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Beantown Battle For First

By John Melillo
Jets Insider.com, Staff Writer
October 22nd, 2004

When discussing the upcoming showdown with the New England Patriots this Sunday, Jets head coach Herm Edwards had a tough time finding a place to start when evaluating their divisional rivals.

When discussing the upcoming showdown with the New England Patriots this Sunday, Jets head coach Herm Edwards had a tough time finding a place to start when evaluating their divisional rivals.

“Obviously, New England is New England. They’re a fantastic football team,” Edwards said. “Twenty straight wins tells you a lot about them.”

Breaking the mystique of a Patriots team that has earned an NFL record 20 consecutive victories will be additionally challenging at Foxboro Stadium, where the Patriots have not been defeated since their 30-17 loss to the Jets in 2002.

“They know how to win in the fourth quarter,” explained Edwards. “They know how to play when the game gets tight. They believe they’re going to win it. They’ve won 30 games when entering the fourth quarter with a lead. They are 17-1 when games are decided by six points or less.”

In studying film of this week’s opponent, Edwards stressed the specific reasons why the Patriots have been so successful in recent years under head coach Bill Belichick.

“Offensively, they create match-ups,” Edwards said. “They do a great job of making adjustments. I think defensively, they’re a 3-4, but they go into some 4-3. They come at you, blitz you and sometimes drop three into coverage. The best thing they do is create turnovers and they play very good in the red zone.”

Over the past four seasons, the Patriots have feasted off turnovers, sharing the AFC lead with the Jets with plus 31 in the turnover margin.

One of the catalysts behind the Patriots success defensively has been the play of 10-year veteran CB Ty Law, who is expected to shadow WR Santana Moss wherever he lines up Sunday.

“When you got a hall of fame corner (Law) covering your guy, you’re not going to mess around too much because he’s going to end up breaking your heart”, said Edwards after Friday’s practice. “That’s always a problem. It’s very calculating on what you have to do.”

Law is joined by a host of playmaking defenders to line up along the front seven, highlighted by LB Tedy Bruschi and DL Richard Seymour. In a conference call with the N.Y. media this week, Bruschi stressed their defense has not played its best game of the season this year. The Patriots have yet to allow more than 23 points this season.

“We really have the mantra of improving from week to week,” Bruschi said. “I think we’re on that track where we’ve gotten better each week.”

Bruschi acknowledged the challenge posed to his team this week in facing a Jets team that has been equally impressive out of the starting gates this year.

“Every time the Patriots meet the Jets, I feel like it’s a battle every time,” Bruschi said. “You know there is going to be a lot of individual battles during the game that are going to have to be won. When the Patriots play the Jets, it’s going to be a slugfest.”

As far as the Jets are concerned, the Patriots’ offense has been reinforced with the off-season addition of RB Corey Dillon to their offensive backfield.

“Now they got a power runner,” Edwards said. “He’s a heck of football player, tough guy, runs hard. They can power run you. He’s one of the better runners in the league.”

The leader of the Patriots offense is QB Tom Brady, a two-time Super Bowl MVP. Edwards was questioned about Brady’s performance this season, which currently lists him with a 58.7 completion percentage after five games, his lowest output in four seasons.

“20-0. He wins games,” Edwards said. “It’s not about stats, it’s about winning. He’s having a pretty good year.”

MISCELLENOEUS TIDBITS: The last meeting between the clubs was a 21-16 Patriots victory. QB Chad Pennington was intercepted five times during that game…The Jets have yet to allow a 100-yard receiver or 100-yard rusher this season…The Jets 8th ranked offense will face the Patriots 19th ranked defense…The Jets are +9 in the turnover margin and the Patriots are +2…The Jets hold the all-time series advantage 47-39…The Jets are 21-21 all-time in Foxboro…As the Jets coach, Edwards has a 2-4 career record against New England.

INJURY REPORT: Although LB Sam Cowart (knee) participated in practice this week the Coach has decided for precautionary reasons to sit him out Sunday. He may be ready to go next week against Miami. Jonathan Vilma will continue to start at MLB. G Brandon Moore (hamstring) was downgraded to questionable form probable. His hamstring is still sore and unless it improves dramatically between now and Sunday, look for Jonathan Goodwin to start. WR Santana Moss had a great practice on Friday where he caught multiple touchdowns during a game simulation scrimmage. He will start on Sunday. G Pete Kendall will start and will continue to wear a protective fiberglass insert in his shoe. Coach Edwards was mum on Friday as to whether C Kevin Mawae will again wear a protective cast on his right hand due to his healing broken finger.

Here is complete injury report:

-LB Sam Cowart (knee): Out
-CB Derek Strait (foot): Out
-S Rashad Washington (foot): Out
-OG Brandon Moore (hamstring):Questionable
-FB B.J. Askew (shoulder): Probable
-WR Santana Moss (hamstring): Probable
-OG Pete Kendall (foot): Probable

Game time is at 4:05 PM. Local TV is on CBS Channel 2 and local Radio is on 1050 ESPN Radio. Check back often to Jets Insider.com for all the latest Jets/Patriots news and reports.

**Justin Paley contributed to this story.

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