EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Nov. 26, 2006) -- Chad Pennington was sprawled on the turf, desperately searching for a breath as the fans at Giants Stadium nervously held theirs.
The New York Jets quarterback had the wind knocked out of him early in the third quarter of a 26-11 victory over Houston, but Pennington -- and most everyone else -- thought it was much worse.
"I thought I wasn't going to make it," Pennington said with a big laugh. "If anybody's ever had that done, you know that's the worst feeling in the world. You're just sitting there like, 'Oh my goodness ... I'm not going to make it ... right here on the football field.' But things worked out well."
It sure did. Pennington rediscovered some missing chemistry with his receivers and had his finest passing day in weeks for the Jets (6-5), throwing for 286 yards and a touchdown. Laveranues Coles caught nine passes for 111 yards, including a 12-yard touchdown in the third quarter, and Jerricho Cotchery had seven catches for 110 yards against the Texans (3-8).
"I thought we did some really good things offensively," he said. "We were able to execute in the passing game and keep drives alive."
But things looked a bit ominous with 6½ minutes left in the third quarter. Pennington was grabbed by his lower right leg by Jason Babin, but was able to complete a 4-yard pass to Cotchery. As Pennington released the ball, rookie Mario Williams fell on top of him and the quarterback caught one of his own arms under him.
With the crowd watching in stunned silence -- a scene that has become all too familiar with Pennington the last few seasons because of shoulder injuries -- the Jets stood around him as the trainers examined the quarterback.
Coles, Pennington's close friend, went down on a knee to talk to the quarterback.
"Anytime you have a guy that you truly care about and love outside of football go down, the first thing you're trying to do is find out if he's OK," Coles said. "Once he told me it was his wind, I was like, 'Oh, OK.' It had me kind of scared for a second, to be honest. I was worried."
After several nervous moments, Pennington got up as the fans cheered wildly. He pumped his right fist as he walked off the field and then signaled the crowd to make more noise.
"I was happy I was breathing again -- that I was alive, No. 1," said Pennington, who missed one play. "And, No. 2, I just wanted to let the crowd know I was OK. It was a good feeling."
And he certainly looked good, especially in the second half, as Pennington finished 24 of 31. He spoke at length during the past few weeks about needing to reconnect with his receivers after throwing for 200 or more yards once since opening the season with two consecutive 300-yard games.
Apparently, everything's OK now.
"I was impressed, but I wasn't shocked," Cotchery said. "Coming off last week's game and the way he prepared for this game, I knew that this week was going to be a good week."
Mike Nugent also had a big game, tying a career high with four field goals, including a career-long 54-yarder in the second quarter.
Pennington was 5 for 5 for 89 yards on the Jets' first possession of the third quarter. He connected with Chris Baker for 28 yards and Cotchery for 35 to get down to the 12. Pennington audibled out of a run play and lofted a pass to the left front corner of the end zone, and Coles leaped for the score.
Cedric Houston added a 1-yard touchdown run later in the third quarter to make it 23-3.
"They knew exactly what they wanted to give us and it wasn't enough," Carr said. "They have a good defense and they didn't give us anything downfield. When you don't have a running game, it's a tough deal."
On Houston's second possession, punter Chad Stanley fumbled the snap and Nugent kicked a 23-yard field goal seven plays later. He added a 34-yarder to cap New York's next drive.