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Pennington, Martin Get Jets Past Chargers

Quarterback passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns, and running back scores twice in a 34-28 victory.

September 20, 2004|Tony Perry | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Led by quarterback Chad Pennington and record-setting running by Curtis Martin, the New York Jets beat the error-prone San Diego Chargers, 34-28, in the Chargers' home opener Sunday in front of 57,310.

It was a particularly frustrating performance for Charger quarterback Drew Brees, despite a 33-yard touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell in the fourth quarter that cut the Jets' lead to 27-21.

Brees stopped one Charger drive with a fumble and two with interceptions. In the first half, he completed one pass for eight yards.

The normally supportive fans began to boo the starter lustily. The boos turned to cheers when Coach Marty Schottenheimer replaced Brees with 41-year-old Doug Flutie with three minutes remaining.

Flutie engineered a 18-play, 81-yard drive, finally hobbling for a six-yard touchdown run. But an on-side kick failed and the Chargers (1-1) were losers.

Schottenheimer said he replaced Brees after being told by the team trainer that Brees had suffered a concussion in a helmet-to-helmet collision. Brees, who was benched for five games last year, protested his removal.

"He may disagree with me, but that's OK, I get to make those decisions," Schottenheimer said.

Pennington completed 22 of 29 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns. Martin scored two touchdowns and gained 119 yards, becoming the most prolific running back in Jet history, surpassing Freeman McNeil. In 10 seasons, Martin has 11,984 yards.

For Charger fans, the ugliness started early.

The Jets (2-0) scored on their first possession. After a 46-yard pass from Pennington to receiver Jonathan Carter, Martin had up-the-middle runs of 10, 12 and one yard, the last one for a touchdown.

After safety Erik Coleman intercepted a Brees pass, the Jets scored on a two-yard run by Martin for a 14-0 lead.

In the second quarter, after Doug Brien made a 28-yard field goal for a 17-0 lead, a runaway looked imminent. But receiver Tim Dwight returned the kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown to narrow the gap to 17-7.

The second half began much as the first had -- a 23-yard field goal by Brien, and a four-yard touchdown pass from Pennington to fullback Jerald Sowell. The touchdown drive went 49 yards in nine plays, with the largest gain an 11-yard run by -- who else? -- Martin.

Charger running back LaDainian Tomlinson scored on a four-yard run late in the third quarter. He finished with 87 yards in 19 carries.

Brees completed eight of 19 for 146 yards before being replaced by Flutie, who completed seven of 16 for 77 yards. Still, Schottenheimer said Brees has his confidence.

"He's our starting quarterback, he will continue to be our starting quarterback," Schottenheimer said.

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