EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Chad Pennington walked off the field where he spent his first eight NFL seasons, surrounded by cameras and jubilant teammates after leading the Miami Dolphins to an improbable AFC East title.
On the New York Jets' sideline, a disappointed Brett Favre jogged off the field and into the locker room, maybe for the last time in a storied career.
Pennington, cut in the offseason by the Jets to make room for Favre, threw two touchdown passes in leading the Dolphins to a division title with yesterday's 24-17 victory.
A year after going 1-15, the Dolphins completed a remarkable turnaround under first-year coach Tony Sparano, joining the 1999 Indianapolis Colts as the only teams in NFL history to make 10-game improvements. Miami, which has won five straight and nine of 10, made the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. It's also the Dolphins' first AFC East title since 2000.
Miami (11-5) will host Baltimore (11-5) in the first round next weekend.
The Jets (9-7) knew they needed a win and Baltimore to lose to Jacksonville to even get into the postseason after New England beat Buffalo 13-0 earlier yesterday.
The loss ended a collapse for Favre and the Jets, who spent more than $140 million in free agency in the offseason and got off to an impressive 8-3 start. They controlled their playoff fate, but dropped four of their last five games.
Pennington (22-for-30, 200 yards) threw touchdown passes to Ted Ginn Jr. and Anthony Fasano. Phillip Merling also returned an interception 29 yards for a score for the Dolphins.
Favre (20-for-40, 233 yards) threw a touchdown, but had three interceptions.
It's uncertain whether Favre or coach Eric Mangini will return. *