HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. (AP) -With the game already decided, Chad Pennington marched the New York Jets down the field for a touchdown and then a 2-point conversion.
The plays, which appeared meaningless at the time, allowed the Jets to end another loss on a positive note Sunday. They also helped Eric Mangini decide that he's sticking with Pennington as his starting quarterback.
``His competitiveness in the last drive, to me that's classic Chad,'' Mangini said Wednesday, announcing he was making no change to the quarterback position.
``Chad will be the starter this weekend,'' he said.
With the Jets struggling at 1-6, fans and members of the media have been calling for Kellen Clemens to start, mostly based on the second-year quarterback's stronger arm and solid performance in Week 2 in relief of an injured Pennington.
``People are going to be people,'' wide receiver Laveranues Coles said. ``They all have their opinions and evidently it doesn't matter because he's still our quarterback. The most important thing is that the guys in this locker room stick together and leave the outside opinions where they are: outside.''
Mangini repeatedly endorsed Pennington as his starter early in the season, but declined to do so after the loss Sunday and Monday, helping fuel the speculation.
``It's something I wanted to look at as a group and I wanted to look at all different elements,'' Mangini said. ``I thought that was important. I did. I feel this is the decision. I'm very comfortable with that.''
So, Pennington will be behind center Sunday, when the Jets take on Buffalo (2-4), despite having to wait a few days for Mangini's decision.
``I was confident in how I played and I felt good about how I played,'' Pennington said. ``But coach's decision is totally out of my control.''
Pennington, who has taken a lot of the blame for the Jets' poor start, had one of his better games against the Bengals. He was 20-of-31 for 272 yards and three touchdowns, but threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the closing minute and sealed the 38-31 loss.
``The way I play the game, I don't hide anything,'' Pennington said. ``I don't play to save my job. I don't play to make sure that I don't get something negatively written about me. I don't play that way. I play to help us win.''
When asked if Pennington is the starter just for now, Mangini offered only: ``I'm saying he's the starter.''
The announcement was somewhat surprising because Mangini has often kept personnel decisions close to the vest, as he did when he waited until shortly before the game at Baltimore to name Clemens the starter when Pennington was hurt.
``I just thought it was something that was important so we could move forward and get this issue behind us,'' Mangini said.
Added wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery: ``It feels good because we know who's going to be the starter for the entire week and we can get prepared for this weekend's game.''
Pennington has nine touchdown passes and seven interceptions and has thrown for 1,211 yards with a quarterback rating of 88.6.
``At 1-6, none of us are solidified in our jobs,'' Pennington said. ``That's how it is when you are facing a losing streak. When you're 1-6, I think everyone is being evaluated from the top down. We're all on a pressure cooker.''
Pennington was one of last season's best stories, returning from consecutive rotator cuff operations and throwing for a career-high 3,352 yards while playing in every game for the first time. He was selected the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year.
Mangini gave him a vote of confidence early in the offseason, naming him the starter months before minicamp. Pennington then struggled in the preseason while Clemens was impressive.
Pennington sprained his right ankle in the season opener against New England and sat the following week as Clemens nearly led the Jets to a fourth-quarter comeback against the Ravens. Pennington has thrown seven interceptions in his last four games, with three coming in the final minutes while trying to lead comebacks.
Still, Mangini and the rest of the team refuse to blame Pennington for the disappointing start.
``This isn't a Chad Pennington issue,'' Mangini said. ``This is a New York Jets issue. This is all of us needing to do a better job.''
Meanwhile, Clemens patiently waits for his chance, which could come as soon as next week or not until next season.
``I absolutely support Chad 100 percent,'' Clemens said. ``I know this team does. He's a great player, a great competitor and a good teammate. We're all behind him.''

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