Would you believe QB Chad Pennington actually led the league in passing once? It was after the season opener in 2006. It was only one game, but still. He threw for over 300 yards with the help of some YACs subjecting the opponent to death by a thousand cuts.
Both the Jets and the Titans were coming off 4-12 seasons in 2005. Tennessee's QBs were newly signed Kerry Collins and rookie Vince Young. Their plan was to start Collins and bring in Young later in the game. Former Jet Kevin Mawae was their center, while their future starter Eugene Amano was the long snapper.
The Jets offense started with a three-and-out involving a safe dump off on 3rd and long. The Jets defense was able to make a stop and make the Titans punt. Then Pennington was able to draw the Titans offsides. CBS announcer Ian Eagle struggled with the pronounciation of new referee Gene Steratore's name. Stethoscope? Stradivarius? Pompadour? Okay, it wasn't that bad, but Ian stumbled a bit.
Employing the muddle huddle, the Jets had minor success through short completions. However, the rushing offense was nonexistent, and P Ben Graham punted for the second time. Titans WR Drew Bennett committed a false start, and Tennessee kicked it back to New York.
The announcers highlighted HC Eric Mangini's core values: smart, tough, hard-working, competitor, selfless, and football is important. That seemed to do the trick for the Jets, as Chad threw for a first down conversion to TE Chris Baker, plus a roughing the passer penalty on Titans S Lamont Thompson. WR Jerricho Cotchery caught a pass across the middle for another first down conversion. And then he commited a crackback penalty on the next play. J-Co then caught a quick toss on the flat and ran for a four-yard gain. After a 15 yard completion to WR Laveranues Coles, Cotchery caught a 20 yard pass to set up the Jets inside at the eight.
TE Sean Ryan committed a false start. Titans CB Reynaldo Hill picked off Pennington's next pass, but it was voided due to pass interference. So that actually put the team back at first and goal, but LG Pete Kendall injured himself pursuing and tackling Hill. OL Norm Katnik took his place the rest of the game. Afterwards, Chad recognized there were only ten defenders and tried to throw to a wide open McCareins, but the Titans called timeout just before the snap. RB Kevan Barlow ended up with a 1 yard touchdown run.
CB Justin Miller missed the tackle against Titans WR David Givens. NT DeWayne Robertson was actually able to get through and stop a run. Then the Jets offense was pinned deep and had to punt it. Titans CB Adam Jones dropped Graham's end-over-end kick but recovered it. Vince Young then went under center for Tennessee, immediatey energizing the fans with completions. After a first down conversion, Young's pass intended for Givens was underthrown and intercepted by former Titans CB Andre Dyson, one on one with no safety help because of the blitz.
Pennington then connected to Coles twice for 11 with a fake pump and then 26 yards with play action. Barlow and RB Derrick Blaylock can not run it, but McCareins made a catch of about 25 yards and ran for a few more. With the help of a blitz, Titans DT Albert Haynesworth was able to sack Pennington. Chad then found Ryan right at the marker. The pass seemed to be in the air forever, and the tight end actually grabbed it just before the defender could undercut it. However, as he turned, Ryan ran right into Titans LB Keith Bulluck and fumbled.
Collins returned under center for Tennessee. As D-Rob and DE Shaun Ellis each took two blockers, LB Victor Hobson faked rushing to the outside of the LT while DT Kimo von Oelhoffen cleared a lane inside by pushing Mawae out against the LT. Hobson sacked Collins from the back. On the next play, Dyson again came up with an interception on what looked like a miscommunication between Collins and Bennett.
On a 3rd and 6, the Jets lined up four wide with Coles outside on the right, Cotchery inside on the right, McCareins in on the left and WR Brad Smith out on the left. Pacman passed Smith to the safety, and brad caught the ten yard pass before the safety could get there. The Jets later moved the chains again with a timing pattern to TE Chris Baker. The next play was an end yard TD pass to J-Co in the right corner of the endzone with about 20 seconds left in the half. K Mike Nugent then proceeded to miss the point after.
The first pass of the second half bounced off Titans TE Ben Troupe and right into the hands of FS Kerry Rhodes. Announcer Solomon Wilcots praised Pennington's mobility as he calmly stepped away from pressure and completed to J-Co on a sideline route right at the marker on the left. Then it was another sideline route to Coles right at the marker on the right. Nugent then made a chip shot field goal.
