Week 1 in the NFL and the two New York tales
The Jets and Giants both kicked off on Sunday in Week One of the 2006 NFL season. Gang Green survived a fourth quarter scare from the Titans in the Music City for rookie head coach Eric Mangini's first win, while Big Blue finished on the short end in primetime against the Colts.
The Jets played one of the early games in Tennessee and started off fast. Quarterback Chad Pennington was on target in his first regular season game back from shoulder surgery. He completed 9 of his first 10 passes for 84 yards to set up newcomer Kevan Barlow's rushing touchdown. Following cornerback Andre Dyson's second interception of the first half, the Jets took over on offense and converted the opportunity into six points when Pennington found Jerricho Cotchery open for an eight-yard score. Jets kicker Mike Nugent missed the PAT and the teams went into the locker room with the Jets leading 13-0.
The Jets secondary picked off another Titan pass in the third quarter, setting up a short field goal by Nugent. Two misses on very makeable kicks let the Titans hang around and have a chance to come back in the final stanza. If you have been following the Jets over the years, you should have expected nothing less.
Former Giant QB Kerry Collins brought the Titans down the field on an 80-yard drive following Nugent's second miss, which resulted in a Travis Henry three-yard touchdown run and a two-point conversion of a similar play. Disaster then struck on the Jets ensuing possession. On third and long, Pennington was hit and coughed up the ball, which was recovered by Tennessee at the Jets one-yard line. Henry once again found the endzone, and the game was tied at 16 when Collins passed to Drew Bennett for another two-pointer.
Some other Jets teams may have folded up and became another chapter of the "Same old Jets" book. But perhaps Mangini's tough training camp made an impact on these players. Seeing the Jets sideline, especially Pennington, showed no panic and confidence to get back the lead that was lost. Starting at their 43-yard line after a nice return on the kickoff, the Jets were moved down field by Pennington with precision. A 12-yard touchdown pass to tight end Chris Baker with 2:10 remaining put the Jets back in front to stay, 23-16.
The marquee match-up of the day actually took place in the evening when the Indianapolis Colts visited Giants Stadium for the NBC's inaugural Sunday Night Football coverage. The theme building up to the game was the 'Manning Bowl.' Big brother Peyton was facing his little sibling Eli for the first time. Both had similar numbers when it was all said and done. But Peyton's team is going into the second week with a win.
The game started off with both team's tentative with a un-Colt like low scoring beginning. The first quarter ended with Indy up by three. A touchdown pass by Peyton Manning (25 for 41, 276 yards, one touchdown, one interception) and another field goal by new Colt kicker Adam Vinatieri put Indianapolis up 13-0. The Giants broke the ice with a 34-yard scoring pass from Eli Manning (20 for 33, 247 yards, two touchdowns, one interception) to Plaxico Burress. Vinatieri extended the Colts' lead to 16-7 with a 48-yard field goal right before halftime.
The Giants cut their deficit to two when Jeremy Shockey corralled a 15-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning. A possible go-ahead score was nullified when the Giants gave the ball back to the Colts after R.W McQuarters intercepted a pass with 1:44 remaining in the third quarter. Two plays later, the Giants fumbled when Eli Manning and running back Tiki Barber (18 rushes for 110 yards) were not on the same page on a called play.
Both teams traded touchdowns in the fourth and Vintaieri hit a 32-yarder with 1:12 left to give the Indy a five-point margin. But the turning point in the game came with an offensive pass interference call on Tim Carter to nullify a 19-yard completion with 3:51 left in the game. Replays showed that it was a bad call, made worse by the fact that Eli Manning threw an interception on the next play. Time ran out on the Giants in their last possession at mid-field and the final score was 26-21.
The Giants have a chance to bounce back next week when they go to Philadelphia to seer their division rivals. The Eagles won their first game of the season with a 24-10 victory at Houston. The Jets will host the New England Patriots in their home opener on Sunday, who defeated Buffalo by two on a safety.