The Jets have a daunting task against the Patriots who haven't lost 2 in a row in 57 games. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The New England Patriots have gone 57 straight games without posting back-to-back losses, dating all the way back to December 22, 2002. After a road-loss to Tennessee, the Pats returned to Foxborough only to have their playoff hopes dashed by the division-rival Jets. Now, with New England coming off a Week 9-loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Gang Green will try to put the other bookend on that streak.
Jets Head Coach Eric Mangini, a defensive coach for New England at that time, explained why he thinks the Patriots have been so good at rebounding from losses.
”They've always done a good job handling adversity. When they encounter adversity, whether it's in games or losing a game, they are able to come back, fix the problems, address the problems and move on and treat the next opponent as just that, the next opponent.” He then noted that “it is a very strong characteristic that they have.”
The first-year coach has been adamant in making sure his players develop that same characteristic, which he likes to call the “five-second rule” because that’s how long, according to Mangini, it should take to put a bad play/game in the past.
While most players have picked up on the concept fairly well, QB Chad Pennington has had a much tougher time putting bad performances behind him. In his mind, however, that is somewhat of an asset.
”I don't want to not be critical of myself because I think that in the end what makes a person successful is being able to stand up for his or her mistakes,” Pennington confessed after throwing two picks in the loss to Cleveland. Surprisingly, Mangini agreed with his star-QB on the issue, even comparing him to the QB who won him three Superbowls in New England – Tom Brady.
”The similarity between Chad and Tom,” he said, “is pretty great in terms of the way that they reflect on things, they work on things, they correct things, and they continue to compete the same way.”
If there’s one thing Brady does that Pennington doesn’t, however, it’s getting many different receivers involved in the passing game. Pennington has been looking for either WR Laveranues Coles or WR Jerricho Cotchery most of the time, leading to tighter coverage, while Brady has eight to ten targets he regularly throws at. Against a strong Pats defense, the Jets will need to spread the ball around the field to keep the game within reach.
One player who could play a key role in the Jets’ success (or lack thereof) on Sunday is TE Chris Baker. Despite the strong emphasis Mangini has put on the importance of the TE as a receiver, he has been used mainly as a blocker this season. With TE Zach Hilton being waived this week, Baker remains the only true pass-catching-TE and needs to be used as such.
Baker’s involvement is especially important against New England because the Pats will be without Pro Bowl-S Rodney Harrison, who is out with a broken shoulder blade. Passing to the TE will still be difficult, as the Patriots have some of the best LBs in the game, but Harrison’s absence should give Baker a greater chance at contributing.
The injury to Rodney Harrison may also play a significant role in the Jets running game, which has started to show some life over the past few weeks with the emergence of rookie-RB Leon Washington. Thanks to Washington, the Jets’ ground attack – nearly last in the NFL a month ago – is now ranked an impressive 13th overall.
Patriots Coach Bill Belichick has been impressed with “Lightning” Leon Washington as well. “He’s doing a great job,” the coach admitted. “He’s a guy that is going to be difficult to tackle. He has nifty moves; he’s really helped that offense out a lot.”
Washington was flattered by the comments from Belichick, who he simply called “a guy who has been around football a long time,” but quickly returned his focus to the daunting task at hand: running against the Patriots’ front seven.
”Basically, what you want to do is go out there, execute and don’t hurt yourself,” he explained nonchalantly. “They’re the New England Patriots, so they’re not going to make a lot of mistakes.”
-In the December 22, 2002, game where the Jets handed New England it’s last back-to-back loss, Chad Pennington stole the show for Gang Green. Pennington completed 23 of 33 passes for 285 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions.
Laveranues Coles, the Jets’ current top-receiver, hauled in five of those passes for 78 yards and a touchdown. RB Curtis Martin led the Jets’ ground attack in the win with 106 yards on 26 carries.
-The Patriots’ 57-game streak without consecutive losses isn’t the only streak the Jets are trying to snap; New England has also won seven straight games against the Jets and nine of the last ten contests.
-Gang Green has been held to seven or fewer points in three of its past five games against the Patriots, averaging 11 points per game over the span.
Scoring will continue to be difficult against the stingy New England defense if the Jets cannot establish a rushing game. They have failed to break 55 net rushing-yards in each of their past four games against the Pats.
-With OL Trey Teague on the IR-list, the Jets currently have one open spot on their active roster. Mangini is yet to decide whether the vacancy will be filled by a player on the practice squad or whether the team will sign someone off of waivers.
If the spot is filled by a practice squad-player, don’t be surprised if S Jamie Thompson gets the nod. Thompson, an undrafted-rookie out of Oklahoma State, had an excellent practice session on Thursday and could breath some new life into the Jets’ sorry-looking secondary.
New York Jets
-FB B.J. Askew (Foot): Questionable
-CB David Barrett (Hip): Questionable
-WR Laveranues Coles (Calf): Questionable
-WR Tim Dwight (Thigh): Questionable
-RB Cedric Houston (Knee): Questionable
-WR Justin McCareins (Foot): Questionable
-RB Kevan Barlow (Calf): Probable
-LB Matt Chatham (Foot): Probable
-CB Andre Dyson (Ankle): Probable
-OL Pete Kendall (Knee): Probable
-QB Chad Pennington (Calf): Probable
-QB Patrick Ramsey (Thigh): Probable
New England Patriots
-S Rodney Harrison (Shoulder): Out
-TE Daniel Graham (Ankle): Questionable
-CB Ellis Hobbs (Wrist): Questionable
-G Russ Hochstein (Ankle): Questionable
-TE Garrett Mills (Thigh): Questionable
-G Stephen Neal (Shoulder): Questionable
-DL Richard Seymour (Elbow): Questionable
-DL Ty Warren (Shoulder): Questionable
-S Eugene Wilson (Hamstring): Questionable
-QB Tom Brady (R Shoulder): Probable
Game time is at 1:00PM on Sunday, nationally-televised on CBS, local TV on CBS 2 and local radio on 1050 ESPN radio and WCRN 104.3 on Long Island. Be sure to check back to JetsInsider.com after the game for a complete recap!