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JACKIE MACMULLAN

Rush job a case of hurry up and win

FOXBOROUGH -- It was like trying to play football in the middle of a freeway at rush hour. The action simply whirled around both teams at warp speed.

This was a necessary game plan for the Patriots, who had been manhandled by the Jets back on Nov. 12. Quarterback Tom Brady spent most of that dismal afternoon at Gillette Stadium under siege from New York's relentless blitz packages. He was sacked, harassed, flushed from the pocket, and ultimately negated from operating with his most lethal weapon: his poise.

New England identified the need to offset New York's pressure defense by assaulting the visitors with hurry-up counts, a no-huddle offense, and quick strikes to a bevy of receivers.

In other words, the Patriots resorted to some frenetic football of their own.

"I have never been in a game where it was like that," Brady said. "We were rushing to the line of scrimmage and rushing to run plays. I think at one point we ran the same play three times, and in my earphones [offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] said, 'Run it again.' "

The play was Kevin Faulk bursting up the middle with the ball. It worked for gains of 7, 8, and 9 yards, and eventually led to a touchdown.

Although Brady claims never to have played at such a pace, one never would have guessed it by watching him.

By the time the Patriots were done dispatching of the formidable Jets, 37-16, yesterday, their quarterback had masterfully managed myriad calls, audibles, and split-second decisions, leaving the Jets shaking their heads in frustration.

It was critical for the home team to establish tempo, something Brady prepared for all week, so he came out in the no-huddle and immediately put 7 points on the board with the right combination of quick sideline hits and power runs from Corey Dillon.

Jets boss Eric Mangini understands as well as any coach in the NFL how critical it is not to give No. 12 time to think.

"If you can't get Tom out of a rhythm, and he's able to be Tom, it makes it a hard day on a lot of people," Mangini said.

Brady completed 22 of 34 passes for a relatively modest 212 yards and two touchdowns, but that barely scratched the surface of what he accomplished yesterday. It was his decision-making that set him apart.

In the first half alone, his offense was 7 for 10 in third-down conversions, mostly because it didn't allow the Jets' defense to get set.

"He's the perfect guy for a game like this," explained fullback Heath Evans, "because the minute he sees something out there, he doesn't hesitate to audible us into a better situation."

Brady wasn't the only one watching film from Nov. 12. His offensive line didn't like what it saw either, and made sure it gave Brady the time he needed.

"When Tom hit Jabar [Gaffney] on that pass across the middle, I counted five seconds he had to throw," said linebacker Tedy Bruschi. "That was impressive. I remember that game in November very well. Tom got hit as he was throwing, he got hit after he threw. It wasn't very much fun to watch.

"So when I saw the protection he got on that throw, I said to myself, 'OK, they've got it.' I don't think [the Jets] touched Tom the rest of the game."

Brady long ago stopped worrying who will be on the receiving end of his passes. His weapons vary from week to week and it's anyone's guess who will catch the most balls.

If anyone had claimed Gaffney in the company pool last week, I'd like to see it in writing. He nearly matched his yardage output for the entire regular season yesterday by making eight catches for 104 yards.

This is how it will go, from now until the end, whenever that may be. Deion Branch isn't walking through that door. Neither is David Givens, Ben Coates, or Stanley Morgan.

That's old news to Brady, who has patiently and tirelessly worked to develop trust and chemistry with his current crop of less glamorous receivers.

Count the Jets among those who have new respect for Brady's targets.

"They spread us out, they quick counted us, they hard counted us, they did everything," said defensive end Bryan Thomas. "They brought the whole house against us today."

New England will spread the wealth offensively and try to, above all, keep defenses guessing so its quarterback can play to his strengths.

"Tom's the best at that," said Evans. "He gets us in the right position. He's steady. He's cool. He certainly has moments when he's emotionally charged, but today he did a great job of balancing that.

"We heard Bill [Belichick] stress all week, 'We've got to get [Jets quarterback Chad] Pennington off the mark. Well, I'm sure that's what the Jets wanted to do to Tommy, only today they didn't succeed."

It's the little things that separate Brady from his peers, like when he was looking at a second-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the waning moments of the first half.

At the time, there were 14 seconds on the clock, and New England was out of timeouts. Brady went back to pass, saw Benjamin Watson covered in the flat, then looked to tight end Daniel Graham, who was blanketed by linebacker Brad Kassell.

"[Graham] looked covered, but then I saw the linebacker had his head turned," said Brady. "So I tried to put the ball where only Daniel could see it."

Graham hauled in the pass. The Patriots scored to take a 17-10 halftime lead.

Brady's postseason record is now 11-1, the lone blemish that gnawing 27-13 loss in Denver last January. The postseason journey won't be any easier this time around, with road games the rest of the way, beginning next week against the NFL's sexiest team, the San Diego Chargers.

The Patriots aren't favored. Tom Brady doesn't care.

Life in the fast lane suits him just fine.

Jackie MacMullan is a Globe columnist. Her e-mail address is macmullan@globe.com.

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