fellow rookie first round offensive line pick D'Brickashaw Ferguson, the Texans' #1 selection made a crunching hit on Pennington. He had completed the pass to Jericho Cotchery, who finished with seven catches for 110 yards, for the first down but that was the least of the fans' worries.
With his right throwing shoulder absorbing much of the impact, the first worry was the shoulder being injured again. Pennington thought differently.
"I got the wind knocked out of me. My arm was beneath me and that's what knocked the wind out of me. The pressure and everything, I didn't think I was going to make it. It's the worst feeling in the world you just feel you're not going to make it. Right there on the football field," Pennington said with a smile which brought out laughter from the media gathered after the game.
"But everything worked out."
On the ground for a few minutes, he suddenly rose up from the ground and imitating the character of Rod Tidwell from the movie Jerry Maguire, he wildly raised his arms in the air and triumphed in the fact that he got up. The fans roared in approval.
With his Lazarus' type resurrection, Pennington reentered the game and guided the Jets on a 67 yard scoring drive, capped off by RB Cedric Houston's one yard touchdown run to make it 23-3. It looked seemingly like the Texans were begging for Pennington to beat them in the air, and he would do so. Time and again, he connected with Cotchery and Coles in breaking down the Texans defense.
This week at Green Bay (1 p.m., Sunday), he can't carry the offense by himself as a running game who only rushed for 27 yards will be required to improve on that total. But he's starting to become the consistent player once again who led the Jets to playoff appearances early in the decade and justifying the huge multi-million dollar contract he is earning.
"Finally today (last Sunday) we came together. I had to connect with those guys and give them the football and see what they can do.
It was a good feeling to connect with those guys and get them the football... I just out the ball in the air and gave them a chance," Pennington.
He completed 10 of 11 passes for 131 yards in the third quarter and found his original dance partner, WR Laverneus Coles for a 12 yard touchdown.
That camaraderie and solidarity the best of friends have on the field has been missing as of late and just as it was to be once again found as Coles ended with a team high nine catches for 111 yards. But it was a huge concern when Coles saw the floored Pennington on the ground after the Mario Williams hit.
"I'm a friend of his on and off the field.
Any time you have a guy that you truly care about and love outside of football go down, the first thing you try to find out if he's okay... He had me kind of scared for a second, to be honest, I was worried about him," Coles said.
"So goes Chad and so goes the Jets."