Stumbling when they needed a victory to enhance their playoff chances, the Jets didn't look like the feisty team that fought each other in practice three days ago.
|Bears receiver Marty Booker stiff-arms Jets DB Aaron Beasley. (AP)|
"It just stinks all around. I feel horrible," said Chrebet, who caught a pass, only to fumble as he hurdled Chicago's Larry Whigham and Mike Green. That ended a 22-yard play and killed a final New York drive.
Bears rookie Roosevelt Williams recovered at the 14 with 1:10 left.
"It's not something I sit around and think about doing. That was my natural reaction. It's not the smartest thing to do. But if it works, we tie it up," Chrebet said.
"I had a good head of steam going. I thought, 'If I could slice and get through there ....' Next thing I know, I'm higher in the air, I'm face-first on the ground and I didn't know what happened. It's my fault we didn't have chance to tie it up," he added.
Chrebet's fumble was one of many mistakes for the Jets (7-7), who are mathematically still alive.
"If he hurdles me and keeps running, it's a great play," Whigham said. "He couldn't get out of bounds. I think he was just trying to make a play."
For the third straight year, the Jets have allowed a game they expected to win slow down their playoff hopes.
Late last season, they lost to Buffalo when they were in position to clinch a playoff spot. They did much the same in 2000 by falling to Detroit.
Chicago (4-10), which led 10-0 at the half, got touchdown runs from rookie Adrian Peterson and ex-Jet Leon Johnson. Paul Edinger kicked two field goals, a 53-yarder and then a 48-yarder into the wind with 2:38 left.
And Chandler, making his sixth start with Jim Miller out for the season with a knee injury, completed 22 of 27 passes for 177 yards.
The Jets' Chad Morton returned the second-half kickoff 97 yards for an apparent TD, but it was called back for holding.
New York then moved in for its only touchdown as Pennington had a 13-yard pass to Laveranues Coles and Curtis Martin broke off a 35-yard run, setting up Chad Pennington's 5-yard TD toss to Chrebet.
Pennington insisted that Thursday's combative practice session that featured three separate fights among teammates, had little, if any, bearing on Sunday's performance.
"As a team, the players didn't put too much into that. It didn't have anything to do with us losing this game," Pennington said.
"All of us are disappointed. No excuses, no explanations. Chicago just beat us and that's very frustrating for us."
After the Jets moved in for a TD on their first possession of the second half, the Bears didn't wilt.
Aided by a roughing-the-passer penalty against Jason Ferguson and a 23-yard run by Johnson, they went quickly downfield for another score as Johnson carried the final 2 yards to make it 17-7.
Chicago played much of the second half without its two starting cornerbacks. Jerry Azumah was forced out in the third quarter when he was hit in the head on a pass play. R.W. McQuarters was inactive because of a hip injury, so the Bears had to go with Williams and fellow rookie Travis Coleman.
The Jets moved to Chicago's 14 in the fourth quarter when Coles caught two passes and Coleman was called for pass interference. But two runs gained just 4 yards before Williams batted down a pass intended for Chrebet, forcing John Hall to kick a 28-yard field goal that made it 17-13.
Peterson, who rushed for 6,543 yards at Georgia Southern, sparked a late second-quarter drive of 67 yards, capping it with a 5-yard TD run. The sixth-round draft pick carried five times for 24 yards in the drive and also caught a 16-yard pass from Chandler.
Edinger's 53-yard field goal gave the Bears the lead, set up by a 24-yard pass from Chandler to Stanley Pritchett.
On the previous series, Pennington fumbled the snap on a fourth-and-inches from the Chicago 37, ending a drive that started at the New York 2.
It was that kind of day for the Jets, who play New England and Green Bay in their final two games.
- Curtis Martin gained 127 yards on 21 carries, leaving him 95 yards short of 1,000 this season.
- Edinger's final field goal came during a drive aided by penalty on the Jets for having 12 men on the field.
- Pennington, the top-rated passer in the NFL, completed 22 of 33 for 207.
The Associated Press News Service
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