posted on Aug, 22 2004 @ 08:58 AM
Chad Pennington was nearly perfect and the New York Jets' defense was good enough to make a difference.
That combination was more than enough to fluster the Indianapolis Colts.
Pennington outplayed NFL co-MVP Peyton Manning for the second straight time, and the opportunistic Jets defense led New York Jets to a 31-7 victory in
the first preseason meeting between the longtime ex-AFC East rivals.
"It's preseason football and each team is working on different things," Pennington said. "My guys did a good job of just making plays. That's what it
boils down to in the NFL."
For the Colts (1-1), it was a forgettable night.
The problems began with a potentially season-ending injury to wide receiver Troy Walters and ended with an abysmal 52-yard performance in the second
New York's ability to seemingly do everything right only compounded the problems.
Pennington completed his first 10 passes and finished 10 of 11 for 169 yards with one touchdown. Defensively, Donnie Abraham picked off Manning in the
end zone to kill one drive, and John Abraham recovered two fumbles -- one stopping a Colts drive, the other setting up Doug Brien's field goal.
"There's not really a whole lot good to say about that one, other than, maybe, the Jets' performance," Colts coach Tony Dungy said. "It's very
disappointing to play like that in your home opener."
Still, it wasn't as if the Jets (1-1) were flawless.
Both teams expected to see improved defenses. Instead, they witnessed a first half that looked like a carbon copy of last year's regular-season
In November, the teams combined for 862 yards in the Colts' 38-31 victory. On Saturday, they combined for 535 yards, 390 coming in the first half when
the regulars played.
Pennington's 149.1 rating Saturday was slightly lower than his perfect rating of 158.3 in November.
Manning completed 6 of 12 passes for 85 yards with one touchdown and one interception before leaving in the second quarter.
The Jets' biggest problem was stopping the run after finishing 28th in the NFL last season. Edgerrin James played just four series, and still carried
12 times for 62 yards -- about half of his 127-yard effort last year.
The difference Saturday was a turnaround in turnovers. The Jets were last in the league in 2003 with just 20. But the three they forced Saturday
changed the game.
"The thing that bailed us out was that we got some turnovers," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "That was good to see."
The Colts' problems started early.
Six plays in, Walters, who replaced injured tight end Dallas Clark in the starting lineup, took a hard, high shot from Jets safety Jon McGraw. Walters
broke his right arm, an injury Dungy said would keep him out at least a couple of months and possibly the rest of the year.
Then things got worse.
New York quashed the Colts' first drive with Donnie Abraham's interception in the end zone. After John Abraham's first fumble recovery, late in the
first quarter, Pennington hooked up with Jonathan Carter, who beat Colts cornerback Nick Harper and made a juggling catch for a 65-yard gain to the
Colts' 7. Three plays later, Pennington connected with Chris Baker for a 1-yard touchdown pass. He then hooked up with Justin McCareins on the 2-point
conversion to make it 8-0 with 13:17 left in the half.
"We gave up a deep ball with a guy we know is going to go deep," Dungy said of Carter. "Last year, we didn't know who No. 84 was. This year, we
Manning countered with a 3-yard TD to Bryan Fletcher, the starters' first scoring drive of the preseason. John Abraham's second fumble recovery set up
the first of three field goals by Brien, a 27-yarder.
Ian Smart closed it out with a 1-yard TD run and 59-yard punt return for a touchdown.
"We made some plays, and some of the guys played well, but we've still got a lot of work to do," Edwards said. "There's still a long ways to get where
we want to go."