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Pennington and Jets headed in right direction

11/24/2002

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) -- They called him "Jelly Legs'' and
"Elvis.''

No, not Curtis Martin -- Chad Pennington.

Pennington punctuated the New York Jets' fourth straight victory
Sunday with moves worthy of a Broadway dancer. Or, as teammate Sam
Garnes said after a 31-13 rout of Buffalo, "Watch out, Michael
Vick.''

Neat jukes that leave defenders sprawled helplessly on the
ground are expected from Martin, who ran for 120 yards as the Jets
(6-5) remained firmly in the AFC East race. No one looks for
Pennington to make them.

Question on the Bills: Are they now in a hole they can't climb out of in terms of a playoff berth?
Mathematically, no ... but practically, yes. The Bills started the season with an offensive explosion, but the defense has lagged behind and now that's catching up with them. The offense hasn't been scoring as much lately due to better defensive schemes, the weather and so forth. But the defense hasn't picked up the slack.

Question on the Jets: Do you give them any shot at winning the AFC East?
Yes. Second-year QB Chad Pennington has made phenomenal strides, WR Santana Moss has made big plays, and now RB Curtis Martin is healthy. The defense has played well too. The linebackers especially are playing excellent football.

Eric Allen played cornerback for 14 NFL seasons with the Eagles, Saints and Raiders.

But after watching Martin deke the Bills left and right,
Pennington borrowed some of those moves on a 1-yard touchdown that
clinched the win. He sent linebacker Eddie Robinson tumbling to the
turf with an inside fake on a rollout, then trotted into the end
zone for a 1-yard TD.

On fourth down, no less.

"It wasn't pretty. I think the move was so bad, he'd never seen
it before,'' Pennington said of Robinson, "so he kind of fell
down. He had the angle on me, I was just trying to do something and
find a way to get into the end zone.

"It was a disgrace to the quarterback position that has Donovan
McNabb and Michael Vick.''

It wasn't that bad. And it certainly was effective, killing any
momentum the Bills built.

"I didn't know he had that many moves,'' coach Herman Edwards
said. "He looked like Elvis Presley.''

Martin has those kind of moves. Finally healed from a sprained
ankle that plagued him since the season opening win at Buffalo,
Martin put together his second straight 100-yard effort. He has
rushed for more than 1,150 yards in each of his seven seasons, but
struggled for much of 2002.

"I know I'm getting better, slowly but surely,'' Martin said.
"We're at the bottom of the totem pole and we have to continue to
fight our way up and take nothing for granted.''

Pennington also was 15-for-24 (62.5 percent) for 178 yards. He
entered the game completing a league-best 71 percent of his passes.

Keyed by Martin, the Jets quickly moved to a 24-3 lead on the
opening drive of the second half. Operating into a stiff wind, they
moved 65 yards as Martin ran for 17 -- Robinson drew a 15-yard
facemask penalty on the play -- and went 18 yards with a dump pass.
Laveranues Coles was wide open on a play-action rollout pass and
Pennington hit him for an 11-yard TD.

But the Bills (5-6) drove 69 yards, including an 18-yard pass to
Eric Moulds on fourth down, before Travis Henry ran in from the 1.

When Buffalo moved within 11 points on Mike Hollis' 40-yard
field goal late in the third quarter, the natives got restless.

Not to worry. The Jets calmly marched 65 yards in 11 plays as
Pennington, 5-2 as a starter, used his trio of wideouts for big
plays.

Wayne Chrebet caught an 11-yard pass on third down, Santana Moss
gained 22 with a sensational spin move after the catch, and Coles
hauled in a high throw for 15 yards.

On fourth down, Pennington did his dance step into the end zone.

"Most of my teammates did not know what to say,'' Pennington
said. "I was surprised myself.''

The Bills were sharp on the game's opening drive, capped by
Hollis' 43-yard field goal into the wind that hit the crossbar and
bounced through.

New York's John Hall matched that with a 23-yarder, then Buffalo
began making turnovers.

Garnes picked off a pass tipped by Jay Riemersma at the New York
49, and Hall kicked a 27-yard field goal. But the Bills' Chris
Watson was called for roughing the kicker, and the Jets took the
points off the board. Two plays later, LaMont Jordan ran in from
the 1 for a 10-3 lead.

"There is no excuse for that type of play,'' Bills coach Gregg
Williams said after his team's third consecutive loss.

Aaron Beasley then jumped in front of Peerless Price for the
Jets' second interception of Drew Bledsoe, and a 28-yard pass to
Coles got the Jets to the 9. Martin sprinted off right tackle for
the touchdown that made it 17-3 at halftime.

"It was a tough day for us,'' Bledsoe admitted. "It's real
simple: We just have to play better.''

Game notes
The Jets had one penalty, for delay of game just before
their final play as they ran out the clock. ... Chad Morton, who
returned two kickoffs for TDs vs. Buffalo in the opener, had three
for 106 and went over 1,000 yards for the year. ... Bledsoe
finished 21-for-33 for 181 yards, with two interceptions and a
fumble. ... Bills CB Antoine Winfield injured his lower right leg.
... Jets RB Richie Anderson sprained his left ankle.