Pennington guided another late comeback with calm, confidence and a bit of deception, throwing a 3-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss with 26 seconds left to give the Jets a 13-10 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars.
With three minutes to go and no timeouts, Pennington efficiently marched the Jets 94 yards. In every start he has made this season since coming back from a broken left wrist, he has guided a fourth-quarter rally. They are 2-2 in those games, beating the Jaguars and Raiders, losing to the Colts and Giants.
“It’s fun, but you don’t want to make a living doing that,” Pennington said.
He almost never had a chance to win the game. After Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala scored on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line to give Jacksonville (2-9) the lead with 4:24 remaining, the Jets (4-7) went four-and-out.
Fans started leaving. But the Jets never gave up hope.
Jacksonville got the ball at the Jets 40. Coach Herman Edwards turned to Pennington and said, `’You’ll get the ball back, but you’re not going to have any timeouts.”
And sure enough, the Jets used all their timeouts and the much-maligned defense forced a punt with three minutes remaining.
A controversial pass interference call on Fernando Bryant aided their cause, giving the Jets the ball at the Jaguars 47. Bryant would not criticize the call, but said he and Jonathan Carter simply ran into each other.
“I thought I closed the best way I could,” Bryant said. “I’m not going to question the refs, because all that does is get you a fine. It doesn’t matter if I question them or not, I helped put them in position to win the game.”
Pennington threw consecutive completions to Curtis Martin to the Jaguars 22. Then on third-and-3, he threw a 14-yard pass to Jerald Sowell. After a 4-yard completion to Martin, Pennington looked at Moss, signaling he would go to the speedy receiver.
He then faked a spike and hiked the ball. Moss caught the ball in the corner of the end zone for the winning score. Until that point, he had one catch for 10 yards.
“Chad gave me the eye and he threw it up for me to make a play,” Moss said.
Pennington finished 25-of-39 for 236 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Fellow Marshall quarterback Byron Leftwich was 17-of-33 for 172 yards with an interception. They embraced at midfield after the game.
Fred Taylor had 32 carries for 119 yards—his 26th career 100-yard game— and his tough running on their lone touchdown drive paved the way for Fuamatu-Ma’afala to score.
But the Jets’ rally made up for an otherwise good performance by the Jaguars’ defense. Jacksonville outgained the Jets 330-282, had nine more plays and outrushed them 158-61.
Pennington made all the difference.
“We pretty much dominated most of the game,” Jaguars linebacker Akin Ayodele said. “When you got a team down, it’s the law of the jungle. You keep them down. You choke them and suffocate them. We didn’t do that.”
Offensively, the Jets could not gain any momentum until the final drive. After scoring 86 total points in the last three games, Pennington led an inconsistent effort. Tight end Anthony Becht had a career-high 63 yards on five catches.
The Jaguars had plenty of opportunities in the first half, but turnovers thwarted them. On their first drive, Taylor fumbled after an 11-yard gain to the Jets 36 and Aaron Beasley recovered.
Beasley made another big play to save the Jets. After David Allen returned a punt 52 yards to the Jets 22, the Jaguars seemed poised to score. But on third-and-2 from the 3-yard line, Beasley intercepted a pass by Leftwich in the end zone.
Early in the second quarter, Seth Marler missed a 36-yard field goal wide right. On their next possession, the Jaguars had the ball inside the Jets 10 again, but could not score a touchdown. Marler made a 23-yard field goal to tie it.
In the end, Pennington finally won it for the Jets.
“You have to win games any way you can,” Edwards said. “For our guys to keep their composure, I thought they did a great job.”
DE John Abraham tweaked his strained right groin and did not play in the second half. … Moss caught a touchdown for the seventh straight game. … Kevin Johnson played in his first game for the Jaguars and had five catches for 77 yards. Johnson was released by the Browns on Nov. 11 after leading the team with 41 catches for 381 yards, and Jacksonville picked him up the followingday.