EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- As positive as the New England Patriots' winning performance against the Cincinnati Bengals in the season opener was, the defense allowed the Bengals to score at will in the second half, tempering the excitement of the game's first two quarters.
Perhaps the drop-off should have raised more red flags. On Sunday against the Jets, history repeated itself.
Beginning the game by controlling the ball offensively, the Patriots took the lead on a 6-yard touchdown catch by Wes Welker early in the second quarter. When the Jets responded with a touchdown of their own, the Patriots returned the favor with an explosive pair of passes, regaining the lead on a 34-yard Randy Moss touchdown grab that followed a 46-yard reception by tight end Aaron Hernandez.
"We knew that we just had to play sound football and get back to the way we know how to play," Jets linebacker David Harris said of his team's reaction to the Patriots' quick strike.
The Patriots held a 14-10 lead at halftime, but as the third quarter progressed, the momentum swung in the Jets' favor with a go-ahead touchdown reception by Jerricho Cotchery.
Trailing in the fourth quarter on the road, the Patriots had to deal with a hostile crowd and the pressure of trying to stage a comeback, one that fell out of reach on a Dustin Keller touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter.
"It's safe to say we haven't put two halves together this year," Patriots linebacker Jerod Mayo said. "Last week we came out and played well. This week we came out and played well in the first half, but we couldn't put it together."
Fellow linebacker Tully Banta-Cain agreed. "We're coming out and playing pretty solid in the first halves of games. Obviously it's only been two games, but we're not coming out and closing it out in the second half.
"Today was a different team, different atmosphere, but we just didn't finish, and we had an opportunity to."
Penalties contributed to the Patriots' problems, including two defensive pass interference calls on cornerback Darius Butler that lead to Keller's score. The Patriots were penalized six times for 79 yards in the game.
"We had a few costly penalties," Patriots safety James Sanders said. "It helped them out and it hurt us."
"When the going gets tough, the tough get going," Welker said. "We didn't do that today and they did."
However, Welker, like the other veterans, is keeping the second game of the season in perspective.
"We have determined guys on our team and we are going to bounce back from this," he said.
The elder statesman of the Patriots' locker room, running back Fred Taylor, also kept a balanced view.
"We'll go back and look at it," he said. "Keep your head up, and take it like a man.
"We'll try and make those improvements and corrections the following week, and for the next game. So we'll be back at it."