Even though there is an occasional quip from Tom Brady that he hates the Jets, and Antonio Cromartie sometimes calls Brady a word that is unprintable in this newspaper, there is a healthy bit of respect between the Patriots and Jets.
What there isn’t, however, is an instance of New York winning the second game of the regular-season series against New England, at least not during the Rex Ryan-Mark Sanchez era.
Ryan became head coach of the Jets in 2009, and the team drafted Sanchez the same year.
In their second game together, Sanchez became just the second rookie quarterback to record a win against the Patriots since Bill Belichick became head coach.
The game, at the old Meadowlands, was a 16-9 Jets win.
It began what is now a familiar pattern: Sanchez’s numbers were higher than his season averages, and Brady’s lower — in the first meeting of the year.
In the second meeting, Brady’s numbers are more in line with, or better than, his season averages, while Sanchez’s are worse.
And the point differential for the second game is much larger in the Patriots’ favor.
In Week 2 in 2009, the Jets had that 16-9 win; in Week 11, the Patriots won, 31-14.
In 2010, New York won at home, 28-14, in Week 2; New England won, 45-3, at home in Week 13.
Last year, the Patriots did win the first meeting, 30-21, at Gillette Stadium in Week 5, but in Week 10, they won, 37-16.
That game in Week 10 last year, on a Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, was notable because the Patriots had lost their previous two games and were facing questions about how good they were.
Plus, they started Sterling Moore at safety and Jeff Tarpinian at outside linebacker — neither had played a snap of defense previous to that night.
The reason why there is such a stark shift probably can’t be attributed to one thing.
Brady has had issues against Ryan’s defenses going back to the coach’s days as the coordinator in Baltimore. In 2007, during Brady’s spectacular season, New England played a prime-time game in Baltimore, and he completed just 47.4 percent of his passes — far below his average that season — with two touchdowns, one interception, and averaged 6.76 yards per attempt, also lower than his average for the year.
Belichick’s teams typically play better as the season goes on — New England is 16-0 the last two seasons over the final eight games of the regular season — so that may help explain it, too. They just play better against everyone from about Halloween on.
Though there is a good deal of familiarity between the teams, Brady said this is no time to be lax in preparations.
“I think you can maybe get lulled into a sense of confidence that, ‘Oh yeah, we know this team, it’s the Jets,’ ” Brady said. “But you’ve got to prepare just as hard. You may know the players and some of the scheme stuff, but at the same time, you have to put as much as you can into it.
“You just can’t take anything for granted against this team. They’ll have something new for us; they always do.”
If there are new wrinkles, Brady knows how to adjust to them the second time around.
In 2010, he completed 55.6 percent of his passes (his season average was 10 points higher) and had two interceptions in the Jets’ win; in the Patriots’ win, those numbers changed to 72.4 percent and zero.
Conversely, Sanchez completed 70 percent of 30 pass attempts and no interceptions in the first meeting; his completion mark plummeted to 51.5 percent with three picks in the second.
Ryan gave Brady credit for being so smart on the field.
“He has the skill to make every throw, but he’s smart and he’ll see that if there’s somebody that’s tipping it [coverage], he’ll find that guy,” Ryan said. “If he knows exactly what you’re in coverage-wise, then you have no chance. I mean, no chance.
“You can’t just line up and do the same thing over and over and over again, and then he’ll put up numbers where he may throw it 45 times and throw five incompletions. Hopefully that doesn’t happen here.”
Everything is static, of course, but if history is any indication, the Patriots should fly home late on Thanksgiving night stuffed with the memories of a win far more satisfying than their 29-26 overtime squeaker last month.