EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Aug. 19, 2005) -- It could end up being the most important incomplete pass of the preseason.
Chad Pennington aired out a 45-yard pass for Justin McCareins, only to watch as the ball sailed just long. Yes, his surgically repaired shoulder felt just fine.
Pennington led one scoring drive and finished 9 of 10 for 86 yards in his first game since offseason surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, helping the New York Jets beat the Minnesota Vikings 28-21 on Friday night.
"When he threw that long pass, I knew he was going to be OK," Jets coach Herman Edwards said.
So did the rest of his teammates, who were thrilled to have their starting quarterback on the field again. Though he looked rusty in his first two series, Pennington showed he belonged back in the huddle on his third drive, starting with the incompletion.
Pennington, knocked throughout his career for his relatively weak arm, joked it was the first time in three years he had overthrown a receiver.
"I was wondering who that guy was throwing that ball," McCareins said.
Following the errant pass, Pennington found his rhythm. The show stopper was Pennington's 20-yard touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles in the second quarter to tie the game at 7, a beautiful pass down the middle that hit Coles in stride.
"The first two series were pretty ugly but the third series was very important to get the tempo together, go down and answer their scoring drive," Pennington said. "I was just happy to be out there. I hate sitting and watching."
It was the last play of the game for Pennington.
Daunte Culpepper looked just as good for the Vikings (1-1), going 11 of 13 for 146 yards while leading them on one scoring drive. Minnesota staged a second-half rally with two scores from their third and fourth stringers, tying the game at 21 before Cedric Houston scored the game-winner on a 10-yard TD run with 5:52 remaining.
It was a relatively sloppy game, with the teams making a combined 25 penalties for 168 yards. The Vikings had two turnovers converted into touchdowns.
"Penalties are the things that glare out at me right now," Culpepper said. "It's tough when you convert for first downs and they bring it back because of penalties, especially against a good football team like the Jets. We can't have mistakes like that."
On his first drive, Pennington clapped his hands as the crowd welcomed him back with a shower of cheers. Pennington took his rightful place in the huddle, then handed off to Curtis Martin.
There was not much doing on that series, with Pennington throwing for 3 yards. More of the same followed on their next possession, including a moment that must have given New York (2-0) pause: Pennington was forced to scramble on third-and-1 for no gain. Pennington hurt his shoulder last year following a scramble in Buffalo.
The Vikings went up first when Moe Williams scored on a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, capping a 10-play drive. Pennington had an answer, guiding the tying drive. Coles finished with six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.
"Anytime you have Chad in the game it's exciting," Coles said. "For me, it really wasn't the TD it was getting that first pass from him."
Minnesota kept making mistakes. On the next drive, Michael Bennett was stripped by Sione Pouha, and Joey Evans recovered. Jay Fiedler needed two plays to put the Jets up 14-7, throwing an 18-yard touchdown pass to Wayne Chrebet.
The Vikings finished with nine penalties for 75 yards in the first half.
The Jets converted another turnover into a score in the third quarter, when Daryl Jones fumbled a punt from Australian kicker Ben Graham. Jerricho Cotchery recovered, and Fiedler scored on a 1-yard run for a 21-7 lead.
Minnesota got closer thanks to first-round pick Troy Williamson, making his debut after sitting out last week with an ankle injury. Williamson had a nifty 54-yard reception, then scored on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill to make it 21-14. Adimchinobe Echemandu tied it on a 1-yard run.
"Troy Williamson showed some signs of why we drafted him," Vikings coach Mike Tice said. "He's got tremendous speed and he's a playmaker."
Notes: Injury update: Jets LB Mondoe Davis (knee), S Rashad Washington (slight consussion); Vikings RB Ciatrick Fason (sprained right ankle), DE Earl Cochran (strained left calf). ... New York played again without defensive end John Abraham, who has yet to sign his $6.7 million tender as the team's franchise player. But Abraham, who wants a long-term deal, was in New York on Friday, hoping to meet with team officials to resolve their differences.