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Running game, defense, help Favre start Jets career with win

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Doug Benc/Getty Images
Jets QB Brett Favre's improvisational skills will continue to be on full display as he learns the team's offense.


MIAMI -- This is why, for a day -- maybe a broader timeline –- that Brett Favre is who he is and Chad Pennington no longer occupies the job Favre now holds for the New York Jets.

Favre outduels Pennington


     







» Passer rating: 125.9        » Passer rating: 82.6
» Comp. pct.: 68.2               » Comp. pct.: 60.5
» Passing yards: 194          » Passing yards: 251
» TDs/INTs: 2/0                      » TDs/INTs: 2/1

With 10 seconds left in a game Favre and his Jets controlled but had yet to fully seize, Pennington lofted a ball into the right corner of the end zone for wide receiver Ted Ginn Jr. for a potential game-tying touchdown. Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis walled Ginn off and intercepted the floater to seal New York's 20-14 victory Sunday at Dolphins Stadium.

Favre, meanwhile, made a similar throw early in the second quarter under circumstances far more awkward and a pass rush that was far more intense. Jets wide receiver Chansi Stuckey out-leaped a throng of Dolphins defenders for a touchdown that put New York up 13-7.

Neither throw was more special than the other. Both efforts were equally gritty. It's just that Favre, somehow, got something far more meaningful out of his, which seemingly has been the mark of two quarterbacks with new teams looking for something their old squads felt was inadequate.

"One time during the course of the game I looked up and they were flashing scores and I saw Packers-Vikings tomorrow night and it wasn't like I was supposed to be there," said Favre, who spent 16 seasons playing for Green Bay before retiring this summer only to change his mind -– and get traded to the Jets. "I'm a Jet. I'm one of 53 on this team and I'm proud of it. I had a great career in Green Bay but that's over and done with and it's what I do this year. It was a good start. It was shaky, but it was a good start and it was a win."

When things were over, Favre, who will be 39 next month, walked off the field gassed. Pennington was nursing hurt feelings as well as a bloodied mouth, courtesy of a big hit by Jets linebacker Calvin Pace. These were two veteran quarterbacks who survived the hype of this encounter and the mayhem of their offseasons to showcase their will -- win or lose.

Pennington was facing the team for whom he spent all of his previous eight NFL seasons. In Favre, he also was facing a player the Jets felt was better than him. His release just days after Favre's acquisition only emphasized the point. Pennington wanted this victory, but didn't get it.



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"Right here," Pennington said, pointing at his chest. "In my heart. My pride is hurt. Losing is not fun. We put a lot of hard work into it. It's one thing to have the will to win but you have to have a heart to lose."

He didn't have the rushing attack, the defense or the protection Favre did. His new team held up a lot better than expected, but it still didn't measure up to the Jets. Still, after being booed by the home fans after a string of poorly thrown, first-half passes, Pennington took Miami from its 39 to the Jets' 18 in a span of 1:33 in a final gasp at victory. He ran a hurry-up offense with the efficiency and poise of someone who hadn't been as inconsistent as he'd been all game.

He just didn't have enough, and the rebuilding Dolphins, under Bill Parcells and new coach Tony Sparano, reclaimed familiar footing in the loss column. It's where the Dolphins have spent 16 of their last 17 games.

As for Favre, he still looked a little uneasy playing in a system for a team in a city a long way from Green Bay. Calling plays in the dirt Sunday was something Favre actually did because he doesn't have a grasp of the Jets' playbook, having only arrived at the start of the preseason.

"I'd be lying if I stood here and told you that I feel real confident in the passing offense right now," Favre said. "It's from my end and what I need to learn."

Favre's trademark ability to improvise is not only what has made him into one of the best quarterbacks ever, it's also a means of survival in games and situations like he was in against the Dolphins.

His touchdown pass to Stuckey came on fourth-and-13 from Miami's 22. In field-goal range. Except New York didn't have a kicker because Mike Nugent had hurt his thigh on a kickoff. So Favre took the shotgun snap, evaded a sack and chucked the ball at no one in particular as he got drilled. Touchdown.

Favre's two-point conversion pass to Leon Washington fell incomplete, giving the Jets a six-point advantage. Favre said going for two was better than him trying to kick. Improvisation only goes so far.

Pennington amassed 251 passing yards to Favre's 194. Both threw two touchdowns. The difference: Pennington attempted 43 passes (26 completions), more than double Favre's 22 (15 completions). Favre was greatly helped by a running game that totaled 112 yards, 101 from Thomas Jones, whose 6-yard touchdown run in the third was the deciding score.

Miami, with Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown sharing the load, only managed 49 yards on the ground.

The Jets attributed their success to their re-stocked offensive line and the ability to capitalize on tendencies discovered in game tape. Players admitted that Favre's presence also had Miami's defense constantly on guard, allowing New York to diversify their play-calling and execute a balanced formula they feel will only get better in the next few weeks.

"Obviously, with Brett Favre's history of success, defenses have to respect what he can do," Jones said. "Early in the game he has the nice (touchdown) throw to Jericho Cotchery and you have to respect that. It definitely helps the offense when you have a quarterback who can throw the ball anywhere on the field and make plays. The running game is going to benefit from the defense having to respect him, drop corners back, drop safeties back. That leaves less guys for me to make miss and less guys for the line to block."

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