Leftwich noticed the Jets’ defense was jumping routes on third down all day, so he decided to send Jimmy Smith long. The strategy worked.
Leftwich threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Smith, giving Jacksonville a 26-20 win over the New York Jets on Sunday, although the Jaguars had to survive a replay review after Smith initially was ruled down at the 1.
Pennington and Leftwich gamely played through pain, but in the end, Leftwich left his good friend hurting even worse.
“Byron made a good call,” said Smith, 36, but seemingly ageless, who beat David Barrett on the winning score. “He told me to run a slant and go. Fortunately I ran a good enough route for him to make the easy throw.”
Leftwich finished 16-of-23 for 177 yards with one touchdown and one interception despite a groin injury. Teammate Fred Taylor had a career-high 37 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown. The win was big for the Jaguars (2-1), who put in a strong effort last week at Indianapolis but came up just short.
“These kind of games, when you pull them out, do wonders for the confidence,” Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio said. “The guys start believing and understanding that it doesn’t always go exactly how you’d like to go, but you’ve got to find a way to scratch out a win.”
The Jets are trying to figure that out.
Perhaps it was too much to ask Pennington to lead the Jets to victory with a bum right shoulder. Pennington left in the third period after straining his shoulder on consecutive sacks. It is the same one in which he had a torn rotator cuff repaired in the offseason.
But it wasn’t long before he was back in when Fiedler got hurt. Though emergency quarterback Brooks Bollinger started warming up, Pennington came back in the fourth quarter. Pennington and Fiedler will have MRI exams Monday, but Pennington said “they’ll have to cut it off for me not to play.”
That might not be up to him. Pennington finished 9-of-19 for 76 yards and two interceptions, and coach Herman Edwards said Bollinger might have to start next week at Baltimore. Pennington said he felt the same amount of pain as when he initially hurt his shoulder last year.
Curtis Martin could not get going, either, finishing with 67 yards on 18 carries. The Jets had 168 yards of offense, and Jacksonville held the ball for nearly 15 more minutes.
“Offensively we’re all searching for answers right now,” Pennington said. “We’re just taking turns messing plays up.”
Despite those numbers, the Jets had a chance to win in the end. Mike Nugent kicked a 25-yard field goal to send the game into overtime. The kick came after an officials review overturned a called touchdown—replays showed Wayne Chrebet bobbled the 7-yard pass from Pennington.
Pennington threw an interception to start the extra period. Leftwich also tossed a pick, but the Jets got pinned deep thanks to two penalties and punted.
Jacksonville got the ball back on the Jets 34 and took advantage.
“Jimmy and I are on a level where I know what he’s going to do,” Leftwich said. “We’ve got that vibe where we understand each other, that we’re able to do things outside of the route and make things happen.”
The Jaguars’ defense bailed out Reggie Williams, who nearly cost Jacksonville the game when he fumbled following a reception with 3 minutes left. David Barrett forced the fumble, recovered it and raced 30 yards to the Jacksonville 21 to set up the tying field goal.
Jacksonville had three turnovers in all, its first of the season, and the Jets converted them into 10 points. John Abraham was a menace, with 10 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble that tackle James Reed returned 33 yards for a 14-10 Jets lead in the third quarter.
Jacksonville went ahead on the first play of the fourth quarter, when Taylor scored on a 3-yard run off a Jets turnover. Rookie returner Justin Miller fumbled a punt and Gerald Sensabaugh recovered at the 16. ^Notes: Jets offensive tackle Jason Fabini left in the fourth quarter with an injured right knee and will have an MRI on Monday. Jets LB Eric Barton also sprained his ankle. For the Jaguars, offensive tackle Maurice Williams sprained his right knee in overtime and right guard Chris Naeole also sprained his left knee, but Del Rio said neither was serious.