Patriots-Jets: Emailing with the Enemy, Part Deux

Mike Dussault@PatsPropagandaSenior Analyst INovember 11, 2008

Jets Community Leader Angel Navedo and Patriots Community Leader Mike Dussault had another email conversation this week to discuss Thursday’s battle for sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

Their analysis and insights into what it will take for their respective teams to pull out the win and take a major step toward the playoffs below:

MD - Alright Angel, our teams took care of business on Sunday, setting up a battle on Thursday night that will go a long way toward determining who wins the AFC East.

But first, I have to say I am pretty disappointed in your Jets for running up the score on the hapless Rams.

Why couldn't you guys just let them stay close like we did? If the Pats learned anything from 2007, it's that it's really classless to run up the score—and karma comes back to bite you. I hope you're happy with yourself for doing that to the poor Rams.

AN - I don't think we ran up the score at all. Brett Favre was benched for Kellen Clemens in the fourth quarter. The Jets took a knee to kill the clock while inside the five, and they even settled for a few field goals throughout the game.

Personally, I think it could've been a lot uglier.

MD - Alright, I'll buy it. From all the highlights I've seen, I still can't figure out where you guys got 49 points anyway.

AN - I was at the game, and it still feels kind of unreal with how many points they put up. It all happened so quickly.

MD - As for my Pats, the score against the Bills wasn't as close as it seemed. Our run defense was rock-solid yet again. I like our chances to prevent Thomas Jones from another three-TD day.

AN - The game may not have been close, but the fact that your guys had to play four quarters of football to secure the win could work against them in a short week.

I wouldn't expect Jones to run for three touchdowns again, but we have to wonder how fatigued your guys are going to be after two tough games and a short week.

MD - Well, after the offense's 19-play drive in the fourth quarter that closed out the game, I'm not too worried about our defense being that tired. Plus, you’re guys are the ones who have to get on a plane—even if it is a short flight.

On the other side of the ball, Matt Cassel has been running the offense with great efficiency and continues to get better each week. They are converting third downs, sustaining long drives, and are starting to finish with touchdowns once they get in the red zone more consistently.

AN - Cassel is definitely playing with a lot more confidence. His mobility added a dynamic to the Pats' offense that never existed with Brady. His touchdown run against Buffalo was a really heads-up play that he might not have made in Week Two.

MD - The first time we faced each other was in the wake of Brady's injury. The game was a tight battle that came down to the end. I'm sure this one will be the same way. What are your Jets doing now that they weren't doing in Week Two?

AN - The operative term there is, "Week Two." My Jets were still working on making sense of the playbook. The chemistry wasn't totally there yet. The offense was still fairly basic while Favre adjusted.

Yes, it was Cassel's first start—but he's been in the system for years and was surrounded by winners that were talented enough to keep him on his feet.

MD - Well, being "in the system" is one thing, not having played in a real game since high school is another. I think the fact that everyone was considering the Patriots as dead in the water after Brady went down went a long way toward how well they played.

No team can handle adversity like the Pats.

AN - Definitely. They're a very resilient team that manages to respond well to pressure.

But aside from just Favre, the Jets still had a new offensive line that was starting to learn one another's tendencies. The whole team, with all of the new pieces, hadn't fully come together yet. And I honestly don't believe they're clicking on all cylinders even now. But it's looking easier every week.

The run defense is phenomenal, and the pass rush has been fast and dangerous. They've gotten stronger throughout the season.

What I fear most is that New England excels where the Jets struggle most. We can't defend screen passes with any consistency. That's been New England's bread and butter and will come in handy again when they try to keep pressure off Cassel.

MD - Yeah, the bubble screens to Welker and Faulk can be deadly, especially with starting guard Stephen Neal back.

AN - Which matchups are you looking forward to the most this week?

MD - Well, I'll tell you what I'm not looking forward to, and that's replacing Adalius Thomas. We all remember him dragging Favre to the ground and basically sealing the Week Two game. It looks like he's done for the year as well now.

As an aside, I have to say I'm just numb to the injuries now. After Brady, Harrison, Maroney, Morris, and now Thomas, this has to be the worst year of injuries the Patriots have ever endured.

No excuses though, I still expect to win the division.

AN - HA!

MD - Anyway, pass rush has been a problem all year for us, and AD was our only semi-consistent threat. Now, third-year backup, and primary special-teamer Pierre Woods steps in—unless Rosevelt Colvin is brought back.

