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Quarterbacks try to ignore showdown

New York's Chad Pennington and Oakland's Rich Gannon have the top two ratings in the AFC, but they know they can't pay attention to the other.

©Associated Press
December 2, 2002


OAKLAND, Calif. -- Rich Gannon has been around long enough to know he's not competing with the opposing quarterback.

And that's the case even if he's playing against the only AFC quarterback with a better rating than him.

Expect plenty of completions tonight when Gannon's Raiders take on Chad Pennington's Jets. Both QBs specialize in getting the ball into a teammate's hands.

"You make a big mistake as a quarterback if you try and compete against another guy," said Gannon, 36.

"I learned that early on in my career. You know, a guy like Drew Bledsoe or Jeff Garcia, those guys, you just have to go out and play your game. If the other guy is having a great game, a hot hand, you can't be distracted."

Pennington, 26, is 5-2 as New York's starter, has completed an astounding 70.2 percent of his passes and has a 99.8 quarterback rating, just ahead of Gannon's 99.1.

The Raiders have won three in a row after a four-game losing streak and a victory would keep them atop the AFC West. Pennington has led the Jets to four straight victories.

Neither watches the other play very often, but there certainly is a mutual respect.

"I know the offensive coordinator, Paul Hackett, real well," Gannon said. "He coached me in Kansas City. So I know how (Pennington is) being coached and he's doing the right things, making a lot plays, being smart with the ball. I've been real impressed."

Pennington strives to run an offense with the same efficiency Gannon demonstrates nearly every week. They play in similar models of the West Coast attack so popular around the league.

Gannon "does a wonderful job of running this offense," said Pennington, who replaced Vinny Testaverde as the starter in Week 5.

"He's just showing how you run this offense; you just take what the defense gives you and when you get a chance to make a big play, you capitalize on that. You know, growing up, I loved to watch Joe Montana run this offense and he was the same type of passer, the same type of quarterback."

Pennington is in his third season out of Marshall. His first career start came Oct. 6.

He said from the beginning he is determined to get the Jets back to the postseason despite their poor start. New York lost to the Raiders in Oakland last year in the AFC playoffs, six days after the Jets won 24-22 at Oakland in their final regular-season game.

"I think, obviously, he's done a great job for us so far," Jets coach Herman Edwards said. "We brought him in because we felt we needed a spark and we weren't playing well on all sides of the ball. I think our players have rallied around him on both sides of the ball and picked up their play."

The Raiders know Pennington is a big reason for the Jets' turnaround.

"He's really showing his talent, and he's making great decisions," Oakland's Jerry Rice said. "He's pretty much winning football games for them. It's going to be a great test. You've got two of the best quarterbacks on the field."

Gannon, of course, has experience on his side. And the Raiders have four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson back at full strength.

The Raiders have shown signs of being a better ball-control offense lately, rushing for 187 yards last week. That makes it that much tougher for a defense to key on Gannon.

"We have to get in his face and then get him down," Jets All-Pro defensive end John Abraham said. "Just bothering him is not enough, because he can escape. He's a very elusive quarterback."

Jets (6-5) at Raiders (7-4)

OF NOTE: After slow starts, both teams have caught fire. The Jets not only have won four straight but have mashed opponents 119-50 and haven't allowed a score in the fourth quarter during the streak. Meanwhile, the Raiders might be one of the five best teams in the league. Their league-best offense (412.6 yards a game) is only getting better and probably will be a little too much for the Jets defense. It'll be close, but as usual the Raiders will play up to the national stage.

FRY'S PROMISE: Raiders 34, Jets 30.

-- DARRELL FRY

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