Kerry Collins looked out of sync and underthrew his receivers. Maybe he was worried about getting picked off again. He then held the ball too long and the pocket collapsed on him.
Chad threw another sideline route to Coles at the marker. Barlow ran for about 9 yards, and a horse collar tackle by Bulluck gave the Jets another first down. On a 3rd and 6, Schotty called a screen to Blaylock, and he was stopped short. Nugent attemped a 34 yarder, but it was wide right. And I mean wide right.
The Titans then went to the ground and pound with RBs Chris Brown and Travis Henry. This helped open up the playcalling to a flea flicker where Bennett caught a long pass by Collins. As LB Jonathan Vilma was tackling him, Collins launched the football, and it fell incomplete in the end zone. Collins was flagged for intentional grounding, giving them a 3rd and 22 and out of field goal range. The Jets were very lucky with this call, I believe. After a false start, DE Dave Ball knocked down the ball, and Tennessee punted.
The announcers went on with the talking points that Mangini was the youngest head coach in the league and that Chad was a native of Tennessee. After short completions to Coles, Pennington faked a toss and threw from the Jets' 35 to the Titans' 30 complete to LC. Brad Smith then ran a reverse from left to right, with Penningto blocking for him and getting the first down. Here is a fan's perspective of that play:
"Attaboy, Chaddy Chad Chad!!!"
After switching end zones for the fourth quarter, Chad showed grace under pressure. LT D'Brickashaw Ferguson lost his man, and Pennington threw to the right corner of the end zone to the sure hands of Cotchery. The issue was whether his feet were in and whether he was forced out. Remember, they still had that rule in place back then. The zebras raised their hands and the Jets celebrated.
But wait! There was a flag on the field. Holding by Brick. Mangini was not happy. After another incompletion, they sent out Nugent to at least salvage three points. Clang! The ball bounced off the right goal post. Mangini was not happy.
The Titans hurried up on offense and took advantage of what looked like a soft defense. LB Eric Barton was flagged for defensive holding. Mangini was not happy. CB David Barrett also had a couple of pass interferences, one that was declined and one that the officials didn't call. As the Titans were working in the red zone, the Titans mascot helped out the team by jumping up and down and signalling Collins to call a timeout, which he did because the play clock was about to expire. Henry ran in for a touchdown and then a two-point conversion.
Blaylock kept getting tackled in the backfield. Derrick then allowed Titans DE Kyle Vanden Bosch to get past him and waited for the dump off. But there was no throw as it was his QB being thrown to the ground.
Bad throws and a tipped pass caused a Titans three and out. Blaylock kept losing yardage. RG Brandon Moore was called for holding, and Mangini was not happy. On 3rd and long on their own 11, Pennington and the Titans defense were playing cat-and-mouse and Chad audibled to the offense. Cotchery, lined up in the slot, ran his route at the snap but Titans CB Cortland Finnegan let him go and sacked Pennington, jostling the ball loose with his tackle. Titans DT Randy Starks jumped on the ball at the one. The offense then scored a touchdown, and Collins connected to Bennett for a two point conversion. Game tied at 16 with 6 minutes left to play.
Um, Mangini was not happy. He gave the offensive line a bit of a talking to.
CB Justin Miller returned the kickoff to the Jets' 40. Blaylock actually gained 5 yards. And then he gained 4 more. The offense lined up 1 receiver to the left, and three to the right, including Brad Smith, who shifted to the backfield, caught the toss and fought tackles for a two yard gain. Later on, Pennington threw from the Titan's 45 to the 10 hauled in by Coles. Meat was called for a false start on second and goal. Mangini was definitely not happy. Then Pennington threw a touchdown to Baker the touchdown maker.
Tennessee moved the ball a bit against pretty much a prevent defense with the Jets leading 23-16. Pennington cheered on the defense and stood next to Nugent on the sidelines offering a few words to the youngster. Rhodes knocked away the pass on 4th and goal with 36 seconds left. Mangini finally cracked a smile as he shook hands with his coaches and players. Titans HC Jeff Fisher shook his hand and congratulated him.
Tomrrow we'll return to the 2006 home opener against the Patriots. And now here is New Found Glory with a cover of Arrested Development's "Tennessee" (It was either this or a Chris Bown song):