EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Everyone could feel his presence on the field.
So with Chad Pennington back to the delight of his teammates, the franchise quarterback immediately showed why the Jets need him so much entering the stretch drive. Pennington directed three second-half touchdown drives and helped lift the Jets to a 29-7 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.
“That’s our leader,” Ferguson said. “We know we have a lot better chance to win with him.”
Pennington had help. Curtis Martin ran for his seventh 100-yard game of the season and the defense shut out the Texans (5-7) in the second half—the sixth time this season the Jets blanked an opponent over the final two quarters.
But perhaps Pennington made the biggest difference. After missing the last three games with a strained right rotator cuff, the offense finally showed signs of life with him.
The Jets had 360 yards, the most since a 41-14 win over Miami on Nov. 1. The 29 points also were the most since that victory, helping the Jets (9-3) stay in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
“It’s obvious how good it is to have Chad back: 29 points,” Vilma said.
Martin had 134 yards on 23 carries, going over the 1,300-yard mark on the season. He needs 26 yards to become the fifth back to reach 13,000 in a career. In all, the Jets had 36 carries for 210 yards on the ground.
Pennington completed his first nine passes and finished 20-of-27 for 155 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He also had a big scramble on the first play of the fourth quarter.
On third-and-8 from the Houston 16, Pennington ran up the middle for 11 yards, but failed to slide. He immediately bounced up and emphatically signaled first down, showing he has no fear of running after getting hurt on a scramble against Buffalo on Nov. 7.
“I was just fired up,” Pennington said of his mini-celebration. “That’s kind of like a solar eclipse happening.”
The Jets scored two plays later when Pennington threw a 5-yard pass to Martin to go up 19-7.
It was Martin’s 4-yard TD run in the third that gave the Jets the lead for good following a bizarre sequence on Houston’s first drive of the half.
Facing fourth-and-7 from their 6, the Texans snapped the ball into the leg of the referee standing in the end zone, and the Jets thought they had a safety. But the play was whistled dead before the snap because the officials were not ready.
Martin plunged in from there, making it 13-7.
The Texans were still in it, but their following drive ended in disaster. After a big 37-yard pass from David Carr to Andre Johnson to the Jets 37, the Texans moved backward thanks to intentional grounding and a personal foul on left guard Chester Pitts.
They never mustered much after that.
“We are better than this,” said Carr, who took a shot to the head early in the game and missed one play before returning. “We shouldn’t get beat like that. We should not lose a football game like that.”
Carr finished 12-of-25 for 157 yards with two interceptions and said his neck was sore, while Johnson had 125 yards on seven catches for his first 1,000-yard season. The Jets held Domanick Davis to 52 yards on 17 carries.
Houston led 7-6 on Davis’ 2-yard TD run. But the Texans could have had more. Carr threw incomplete in the end zone on fourth down early on, and Davis also had a 60-yard touchdown run called back because of a holding penalty.
As for the Jets, they can go into next week’s big game at Pittsburgh with confidence and momentum thanks to Pennington.
“He’s the energy on offense,” coach Herman Edwards said. “When you have a guy like that, that’s not at the top of his game right now, he can still do some things. He played well and good enough for us to win.”
: Jets DE John Abraham sprained his right knee in the second quarter and will have an MRI exam Monday. … Houston LB Jay Foreman is out for the season with a sprained left ankle that will require surgery. P Chad Stanley had his back tighten up during pre-game warmups but still played.