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HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. -- The throwback uniforms may have gone to Pepper Johnson's head. The New York Jets' linebacker and defensive captain said he wants to see an AFC title game at Denver on Sunday that more resembles a contest out of the early 20th century than one for the new millennium.

"I don't like seeing championship games with scores of 31-30 or 45-40," Johnson said after the Jets chilled the Jacksonville Jaguars, 34-24, to advance to a showdown for a Super Bowl berth with the Broncos. "Give me a 16-15 or 7-6 championship game. If you have that, I would know it was a well-organized, well-prepared team."

Johnson and the Jets, however, may have no choice. They may need Vinny Testaverde, Keyshawn Johnson, Curtis Martin and Co. to get into a shootout at Mile High Stadium to survive the Broncos. Jets coach Bill Parcells hinted as much Monday when he assessed the day before and the week ahead.

"Denver scored over 500 points [in the regular season]. It's a tremendous challenge to stop these guys," Parcells said. "I don't know what the weather will be like, but we're going to have to go there thinking we'll have to score a lot of points to win.

"We'll have to play well, but I think we're capable of doing that if we eliminate some of the things we did Sunday."

Offensively, some of those things were three turnovers -- fumbles by running back Martin and wide receiver Wayne Chrebet and an interception of Testaverde, of which Parcells said, "In retrospect, maybe I wouldn't have done," since it cost the Jets the chance to kick a field goal for a 10-point lead with 2: 24 to play.

There were also several dropped passes and two penalties on guard Matt O'Dwyer.

Despite the errors, the Jets mounted their fifth 400-yard-plus effort of the season, and their 34 points against the Jaguars gave them an average of 26.5 in their 17 games. That's not quite up to Denver's 31.7 points in 17 games and 35.0 in nine home victories, but it's far from bad.

"We've had a pretty aggressive mind-set this year," tight end Kyle Brady said. "That's definitely a desire of ours. We try to get everybody involved in the offense. And the more people involved, the better off you usually are."

The Jets know their aggressiveness will be put to the test by the rabid Broncos fans at Mile High.

"I expect what Miami got -- a highly emotional game," Parcells said of the Broncos' 38-3 pounding of the Dolphins. "I know it's going to be noisy and loud."

But the coach also thinks his team has developed its confidence over the course of the season.

"We've demonstrated the ability to beat some good teams," he said. "I think mentally we're fairly tough. I really do."

That toughness will be tested in Denver, especially if the Jets have to match the Broncos score for score in the kind of game Pepper Johnson can't stand.

It wasn't Chrebet's best game as a pro -- the wide receiver dropped a third-and-four pass in the first quarter and fumbled after a fourth-quarter catch. But he provided the unseen hand in Jaguars safety Chris Hudson's bizarre decision to return Martin's second-quarter fumble to the Jets with a forward lateral.

Testaverde's long wingspan forced Hudson to toss the ball high and short toward teammates Eric Curry and Dave Thomas just past midfield. Curry tried to pick the ball up and guide it toward Thomas, but Chrebet was right behind and jostled it loose from Curry and back to the turf, where Keyshawn Johnson fell on it.

Parcells mentioned Geno Bell, the rookie practice-squad defensive tackle, when he gave his reasons for bringing "every guy who is a football player" on the Jets, including those on injured reserve and the practice squad, to Denver.

"We'll take them on the road and make them do what everybody else does -- all meetings, all curfews," Parcells said.

"The last two games, I've had everybody there in the dressing room after the game -- these guys are part of the team. Geno Bell was head-butting me after this game."

Parcells said cornerback Aaron Glenn (ankle) came out of his first action in four games in good shape and could return to the starting lineup in Denver.

Pub Date: 1/13/99

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