In Week 2, the Jets fell behind the Patriots, 7-0 and 14-7, and had the ball for only 1:02 of the first quarter. After that, however, the Green & White's defense kicked in and shut out the Patriots for the entire second half. Linebacker Jason Taylor made a win-clinching strip sack of Tom Brady, capping a stellar defensive half of football.
"There were a lot of different things that we did," fellow linebacker Bryan Thomas said. "You have to disguise well because Brady is a guy who knows how to read coverages, knows how to read your front and play off of that. There's a lot of different things. We have to do a plethora of things."
Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP, committed three turnovers in that 28-14 loss at New Meadowlands Stadium in September, but now the Jets will travel to Foxboro, Mass. to take on the Patriots in a showdown of division rivals whose 9-2 records lead the AFC.
With a revamped offense, Brady has been steadily improving throughout the year and even posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating against the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving day. Veteran Jets pass rusher Trevor Pryce joked about a key to preventing Brady from repeating that deed at Gillette Stadium.
"Making him aware that you're near him," Pryce said. "That's all. Make him aware. 'Hey I'm here, Tom, at the game. I'll be here for at least three hours. Talk to you later.' "
While Brady's personal accolades (three Super Bowl rings, five Pro Bowl selections, 2007 NFL MVP and even being married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen) precede him, that hasn't typically been a deterrent for head coach Rex Ryan's defense. In 2009, Brady was held out of the end zone in the Jets' 16-9 Week 2 victory, and overall his defenses lead Brady, two games to one, since he took over the helm of the Green & White last season.
Despite that, going to New England is no easy task, and Rex had glowing praise of Brady's abilities.
"There is no weakness in Brady's game," Ryan said. "He's poised, he's competitive, he's a leader — and by the way, he can make every throw. He's great underneath. He's smart. He knows where to throw it. He's gone 199 straight throws without throwing a pick. Just give him 200 throws without throwing a pick. He can throw the deep ball with touch, stands in there, faces the pressure. He's great at quarterback sneak plays except once. He's just a heck of a football player."
For the Jets' recently inconsistent pass rush, getting to Brady and putting him to the turf will be an essential task. Now that Brady's deep-ball option, Randy Moss, is no longer a Patriot, New England has been opting for more short and intermediate throws to joystick wide receiver Wes Welker, former Jets running back Danny Woodhead, and their two rookie tight ends, Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski. With the ball leaving Brady's hand early, getting in his face and shaking his poise will be difficult.
"Things don't distract him," Pryce said. "That's the thing — he keeps his eyes downfield. He's not one of those quarterbacks that watches the rush. He doesn't keep his head on a swivel, he's not one of those nervous guys. You can see that he gets hit. That's the great thing about him. He's tougher than everyone else. That's what makes him a great quarterback."
While the Jets certainly respect his body of work, it wasn't a Brady praise festival earlier this week. Stemming from their head coach's unwavering confidence, the members of Ryan's crew are sure they can go into Foxboro and put themselves in the driver's seat in the AFC with a victory. Both teams realize that this matchup could be Part II of a trilogy of Jets-Patriots games, a great precursor to a looming playoff meeting on the road to the Super Bowl.
"It'll get us ready for the eventual game, I guess," linebacker Calvin Pace said. "It's a huge game. I don't know if anybody could have predicted that both teams would be 9-2 at this point in time. It's going to be war, man. It's going to come down to who makes the least amount of mistakes and who can go out and be the most efficient."