QB leads Jets to AFC East-clinching win vs. PackersPosted: Sunday December 29, 2002 7:30 PM
Updated: Monday December 30, 2002 1:51 AM
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- Had the New York Jets' fans broken into chants of "P-A-T-S," it wouldn't have been a shock.
In this wackiest of NFL seasons, the defending Super Bowl champions gave the Jets hope for the playoffs, and Chad Pennington made it reality.
New England had beaten Miami in overtime, and then it was the J-E-T-S' turn. Behind Pennington's four touchdown passes, they routed Green Bay 42-17 Sunday to win the AFC East. What Curtis Martin called a sinking ship two months ago is sailing into the NFL playoffs.
"This is the best moment of my career," Martin said. "We've been through so much, we were at the bottom of not only the division, but this league. We were becoming the laughingstock of the NFL. And to win the division, I tip my hat off to this team."
Not only did the Jets surge back from a 1-4 start, they knocked both their saviors, the Patriots, and the Dolphins from contention. New York (9-7) hosts Indianapolis next Saturday afternoon.
"We have a chance to be special and make history," said Pennington, who took over for Vinny Testaverde in Week 5 and went 8-4 as the starter. "We're playing pretty good football now, and the scary thing is, we can be even better."
The Packers (12-4) blew a chance for home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs; Philadelphia owns that. Green Bay even lost its first-round bye and will face Atlanta next Saturday night -- yes, at night -- in Lambeau Field.
To win only their second NFL division title, the Jets needed several things to break their way. The Patriots took care of the biggest item, and Pennington did much of the rest.
The rout was far less dramatic than the New York Giants' 10-7 overtime victory over Philadelphia on the same field Saturday -- thanks greatly to the third-year quarterback.
Pennington had touchdown passes of 18 and 12 yards to Wayne Chrebet, who has gone from goat after a late fumble in a loss to Chicago to the hero. He has a career-high nine TDs this season.
"Today it was Wayne's turn, and he made some tremendous plays, especially after he caught the football," Pennington said.
Whenever threatened by Green Bay, the spunky Jets responded. The Packers finished the first half with a touchdown drive that was vintage Favre, but the Jets moved 60 yards in six plays with the second-half kickoff, ending with Martin's touchdown run.
LaMont Jordan added a late 3-yard touchdown run.
Martin finished with 83 yards Sunday and 1,094 for the year, his eighth straight over 1,000.
Pennington, the AFC's most efficient passer, had a 134.7 rating for the game as the Jets beat Green Bay for the sixth straight time.
"He did not try to overdo things. He did not try to compete with Brett Favre," said head coach Herman Edwards, now 2-for-2 in getting the Jets into the postseason. "All he needed to do was be Chad Pennington, and that is good enough."
Green Bay's secondary struggled without injured Pro Bowl safety Darren Sharper. Several Jets receivers were wide open, including Anderson on his 1-yard pass for a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter.
That capped an 84-yard drive, including a 43-yard pass from Pennington to Laveranues Coles that was typical of how the Jets have taken off on offense behind Pennington.
The Packers got a 23-yard field goal from Ryan Longwell before the Jets made it 14-3 on Chrebet's first score.
But Green Bay closed to 14-10 at halftime on a 76-yard drive that took 95 seconds. Hanging tough in a collapsing pocket, Favre hit Terry Glenn for 21 yards, then rookie Javon Walker for 23 on fourth-and-10. Favre's bullet pass to the corner of the end zone hit Glenn perfectly with 5 seconds left in the half.
New York barely flinched.
"We showed what we are made of as a team," Pennington said. "We're still hungry."
Notes: The Packers, 8-0 at home, and are guaranteed only the one postseason game at Lambeau Field. ... The Jets' other division
crown was in 1998. ... Both New York teams are in the playoffs for the first time in 16 years. ... Packers WR Donald Driver bruised his left shoulder and RB Tony Fisher jammed his neck. ... Favre was 16-for-33 for 172 yards. ... Martin moved up to 14th in career rushing with 10,361 yards.