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Updated: Sunday, December 8, 2002 10:21 PM EST
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NY Jets 19, Denver 13
DENVER BRONCOS
Denver Broncos
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NEW YORK JETS
New York Jets
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EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey (Ticker) -- Rookie safety Jon McGraw 's first career interception kept the New York Jets in the thick of the playoff race.

Chad Pennington threw a fourth-quarter touchdown to Laveranues Coles and McGraw had a huge interception near the end zone in the final minutes as the Jets rallied for a 19-13 victory over the Denver Broncos .

New York missed a chance to put away the game when tight end Anthony Becht dropped Pennington's five-yard pass in the end zone with 5:56 left. The Jets settled for a 21-yard field goal by John Hall , giving the Broncos one last chance.

Brian Griese , who missed the last two games with a sprained knee, led Denver to New York's 24-yard-line with less than two minutes left. But he overthrew wide receiver Rod Smith on 1st-and-10 and McGraw had an easy interception inside the 5.

"I was very happy. He's a good football player in that situation," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "We did not get a turnover last week and that was a very big play for us this week."

"That's the one play all day that I would like to have back," Griese said. "But you don't get those chances. It was one of those plays where I have to anticipate where (Smith) is going to be. We ran that play just before that and we figured to go back to it, but I threw it a bit high."

Pennington dove into the line three times as the Jets (7-6) remained a game behind first place New England (8-5) in the AFC East.

Pennington completed 19-of-30 passes for 244 yards as New York won for the fifth time in six games.

"We've been on edge since we were 2-5 and our focus and mindset has not changed at all," Pennington said. "We need to press forward and focus on one game at a time."

Coles caught six passes for 126 yards to move over 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. Curtis Martin was held to 57 yards but moved over 10,000 for his career.

"I'm more elated than I thought I would be," Martin said. "It really means something more because we won today. Usually I don't get too excited about individual honors."

The Jets took the lead for good on the first play of the fourth when Coles caught Pennington's underthrown pass inside the 5, fell to the ground and rolled into the end zone before being touched by Broncos nickel back Tyrone Poole .

"We saw they had Laveranues one-on-one and the ball was slick, plus there was some wind," Pennington said. "I knew if I got it in the vicinity he would make the play, and he did."

"I didn't get focused on the ball until the last second," Coles said. "As soon as I realized that, Poole) went past me. I knew I wasn't touched and that I could roll into the end zone. We needed to make something happen because we definitely needed the momentum at that time."

Griese was solid in his return, completing 28-of-37 attempts for 266 yards and a touchdown as the Broncos (7-6) lost their third straight and fell into a tie for third place in the AFC West.

"We're obviously very disappointed," Denver coach Mike Shanahan said. "We had chances a number of times and just couldn't do it. It's a tough loss and when you look back at what could've happened, it comes down to plays we did not make."

"We'll stay together, no doubt about that," Griese said. "I don't think we have any luxuries such as thinking about the playoffs, but I know this team will stick together."

Tight end Shannon Sharpe had missed the last three games with a dislocated left elbow and had nine catches for 100 yards in his return.

The Jets took their first lead on the first play of the second quarter, when Martin capped a 76-yard drove with a one-yard TD plunge. The ensuing extra point was blocked, a mistake that would have cost New York had Denver scored on its final drive.

Jason Elam tied it with a 23-yard field goal with 8:34 left in the first half and Griese connected with rookie Ashley Lelie for a 10-yard touchdown 8:23 later for a 13-6 lead.

Hall kicked a 43-yarder on New York's first possession of the third quarter to pull within 10-9. But Elam missed two field goals in the final eight minutes as the Broncos failed to score in the second half.

"It was like the ball hit a wall," Elam said of his second final field goal attempt. "The wind was gusting about every 10-15 seconds. In the second half, the wind was definitely a factor. I think that maybe I should've called timeout. But who is a kicker to call timeout?"


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