As it turns out, it?s only going to help reignite the Patriots? fire after a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Returning to practice this week will naturally be a little more difficult than usual, but the Patriots will find it easier to look ahead with a division rival — with the bark of Clubber Lang and the bite of Glass Joe — in the immediate future.
"We know the Jets are tough," said Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. "They?ve beat us the last two times we?ve played them. We need to try to reverse that trend. It?s a big challenge in this league every week. … It?s just a division game. I guess that makes it a little bit bigger."
Of course, the Jets backed up their trash talk with a 16-9 victory at Giants Stadium, and their defense suffocated Tom Brady and the Pats? offense. New York raced out to a 3-0 start to begin the season but then lost five of its last six games, its only victory in that span coming against the Oakland Raiders.
If the Patriots win, they?d basically knock the Jets out of the hunt for the AFC East title, but a Jets victory would put them a game behind the Pats and also give them ownership of the tiebreaker.
"It?s a division game," Belichick said. "It?s November, so we?ve got to play well Sunday. We need to play a good game here against the Jets. They got us the last time, and we need to win the division."
1. Surprisingly, quarterback Tom Brady has four consecutive 300-yard passing games for the first time in his career. In the last four games, Brady has completed 106 of 145 passes (73.1 percent) for 1,395 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions.
2. Rookie left tackle Sebastian Vollmer held all-world defensive end Dwight Freeney without a sack or even a tackle, and Freeney?s streak of eight consecutive games without a sack came to a halt. Oh, and Brady?s aforementioned numbers have been compiled in Vollmer?s four career starts. Take that for what it?s worth.
3. Second-year cornerback Jonathan Wilhite has drawn some praise for his job against Colts wide receiver Reggie Wayne, who caught 10 passes for 126 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner with 13 seconds remaining. Wilhite covered Wayne more than the other Pats corners and had him blanketed during the game?s final score, but Peyton Manning made a perfect, almost indefensible throw.
"Wayne had some stats, and like I said, they were great routes, great catches and a couple great throws to go with it," Belichick said. "It would be hard to say much to Wilhite. He did about all he could do on a couple of those plays."
4. Safety Brandon McGowan had another great performance against an elite pass-catching tight end, limiting Indy?s Dallas Clark to four catches for 65 yards and no touchdowns. McGowan?s coverage caused Manning to look more toward receivers Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie, and that?s when the Colts really began to struggle offensively. McGowan has been primarily responsible for opposing teams? best tight ends, and Atlanta?s Tony Gonzalez, Tampa Bay?s Kellen Winslow and Clark have been held to seven catches for 90 yards and no touchdowns against the Patriots this season.
5. Wide receiver Randy Moss has picked it up after a couple of down performances early in the season. In the last four games, Moss has 28 catches for 524 yards and six touchdowns.
Running back Laurence Maroney spent three weeks reviving his reputation, rushing for 248 yards and three touchdowns while assuming the starting role due to injuries to Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris. Maroney even put one in the end zone in the first quarter against the Colts to tie the score at 7. But all of that went out the window when he coughed up the ball in the third quarter, turning what should have been a touchdown into a touchback. It was the most egregious error of the Patriots? defeat in Indy.