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Rivalry with Jets has really taken off

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  November 30, 2010 10:22 AM

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Around here Jets is spelled H-A-T-E.

It wouldn't be Patriots-Jets week if we weren't revisiting the history of a rivalry that is defined by antipathy and acrimony, subterfuge and feuds, rancor and rhetoric, betrayal and bitterness.

Patriots-Jets is the helmeted version of the Hatfields and the McCoys, and the 101st regular-season meeting Monday night at Gillette Stadium will be no different. This latest renewal of the rivalry has more riding on it than usual, with first place in the AFC East and possibly home field throughout the playoffs at stake.

It's fitting the two teams' potential playoff paths are crossing.

The Jets and Patriots are forever intertwined via some interesting shared history: Bill Parcells's messy defection to the Jets, Curtis Martin running off to Gang Green, Bill Belichick's short (one-day) tenure as Jets coach and even shorter "resignation letter," Mo Lewis's kismet hit on Drew Bledsoe, Spygate and Rex Ryan's declaration that he wasn't puckering up for the Patriots' jewelry collection.

"You can't beat all the drama and all the subplots," Jets right tackle Damien Woody, a former Patriot, told New York reporters.

If you think about it the "hated" Jets are responsible for the two biggest components of the Patriots' success over the last decade. The Jets struck a deal with the Patriots to allow Belichick to become Patriots' coach in 2000, after he spit out the Jets job, settling for New England's first-, fourth- and seventh-round choices in 2001 in exchange for Belichick. Less than four months after Belichick arrived in New England, he drafted some kid named Tom Brady in the sixth round and the rest is history.

The Patriots got a decade of excellence in exchange for defensive end Shaun Ellis, defensive back Jamie Henderson, and defensive tackle James Reed. That makes the purchase of Manhattan by the Dutch look like a fair deal.

But Rex Ryan might be the Jets redeemer. He has won two of three against Belichick, led the Jets to the AFC title game last year, and has the attention and the respect of our sullen football sultan.

"Rex has done a really good job of putting that team together. They’re obviously well coached," said Belichick. "It’s a very solid football team and a big challenge for us Monday night. We’ve got a lot of work to do, but we’re always looking forward to the matchup with the Jets."

Especially, because it's on their turf this time.

The Patriots have won 25 straight regular-season home games with Brady -- this streak is a little bogus because it includes the Bernard Pollard game, which Brady was in for all of 15 plays. Wouldn't you know it, the last time they lost, back in 2006, was to . . . the Jets.

You remember when the Patriots lost to Miami in 2001 and Belichick had the team bury the ball? They lost that game to Jets in the muck in '06 and they buried the entire field, replacing it with synthetic grass before the next home game. They'll raze the entire Razor if they lose this one.

It's fun to dredge up the Border War's back story, but it's about as relevant to the outcome of this matchup as the teams' first game this season, a 28-14 Jets' victory at New Meadowlands Stadium, way back on Sept. 19, which is to say not relevant at all.

That game was played when the weather was still warm and Randy Moss and Laurence Maroney were still Patriots. In other words, eons ago. These are different times and different teams after nine games in between meetings.

When last they met, Deion Branch was in Seattle, Logan Mankins was watching on television, and Danny Woodhead was presumed to be a Rudy-esque running back Belichick had picked up just to tweak the Jets, who had cut him.

Branch is now reborn as the Patriots' big-play receiver. Mankins is anchoring the interior of the offensive line, and Woodhead is the Patriots' answer to Dustin Pedroia.

But the alterations aren't all in the Pats favor. The Jets have undergone some changes as well. Shutdown corner Darrelle Revis played in that September showdown, but wasn't 100 percent. After missing all of training camp in a contract dispute he only lasted a half due to a sore hamstring and got posterized by Moss.

In the last four weeks, Revis has held Calvin Johnson, Andre Johnson and Terrell Owens to a combined eight catches for 62 yards and no touchdowns. Once again he is proving the poet John Donne wrong. Revis is an island, entire of itself.

Santonio Holmes, who has become the Jets' game-breaker and get-out-of-jail-free card with winning catches against Cleveland and Houston, was still serving his four-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy when the Jets and Patriots first met. Outside linebacker Calvin Pace, who is tied for second on the team in sacks with 3.5, was out with a broken foot.

The Patriots are certainly hoping that recent history doesn't repeat itself. The second half of the first go-round with the Jets was about as bad as it gets for a Brady-led offense. They got shutout and had 80 yards of offense in the second half. Brady was 7 of 16 for 69 yards and two interceptions after intermission.

His frustration was palpable from the other side of the Hudson River.

"We couldn't do anything in the second half. ...We couldn’t run it. We couldn’t throw it, we just sucked," said Brady.

While Brady sputtered, his Broadway-wannabee Mark Sanchez had a coming of age performance, setting career-highs in touchdown passes (three) and completions (21).

But that was when Devin McCourty was still a green rookie in his second NFL game, not a clever cover corner with five interceptions, and Darius Butler was still a struggling starter at cornerback, not a recovering backup.

The past is always at play between these foes, but it's a current events test on Monday night.

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The word

Christopher L. Gasper riffs on the news

Dearth

...That's what the Patriots have when it comes to picks in the 2013 NFL Draft, which starts Thursday. After all those years of stockpiling picks the way a survivalist does non-perishables the Patriots have just five picks in this year's draft, thanks to Band-aid trades for Albert Haynesworth, Chad Ochocinco and Aqib Talib. Five picks would be the fewest draft picks in franchise history. (Part of that is attributable to the trimming of the draft to just seven rounds in 1994). Further complicating matters is that two of the Patriots' greatest needs are at wide receiver and cornerback, positions where they have sustained draft droughts. With that in mind, I'm convinced the Patriots are going trade back out of the first round of a quanity-over-quality draft where you're just as likely to pick a Pro Bowl player in the second and third round as you are in the first round.

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