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Pennington hurting after Jets victory

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham
MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Chad Pennington had been thrown to the ground four times officially and absorbed a half-dozen hits on top of that. His mouth was bloodied. His face still was flush from competition.

Someone asked the Miami Dolphins quarterback where he was hurting after taking all those shots.

"Right here," Pennington said, pointing about three buttons down on his pressed, peach dress shirt. "In my heart. My pride's hurt. Losing is not fun."

Then what transpired Sunday afternoon in Dolphin Stadium must have felt like torture. The New York Jets, Pennington's old team of eight years, beat his new one 20-14.

Worse yet was how the game unraveled. Pennington sputtered at the start, while his Jets replacement, Brett Favre, was glorious in the beginning. Favre generally was efficient, but a key touchdown came on a pass that would seem unlikely if it were coming out of anybody else's hand.

Not a dagger in Pennington's heart. More like an archer's arrow, fired high in desperation and striking true.

"That's typical Favre fashion," Pennington said through teeth gritted so hard you wondered if the blood would trickle from his lips again. "That's why he is who he is."

Midway through the second quarter, on fourth-and-13 from Miami's 22-yard line, New York declined to try a field goal because kicker Mike Nugent was hurt, and the spot would have been on the Florida Marlins' dirt infield.

Dolphins linebacker Joey Porter got his hands on him. A couple other Fins slapped at Favre, who escaped and launched a sky ball toward the goal line. Chansi Stuckey hauled it in virtually uncontested.

"They got a big break and we didn't," Porter said. "We're hitting Favre. He's throwing off his back foot. It's a Hail Mary pass. You're not supposed to even score a touchdown, and they did. It's one of those plays that happens."

There still was a second half to play, and Pennington played much more like his savvy, efficient self. He moved the ball, taking the Dolphins inside the red zone on each of their last three possessions. They turned it over on downs at the Jets' 2-yard line and scored a touchdown to get within six points.

There was enough time for one last shot at victory.

"He's a leader," Dolphins receiver Greg Camarillo said of Pennington. "He came in there at the end of the game. His mouth was bleeding. He looked everyone in the eye on the last drive and said 'Let's get this going.' The energy comes from him. He remains confident no matter what the situation is."

Pennington nearly orchestrated the winning drive, starting on his own 39 and driving to the Jets' 18-yard line. The Dolphins succumbed after three straight incomplete passes -- the final misfire intercepted -- from the Jets' 18-yard line in the waning seconds.

"He gave us a chance to win at the end," Dolphins coach Tony Sparano said. "I think that's important."

Whether or not Pennington was aware New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady had suffered a potentially catastrophic injury earlier in the afternoon, he saw the Jets celebrate a substantial victory in an AFC East race that could have swung wide open.

Pennington completed only one of his first six passes for minus-1 yard. Dolfans were booing three series into the game.

He finished with respectable numbers: 26 of 43 for 251 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for an 82.6 passer rating.

"It wasn't until late that I think we started to execute," Sparano said.

Favre, meanwhile, continued to enrapture the fans Pennington so desperately wanted to please. Favre completed 15 of 22 passes for 194 yards and two touchdowns. He had a passer rating of 125.9.

Favre received a lot more help from his supporting cast. Pennington got sacked four times. Jets linebacker Calvin Pace delivered the blow that filled Pennington's mouth with blood in the fourth quarter. Penalties on rookie left tackle Jake Long wiped out two Pennington first-down scrambles. Running backs Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown combined for 47 rushing yards.

No matter.

"I just hate losing," Pennington said. "I hate it as bad as you can imagine, especially when you put a lot of hard work into it, grinding and trying to make things happen.

"Doesn't matter if it's the Jets or any of the other 31 teams. A loss hurts bad."