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Patriots assistant accepts Jets’ job

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NEW YORK — New England Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini has accepted an offer to become the next New York Jets coach, a person familiar with the situation said Monday night.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made by the team.

Mangini, who turns 35 Thursday, becomes the youngest head coach in the NFL. He replaces Herman Edwards, who left for Kansas City after five seasons.

The Jets moved quickly to hire Mangini after interviewing former Vikings coach Mike Tice earlier in the day.

A Jets spokesman said the club had no announcements to make and declined further comment.

"We haven't heard anything," New England Patriots spokesman Stacey James said.

Mangini, who has spent nearly his entire career working for Patriots coach Bill Belichick, emerged as the leading candidate for the Jets last week. Though he is young, he is regarded as one of the brightest defensive minds in the game. He also has close ties to assistant general manager Mike Tannenbaum and was an assistant with the Jets from 1997-99, working with Belichick in the secondary. Belichick has talked Mangini out of taking coordinator jobs in the past, but was unable to do the same this time.

In a strange twist, Belichick was Jets head coach for one day before changing his mind and bolting for New England in 2000. That connection didn't seem to bother New York and owner Woody Johnson, who is desperate to try and gain on the Patriots in the AFC East.

With Mangini in, defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson, offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger and special teams coordinator Mike Westhoff would probably be out. All three interviewed for the head coaching job.

The Jets also spoke to three other candidates: former Saints coach Jim Haslett, former Rams interim coach Joe Vitt and Giants defensive coordinator Tim Lewis.

THE NFL ADMITS MISTAKE: Troy Polamalu caught the ball.

The league acknowledged Monday that referee Pete Morelli erred when he overturned on replay Troy Polamalu's interception of a Peyton Manning pass Sunday in the playoff game between Pittsburgh and Indianapolis.

Mike Pereira, the league's vice president of officiating, said in a statement that Morelli should have let the call on the field stand.

"He maintained possession long enough to establish a catch," Pereira said. "Therefore, the replay review should have upheld the call on the field that it was a catch and fumble." After the reversal, made with 5:26 left in Pittsburgh's win over the Colts, Indianapolis went on to score a touchdown and a 2-point conversion, cutting the Steelers' 21-10 lead to 21-18. That led to a wild final few minutes, filled with unbelievable twists and turns, including Colts kicker Mike Vanderjagt's missed 46-yard field-goal attempt that clinched it for Pittsburgh.

On the play, Polamalu made a diving catch of Manning's pass, tumbled with it in his hands and got up to run. As he did, he fumbled the ball, then recovered. Colts coach Tony Dungy challenged and Morelli ruled Polamalu had not completed the catch.

Shortly after the game, Morelli said: "I had the defender catching the ball. Before he got up, he hit it with his leg with his other leg still on the ground. Therefore, he did not complete the catch. And then he lost the ball. It came out, and so we made the play an incomplete pass."

Had the call stood, the Steelers would have had the ball at their own 48 with an 11-point lead.

"The definition of a catch — or in this case an interception — states that in the process of making a catch a player must maintain possession of the ball after he contacts the ground," Pereira said.

"The rule regarding the performing of an act common to the game applies when there is contact with a defensive player and the ball comes loose, which did not happen here."

The NFL almost never makes public the result of its reviews, although it did three years ago, when Pereira said officials should have called pass interference against San Francisco on the final play of a wild-card game with the New York Giants. The correct call would have given New York a second chance to kick a game-winning field goal in a 39-38 loss.

The call in Indianapolis incensed Pittsburgh linebacker Joey Porter, who said after the game: "I know they wanted Indy to win this game; the whole world loves Peyton Manning. But come on, man, don't take the game away from us like that."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello had no comment on Porter's statement.

In the past, players who have made such statements have been subject to fines.

Polamalu's overturned interception wasn't the only unusual call. Earlier in the game, when the Steelers were preparing to go for a fourth-and-inches from the Pittsburgh 48, two Colts defensive lineman ran across the line of scrimmage, pointing at the Steelers as if one of the linemen moved.

The officials stopped the game, but called no penalty.

Replays appeared to show Alan Faneca barely flinched. But Steelers coach Bill Cowher argued the Colts made contact with the linemen, which would have forced an offside call and a first down. Instead, Ben Roethlisberger ran a quarterback sneak for a first down, which allowed Pittsburgh to use another 5:02 before punting.