MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Chad Pennington and the New York Jets kept their hands in the playoff chase for at least one more week. The Minnesota Vikings are just about out of the running.

Pennington bounced back from a bad game with 339 yards passing and one touchdown on Sunday, leading the Jets past the Vikings 26-13 for their third straight road victory.

Brad Johnson was benched for the third time this season, but a late touchdown drive conducted by rookie Tarvaris Jackson was too little, too late for the reeling Vikings, who have lost six of eight.

Laveranues Coles had 12 catches for 144 yards and a touchdown for the Jets (8-6) before leaving with an apparent back injury late in the fourth quarter. Mike Nugent kicked four field goals, and New York improved to 5-2 on the road this year.

The Vikings (6-8) had a chance to thrust themselves into the wide-open NFC wild-card race. Instead, it was the same old story for a team that has wiped out the old standby of stopping the run and running the ball well leading to success.

Minnesota could still make the playoffs in several complicated scenarios, but this was a defining defeat for a season that has unquestionably been a disappointment under first-year coach Brad Childress.

Finishing 0-4 against AFC foes, the Vikings were completely outschemed after taking a quick 7-0 lead following a jarring, blind-side sack of Pennington by Napoleon Harris.

E.J. Henderson, who signed a five-year contract extension Friday, recovered the fumble and Johnson threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Travis Taylor on Minnesota’s third play.

The Jets didn’t bother running the ball much until the end, as most opponents have approached the league’s best rushing defense. But Pennington – who finished 29-for-39 with one interception – took what the Vikings gave him, faking a handoff nearly every time and favoring soft, short throws to slowly move the ball upfield.

About the only mistake they made after the early turnover was a botched field goal when holder Ben Graham lost his grip and was forced to scurry away before Nugent could boot it.

Pennington went 7-for-8 for 56 yards on New York’s second possession, an impressive response to the Minnesota score that ended with a 6-yard touchdown surge by Cedric Houston.

The biggest blow landed by the Jets was midway through the second quarter on third-and-8 at the Vikings 21. Coles beat Fred Smoot by a step on a fade route to make it 17-7.

Against a defense that entered the game 27th in the NFL in yards allowed and gave up two touchdown plays of 57 yards or more in last week’s loss to Buffalo, Minnesota couldn’t do much.

Johnson, who went 10-for-17 for 96 yards, a touchdown and no turnovers, was sacked three times for 28 yards. Chester Taylor, who sat out the previous week with bruised ribs, rushed 11 times for 38 yards. In the first half, the Vikings had as many first downs as punts (four) and totaled only 91 yards on 24 plays.

Though the offensive problems went far beyond Johnson, the Metrodome crowd began booing every time he started a new drive. To the chant “We want Jackson!” the frustrated fans got their wish at the end of the third quarter – confirming as much with a roaring standing ovation.

Jackson, a second-round pick out of Alabama State, came through with his first scoring pass on a 35-yard screen to Mewelde Moore with 6:15 left. Jackson’s 2-point conversion pass was batted down.

AP-ES-12-17-06 1623EST


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