FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- When Jerricho Cotchery was a baby, his mother used to pray and anoint his hands with oil because she felt they were special. She was right.
Never the fastest or the biggest wide receiver around, Cotchery has excelled because of those hands. He's the New York Jets' most dependable pass-catcher, the kind of receiver who could catch a ball in a hurricane, as Rex Ryan likes to say.
Cotchery is one of the most respected, hardest-working players on the Jets, so teammates and coaches were at a loss -- and hurt that he had to endure such a painful game.
"It breaks your heart because you know how much he cares about how hard he works," offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said Thursday. "If I had to throw a ball to anybody with the game on the line, I wouldn't bat an eye and would throw it to him."
Schottenheimer listed Cotchery among the four or five most enjoyable players he's ever coached, a list that includes New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Cotchery is one of the rocks on the Jets' offense. He's usually one of the last players out of the huddle, not because he's lazy, but because he's coaching up teammates on their assignments.
But on Sunday, he lived every receiver's nightmare. Drop. Drop. Drop. And that doesn't count the second-quarter interception in which the ball was ripped out of his hands by cornerback Tramon Williams. Before Sunday, he had only one drop in six games. He drops a pass as often as Steve Nash misses a free throw.
"It was a shock to everybody," receivers coach Henry Ellard said. "You're talking about the model of consistency. It doesn't get any better than J-Co. It definitely was a shock and a surprise. But in this profession and in this game, it happens."
It was a brutal day because only four of the team-high 13 passes targeted for Cotchery were completed, not the kind of ratio that will endear a receiver to a quarterback. He also bobbled an exchange from LaDainian Tomlinson on a reverse. It was just a butterfinger kind of day.
"You prepare to prevent those type of games," Cotchery said. "Unfortunately, sometimes they happen. You don't want them to happen to you, but they do."
When one of his receivers slips into a funk, Ellard will conduct a intensive tape breakdown, trying to determine a cause. He did that a year ago when Braylon Edwards struggled with the drops, and he designed special ball drills to combat the issue. With Cotchery, there was none of that.
"It's a onetime thing with Jerricho," said Ellard, adding, "If there's a play to be made in a gotta-have-it situation, Jerricho is the go-to guy."
Cotchery's first chance for redemption will come Sunday in Detroit, where the Jets (5-2) hope to rediscover their offensive mojo. By then, he will have endured the longest week of his career, and he's eager to get right again.
"It happens," Edwards said. "Who better to comment on it than myself? Sometimes you get in that funk and it's hard to get out of it. But it was only one game and I think people should let it rest as that. He'll bounce back. I don't see him dropping too many for the rest of his career."