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Playing in San Diego doesn't intimidate Jets

New York Jets center Nick Mangold walks off

New York Jets center Nick Mangold walks off the field at practice during training camp at the Atlantic Health Training Facility. (Aug. 18, 2011) Credit: Joe Epstein

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- The memories came flooding back as Nick Mangold stood in front of his locker Thursday, reminiscing about the Jets' last trip to San Diego.

The "crazy, hard-fought game.'' The "lights-out'' second-half performance by his team's defense. The 7-yard pass from Mark Sanchez to Jerricho Cotchery on third-and-4 that set up a 53-yard touchdown run by Shonn Greene in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach.

The Jets' AFC divisional-round playoff win over the Chargers after the 2009 season helped put the Jets, rookie quarterback Sanchez and first-year head coach Rex Ryan on the map. And it also earned the Jets their first of two straight AFC Championship Game appearances.

"It's one of the great memories that I have in my nine years here,'' Mangold told Newsday.

The faces on the Jets' roster have changed since they upset the Chargers, 17-14, nearly five years ago. Since then, they have played the Chargers twice at home, a 27-21 win in 2011 and a 21-17 loss in 2012. And on Sunday, the Jets (1-3) will step onto the Qualcomm Stadium field desperate for a win -- just as they were five seasons ago.

"It'll be a very similar experience because I'm pretty sure we're underdogs right now,'' running backs/assistant head coach Anthony Lynn said with a smile. "And we have a similar team: a young quarterback, we had our struggles that year with turnovers, but we had the No. 1 rushing game in the league at the time and an efficient passing game.

"And I have a lot of positive experiences about that field, period,'' added Lynn, a two-time Super Bowl champion who played nine NFL seasons with the 49ers and Broncos. "So I like going to play there.''

The Jets are hoping Geno Smith, their erratic second-year quarterback, can deliver a win in enemy territory. He's struggled this season, committing eight turnovers and throwing four touchdown passes in four games. And that's one of the main reasons the Jets have lost three straight games.

Still, the players remain upbeat. And they're unfazed by the challenge presented by the 3-1 Chargers and quarterback Philip Rivers.

"As much as people say we're dead, I like where we stand,'' said outside linebacker Calvin Pace, one of only four Jets remaining from the 2009 roster. ". . . It's crazy to say this at 1-3, but our losses have been against NFC teams. You never want to lose a game, but I think they're all learning points. It's about getting better in a lot of different areas. Everybody's positive. And that's what you have to be. We can get ourselves out of this. We've just got to take it one game at a time, and it starts with San Diego.''

While reminiscing about the past, Mangold rattled off the Jets' season records every year since he was drafted 29th overall in 2006. "You'd like to find a little bit more consistency in there,'' said the center, who has made the playoffs three times. "But because of those experiences, it doesn't matter what happened the year before. You don't know who's going to be here the next year, so you try to focus on this one year.

"Shoot, there was one year Rex said we were mathematically eliminated and then it was like, 'Oh, we're still in it,' '' Mangold said, smiling. "I think that's a great example. You're still in it until you're truly out.''

The Jets were 2-6 on the road in 2013 and lost to the Packers in Green Bay in Week 2 this season. But Lynn is confident that the Jets can withstand the pressure -- just as they did in 2009, when they scored 17 unanswered points to beat the Chargers.

"Absolutely. I think our guys are ready for that travel,'' Lynn said, adding that the "us-against-the-world mentality'' can bring a unit together. "Unfortunately, we find ourselves in this situation, but I think our players are going to respond."

" . . . If we just empty the tank and correct a couple things, this team is hard to beat. I don't care who we're playing -- and where we're playing.''

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