By: Bob George/BosSports.net
September 15, 2002

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- This is how bad the Jets played on Sunday.

Their leading rusher was the punter, Matt Turk, on a 14-yard fake punt in the third quarter. Their second leading rusher was backup quarterback Chad Pennington, with nine yards on one carry. Their future Hall of Fame running back, Curtis Martin, gained five yards on four carries. The team totals were nine carries for 32 yards. Kevin Faulk had sixteen more yards on one more carry.

Vinny Testaverde's leading receiver was Richie Anderson. He caught five passes for 28 yards. Each of those passes were right flat jobs for 5-6 yards each. Testaverde did not complete a pass to a wide receiver until late in the third quarter with his team down 20-0.

Testaverde was the victim of a safety blitz by Tebucky Jones early in the third quarter. Jones tomahawked the ball out of Testaverde's hand, and Jones ran the loose ball back 24 yards for a score. Later in the period, Testaverde had the Jets on a would-be slick 72-yard scoring drive, buoyed by Turk's fake punt. His final completion went to Victor Green, and the former Jet ran 90 yards to the house.

That was pretty much it. 44-7, World Champs.

Beating the Jets in their crib by such a margin is always a great thing for the Patriots and their fans. The home crowd was taken out of the game most all game long, except for frequent choruses of boos from the Jet faithful. The Patriots totally and completely shut the Jets down, dominating an annual nemesis in a way not seen since a 34-10 win at Foxborough late in the 1996 season.

But in the rain, it made the Jets look worse. You saw them, and were reminded of the old Bugs Bunny joke. Their name was simply mud. And mud spelled backwards is…

To be fair to Martin, he was questionable going into this game due to an ankle sprain suffered last week against Buffalo. The wet field figured to take away his cutback power. But Martin, who takes great delight in tormenting his former team, was never remotely a factor in this game. He was stuffed for a two-yard loss on his second carry of the game by former teammate Bobby Hamilton, and that pretty much was that.

The Patriots would hear none of this injury nonsense. Playing despite being thin at linebacker (Roman Phifer did not dress for the game, and Tedi Bruschi left early with a neck injury), the Patriots laid their typical confusing defenses on the Jets, and they could do absolutely nothing with it. More on this later.

Because today's game ball really belongs to Charlie Weis, and his incredible array of trick plays and stunning offensive play calling. The Patriots finished the first half with a 19-play, 70-yard drive that ate up all but one second of the last 6:41 of the second quarter. It wore down the Jet defense completely, and wound up being the key factor in this win.

On this drive, the Patriots converted four of five third downs (and one fourth down), and settled for three points only because time ran out in the half. On third and nine, David Patten caught a nine-yard pass at the stick. On third and two, Kevin Faulk took the snap and ran for four yards. On third and seven, Troy Brown caught a pass for -- you guessed it -- seven yards. On fourth and one, Marc Edwards ran for two. And on third and one, Brady sneaked for three. It was one of the more masterful regular season drives for the Patriots in recent memory, and it revealed by how much the Patriots were better than the Jets on Sunday.

Weis mixed in traps, play fakes and fake reverses. Brady faked a reverse to Branch in the second quarter, and hit a wide-open Patten for 40 yards down the middle to set up their first touchdown, a one-yard toss to Cam Cleeland. Edwards ran for nine yards on a trap play, a rare big carry for a fullback. The scoring pass Cleeland caught was set up by a luscious play fake to Antowain Smith.

And what in the world was that fourth and one call in the opening period? Brady and the Pats line up in a power run set, then spread out into an empty backfield set. Brady takes the snap and sneaks two yards for the first down. Madre de Dios.

Brady finished with 25 of 35 passes completed for 269 yards and a pick that wasn't his fault. Weis has made it clear that the shackles will be taken off Brady this year, but you still got the impression that the Patriot offense was grounded in the philosophy of careful, mistake-free execution. Even though Weis did pull a few tricks out of his hat, you never got the sense that the Patriots got too daring or out of themselves at any time.

On defense, the Patriots shellacked the Jets with another display of confusing schemes, hard hitting and tight receiver coverage.

Perhaps the most telling defensive play of the game was Jones' fumble return for a touchdown. Jones lined up on the play as the deepest cover man, the typical position for a free safety. About two seconds before the snap, Jones cheated up, then exploded to Testaverde at the snap. It is disguising coverages at its finest, and Testaverde never once say Jones coming from his backside.

The rest of Jones' teammates also had a great game. The Jets made some hay late in the game thanks to softer coverage as the game got more and more out of hand. But Wayne Chrebet was held to just one catch (for 33 yards), Santana Moss also had just one grab (for 35 yards), and Laveranues Coles was shut out. Belichick and Romeo Crennel continued their new "nickel safety" scheme, but Ty Law, Otis Smith and Terrell Buckley each had solid games at the corners.

Green got some sweet revenge on his old mates. With the Patriots reeling from the Jets mounting their first scoring threat in the third quarter, Green stepped in front of Testaverde's main man, Anderson, at the Patriot 10 and ran it back 90 yards for the score. Again, the Patriots were in their nickel safety package, with Green free to roam and get into a position to make the pick.

The total dismantling of the Jets on both sides of the ball was both enjoyable and scary. One has to wonder how really good this Patriot team is.

You have to figure that the Patriots have to come down to earth sooner or later. But their intensity is at an all-time high, and any thoughts of a post-Vince letdown were perhaps put to rest for good Sunday. The Patriots continue to show that the offseason acquisitions they made have made this team better than the one last year that won it all.

But the best thing to come out of this game was that it was the Jets that played horrid, and not the Patriots. This series has swung decidedly in the Jet column since Bill Parcells left town. Today, the Jets looked like the Jets, instead of this mirage of a great team they had been resembling the last five years or so. And it was the Patriots that played totally smart against this team, a huge contrast to the stinkers this team has had against the Jets under Pete Carroll and the early days of Belichick.

The Jets right now are mud. Mud drips all over their psyches, as well as their uniforms.

And, believe it or not, the Patriots just might be favored at home next week against Kansas City. We hold our collective breaths.


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