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Tuesday, September 10, 2013
Jets: Tom Brady, Pats still stout

By Rich Cimini
ESPN.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- In their last meeting with the New England Patriots -- think Butt Fumble -- the New York Jets lost to an explosive offense that included Wes Welker, Aaron Hernandez and Shane Vereen. It was 49-19 last Thanksgiving night, and Rob Gronkowski didn't even play.

Those players are gone or injured, but the Jets insist they don't think any less of the depleted Patriots, whom they face Thursday night in Foxborough.

"As long as they have Tom Brady back there and [Bill] Belichick on the sideline and big Vince [Wilfork] in the middle of the defense, they're pretty stout," Rex Ryan said Tuesday.

Brady is losing weapons by the day. Vereen was placed on injured reserve with a fractured wrist, and the new Welker -- Danny Amendola -- reportedly is unlikely to play because of a groin injury. Brady is surrounded by Julian Edelman and a cast of no-names.

It made for an incongruous scene in the Jets' locker room, with reporters asking players if the Patriots, of all teams, are vulnerable.

"I don't think so," linebacker Antwan Barnes said. "You've got Tom Brady at quarterback, and he won championships with regular-name guys. You can't count him out."

The Patriots have owned this rivalry for a decade, having won four in a row and 17 of the last 22 meetings. For the Jets, the low point came last Thanksgiving, when they came unraveled in a New York minute, surrendering three touchdowns in a span of 52 seconds.

The second touchdown was the infamous Butt Fumble, when Mark Sanchez ran into the rear end of guard Brandon Moore, coughed up the ball and watched as Steve Gregory returned it 32 yards for a touchdown. The play symbolized the Jets' disastrous season.

Now, after a season-opening win against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Jets' confidence is restored, especially on defense. Their goal is to rattle Brady, and they believe they can do it.

"Of course, anybody can get to him," Barnes said. Motioning to a reporter, he said, "You can probably get to him."

The Jets are concerned with the Patriots' hurry-up offense, something Ryan readily admits they can't simulate in practice. They've struggled in the past against the hurry-up and, with seven new starters on defense, there could be communication issues, especially on the road.

Chip Kelly's up-tempo offense in Philadelphia is the talk of the NFL, but Ryan still believes the Patriots are the fastest show on turf. In fact, they ran 89 plays in last Sunday's 23-21 win against the Buffalo Bills.

"They talk about the Eagles being fast, but if anyone is faster than New England I haven't seen it, and I've been around football a long time," Ryan said.

Ryan said the Patriots (1-0) have several different tempos, including "super fast" and "fast." For the defense, the trick is getting a play called and communicated to the players on the field, leaving time to call an audible, if necessary.

"You never want to give up the black piece on the chess board, so to speak," Ryan said. "On defense, the advantage we have is we get to make the last move. That's something you never want to give up, no matter how fast their tempo is."

Defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson didn't sound worried. On Monday, he all but predicted a victory, telling WFAN radio, "We're going up to Foxborough [to] get this win."

Asked to elaborate, he said it wasn't a guarantee, but he expressed confidence.

"We played against [Brady] last year and got some three-and-outs," he said. "As long as we do that, we'll have no problem."

But Brady usually finds a way against the Jets. Ryan is 3-6 against the Patriots, including a playoff win, but he hasn't won a division title in four seasons. They've been his nemesis from the day he was hired, and now Ryan needs a victory to restore credibility to his team.

"Anytime you play New England, yeah, it's special, because that's the one you're gunning for," he said. "You're not gunning for second place, you're gunning for first place, and that's the team that has won our division all four years I've been here."