Both teams stood at 9-2 heading into what was one of the most hyped games in Monday Night Football history. The showdown in New England. The feeling was, the winner would go on to win the AFC east.
Before an observer could blink an eye, the Patriots held a 17-0 advantage. The Jets trailed 24-3 at the half, and any hope of a comeback was thwarted when Mark Sanchez threw a costly interception in the red zone when the Jets were driving hoping to cut the advantage to 24-10.
The Jets then began a barrage of blitzes, most probably with the intent of getting hits on Tom Brady, but the Pats' quarterback continually hit the open hot read, carving up the Jets' secondary for 45 points.
When the dust settled, the Jets were humiliated 45-3. The Patriots went on to win the division and that is why this game is at New England this weekend, and not in the New Meadowlands.
All week, Rex Ryan has attempted to take the pressure of his team by reminding them that the Jets won round one of the rivalry with a 28-14 win in Week 2 of this season, and by saying that the Jets and Patriots are even talent-wise, and the difference came down to a coaching battle: Rex Ryan v. Bill Belichick.
Ryan dialed back the blitzes last week against Indianapolis, instead, preferring coverages reminiscent of the "Tampa Two," two and three deep coverage looks.
The Jets relied on great tackling, which they got from their secondary. In particular, Brodney Pool played his best game of the season tackling like a linebacker at or behind the line of scrimmage.
Don't be surprised if the Jets utilize this look on Sunday against New England.
The only advantage the Jets have in this game on defense is in personnel. Though Wes Welker and Deion Branch fit well in the spread system. Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis ought to be able to run with the two receivers stride for stride.
The advantage the Patriots have is in the middle. The Jets linebackers and safeties struggle in coverage, and the Patriots are probably the best in the league at utilizing their tight ends in multiple tight end sets.
The Jets' line of Jason Taylor, Mike Devito, and Sione Pouha and pass-rushers Calvin Pace and Bryan Thomas, have to hold up the tight ends, and get their hands up to make working the middle of the field more difficult for Brady.
Although, tackling in the secondary was a major problem for the Jets in New England in the Monday night match-up. The Jets have to hope that they tackle more like they did in Indianapolis on Saturday night and not like they did in New England.
For a couple of games, the Jets had success blitzing and pressuring Tom Brady into hurried throws and mistakes. In game one of the match-up, Brady looked uncomfortable in the pocket and was forced into two interceptions.
The Rex Ryan blitz attack kept Brady and the Pats out of the end-zone in the second week of 2009, as the Jets won that game 16-9.
As expected, the Patriots adjusted in the second, utilizing quick-hitters in the middle of the field with their Tight Ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, and WR/RB-hybrid, Danny Woodhead. Woodhead had 104 receiving yards in the second match-up.
A semblance of that game-plan began to take shape in the first match-up of these two teams. Aaron Hernandez worked the middle of the field in one-on-one match-ups with David Harris or Bart Scott.
Hernandez had 101 receiving yards in that game.
In the Monday night blowout loss, the Jets lost safety Jim Leonhard to injury late in the practice week. That made things difficult for the Jets to make defensive adjustments as the game went on, and the Patriots took full advantage.
The Jets blitz was exploited for quick slants and curl routes that turned into huge gains when the secondary missed assignments and tackles.
On offense, the Jets need to control the ball. The Jets found their running game in the second half against Indianapolis.
Tomlinson rushed for 82 yards, his highest total since he rushed for 94 yards in Week 5 against Minnesota. Tomlinson hadn't rushed for over 57 yards since that game.
He also found the end-zone twice, surpassing the total amount of touchdowns he had scored since Halloween.
Shonn Greene was also effective, rushing for 70 yards on 19 carries.
Though the Pats allow over 100 yards per game on the ground, their defensive unit is not as small as the Colts. The Jets physically mauled the Colts defense pushing them around to open holes for Tomlinson and Greene.
Damien Woody, a former Patriot and good run blocking tackle, was placed on IR this week which will also hurt the Jets' rushing attack.
A match-up to watch is pro-bowl Center Nick Mangold, working against the mountainous Vince Wilfork who is the center of the three-man front New England will present.
If the Jets are to possess the ball, and keep New England's high voltage off the field, Mark Sanchez will have to play than he did last week in Indianapolis.
Sanchez's up and down performance, in which he was routinely high and wide with his passes, was overshadowed by the Jets' rushing game and the manner in which Sanchez performed late in the game.
Sanchez his on two big-time passes including the final one to Braylon Edwards that set Nick Folk up for heroics.
If the Jets are able to stay with the Patriots receivers and backs in coverage and possess the ball on offense, they will be in position to win on Sunday afternoon.
At that point, it will be on the Jets' special teams to get it done. They will most likely need Nick Folk again. The good news for Jets' fans is that Folk has hit on his last eight field goal attempts: The bad news? The last time he missed was in New England.
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