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Emotion doesn't play new Pats QB Cassel

9/14/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Randy Moss, engulfed by reporters and cameras, stood in front of his locker stall and delivered a message to the world.

His New England Patriots went into the Meadowlands as underdogs on Sunday. They didn't have quarterback Tom Brady. Many observers figured the game would signal a power shift in the AFC East because the New York Jets supposedly had become the team to beat.

"I don't think there's one person in my face with a microphone that picked us to win today," Moss said with a gloating smile. "So I'm going to go ahead and end [the interview]. The Patriots, two and oh. We got one in the division. So all you haters, keep hating. We coming."

The Patriots beat the Jets 19-10 to run their regular-season streak to 21 victories. They've also beaten the Jets eight straight times in the Meadowlands. They will play host to the Miami Dolphins in Foxborough, Mass., next week.

Although the Patriots proved predictions usually are worthless in the NFL, it seems a safe bet they'll be 3-0 going into their bye week. The Dolphins are 0-2 after getting dismantled by the Arizona Cardinals.

The Patriots also have the San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams among their first seven opponents. Another lopsided record should be expected heading into November.

Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel wasn't sensational, but he was good enough in his first start since high school. He completed 16 of 23 throws for 165 yards and no touchdowns. He didn't throw any interceptions. He had an 89.9 passer rating.

Cassel's teammates were unanimous in their praise of No. 16, who was unflappable all afternoon.

"He took us to the promised land in Week 2, and that's a victory," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said. "Every week you look forward to a victory. How you get there, you never know. He's a leader over there now. He's a guy we're looking toward to make plays on offense."

Said New England Patriots defensive end Richard Seymour: "You want your quarterback to play with emotion, but the emotion didn't play him."

Cassel bemoaned some missed opportunities and a few erroneous reads. But he made one less major mistake than future Hall of Famer Brett Favre did for the Jets.

"Let's hope that a lot of quarterbacks do that throughout the rest of the year," Cassel said of Favre's interception. "He's a great quarterback, and it was fun to compete against him. I remember watching him growing up. It'll be a memorable first start for me."

Favre's glaring error happened in the third quarter, with the Patriots ahead 6-3. He was intercepted by safety Brandon Meriweather at the Jets 24-yard line.

"I saw the guy," Favre said of Meriweather. "Maybe I got a little greedy."

Six plays later, the Patriots scored their only touchdown, a Sammy Morris leap into the end zone for a comfortable 13-3 lead with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

The Jets scored their only touchdown on their first drive of the fourth quarter. Favre completed all six of his passes for 51 yards, including a touch pass to a wide-open Chansi Stuckey from the 2.

But one impressive drive wasn't going to be enough. Not nearly.

The Patriots were the better team in so many ways. The Jets wasted seven points with a missed 31-yard Jay Feely field-goal attempt on the opening drive and their inability to punch the ball into the end zone after getting first-and-goal from the Patriots' 3-yard line in the second quarter. They settled for a field goal.

New England's special teams were dominant. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski not only drilled four field goals, but he also recorded five touchbacks on kickoffs.

The Jets' average start was on their 21-yard line. The Patriots' average start was on their 42.

The Patriots also were more disciplined. They had two penalties for 10 insignificant yards.

The Jets committed six penalties for 60 yards and had a couple more declined. Their costly calls included 12 men on the field, a pass from beyond scrimmage, roughing the passer and a facemask on a Cassel scramble for no gain.

"I think we as a team should see there's a lot of room for improvement," Favre said. "But we're not far off. When we'll turn that corner, I have no idea. We battled back and did some good things, but ultimately we didn't score enough points."

In the visitors locker room, the Patriots were feeling vindicated as a team and not a bunch of supporting cast members made to look good by one leading man.

They want you to know the Patriots still are the team to beat, and they'd just proved it.

"This team was going to come down and do what they did today regardless of what anybody else thinks," Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. "That is who they are, and that is their job.

"I don't think it really matters what you think. That's just what they are going to do, regardless."

The Jets -- and the world -- were reminded of that Sunday.