I doubt it though. This stinks because pressure on Favre will be key this week. If he has time, he will make things happen.

That will be the most interesting thing to me. Without Adalius—and Vrabel no longer the pass rush threat he once was—how do we get to Favre and force him to make mistakes?

AN - Losing them is going to make things even easier for our line. Of all teams, the Oakland Raiders showed just how ineffective Favre can be when he's rattled. Favre hasn't been touched in two weeks. 

MD - Well, I hope we're going to touch him multiple times on Thursday night, but I'm just not sure who's going to do it. Woods showed some flashes in preseason, so he’ll have to be ready to bring everything he's got. And Vrabel will have to play like he did in the first eight games of 2007.

What do you think your guys are going to try to do in this one? Seems like both teams are playing at a high level and neither will give up anything easily.

AN - I want to say the same thing I said last time—throw intricate blitz packages at Cassel and force mistakes. But that's not going to work.

We have to defend against the short passes. New England's not running anywhere fast on New York. I don't care how good BenJarvus looked on Sunday.

MD - The Pats love the quick throws to Welker on the outside. He leads the league in YAC so you're very right. Nothing brings me more joy than watching the little fella scoot through opposing secondaries.

AN - It's dangerous though. If we try and take that away while playing on our heels, Cassel has shown he can hit Randy Moss from time to time on the deep ball.

MD - It's been a while since he's hit Moss on a deep one, but it's always a threat. Belichick said in the first game the Jets consistently rolled coverage to Moss' side. I assume they will do the same thing.

AN - More importantly, special-teams is going to be of the essence. The story in Week Two was how well Matt Cassel managed the game.

Truthfully, it was Gostkowski that killed the Jets. Winning the field-position battle contributed to the Pats' victory more than anything.

Since then, the Jets have gotten leaps and bounds better.

Mike Westhoff has his unit playing the way we all know they can. Leon Washington is as elusive as ever, and Jay Feely should be feeling good after nailing some nice field goals on Sunday.

MD - Gostkowski is having a Pro Bowl year but missed a tough one against the Bills that was pushed wide by the wind. He'll need to continue to neutralize your return game, since we all know how dangerous Washington can be.

As for our own special-teams, Ellis Hobbs has been pretty quiet in recent weeks. It'd be nice to see him get another 108-yarder like last year's opener.

From my perspective, it's going to come down to whoever can run the ball more effectively.

Both our teams have been shutting down the run and making opponents one-dimensional. Whoever's run game gets going first should be able to take command of the game.

The only thing that scares me is forcing Favre to have to throw it while not being able to generate pressure.

That would be a recipe for bad things.

AN - Definitely. Like you said, without Adalius Thomas, there's going to be less pressure on Favre. There are still very capable players in that system, but losing him hurts you guys a lot.

MD -Any Jets you think could/should have a big game?

One Patriot I think to watch is Brandon Meriweather. He's got three picks and has been delivering some big hits. I expect him to show up ready to go.

AN - Well, it's going to be interesting to see Ty Law out there. I'm not sure how much time we can expect him to really see, but it's going to be fun to see him out there.

It's a funny move to me—feels more like a slap than a personnel decision. If it works, it's brilliant. If it doesn't, ah well—breaks my heart that we had to say goodbye to Justin Miller to make room for the guy.

MD - Better make sure your donut cupboard at Jets HQ is locked up before Law arrives.

It’s an interesting move, and I wonder how much money had to be thrown at him. But seriously, what’s with people thinking he has some kind of insight into the Patriots? Um, Mangini was still a coach in New England after Law left.

I’m not sure Law brings much that Mangini doesn’t already know.

AN - I'm also looking forward to seeing Dustin Keller in action again. He blew up the Rams' defense on Sunday as Favre finally made sense of the mismatch he presents.

It was something I expected to see early in the season against your linebackers, and I think the confidence is there now to be a factor this week.

He's fast, he's physical, and he's got great hands. I'm not sure he can be covered.

MD – Covering the tight end was Rodney’s job. When he went down it became Adalius’ job. Now he’s gone, so it will be interesting to see who covers Keller.

I’d bet it would more likely be a corner than Pierre Woods, but we’ll see.

AN - It's going to be a good game, that's for sure. I promise to send a post card from first place.

MD – Ha right back at you on that one. You might want to wait until December to send it. No matter who wins it’s still a long way from over.

And the Dolphins might still have something to say about it.


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