By: Bob George/
December 04, 2005

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FOXBOROUGH -- The only thing gratifying about seeing how bad the Jets are is that you get to see former Patriots Curtis Martin and Ty Law wallow in misery while keeping their families very well fed.

The Patriot defense, as we once knew it, made its 2005 debut and completely shut down the New York Jets on Sunday in the snow at Gillette Stadium. The Jets threw zero long bombs, and Martin was absolutely no factor in this game. Easy win for the Patriots, right?

Nothing is easy in 2005. CBS analyst Randy Cross, who works for Channel 5 in August yet still sometimes sounds like he needs to be introduced to Patriot football, made the comment that "the Jets are a very bad team…the Patriots should be throttling them!” In this instance, he was dead on. The Patriots didn't "put away” the Jets until the fourth quarter, and won by a 16-3 count. It was a case of the Patriots being ten times the better team than the Jets, but looking only like twice better, especially on offense.

This may sound like nitpicking, and perhaps it is. The Patriots finally played a solid sixty minutes of great defense. Tom Brady had a great game. Corey Dillon, David Givens and Kevin Faulk all returned to the lineup and all played well. But when you factor in the Jet record (2-9 going into the contest), and how lousy a team the Jets have been this year, 16 points is really a poor showing (and that includes a missed field goal by Adam Vinatieri) by the Patriot offense, and the defense simply did what it should have done anyway.

The best positive that the Patriots can derive from this game is that it helped get them back on track and put them in a position to run the table down the stretch. The Patriots played their best game of the season, and if the defense can play against all future opponents like they did Sunday against the Jets (which is a stretch, especially when the playoffs come around), Patriot fans can begin to think optimistic about this team. A game like this can swing the momentum pendulum in favor of the two-time world champs, and maybe a third Vince in a row isn't that far fetched (hush for a second and listen to all those Colt fans laughing).

Still, this is a 2-9 (now 2-10) Jets team. The Patriots did score on four straight possessions at one time, but three of them were field goals and all of them were in the red area. Two sacks of Brady killed two of the first three offensive drives. Ben Watson killed one drive and prevented another touchdown with dropped passes when in each case the ball hit him between the 8 and the 4. The Patriots recovered a fumble on a play where three penalties occurred, but the one pre-possession penalty (facemask on Richard Seymour) caused all the penalties to offset and the down to be repeated.

These factors, and others, combined to keep the Patriot score at only 16 and keep the Jets in the game until an Ellis Hobbs interception with 4:04 left in the contest. If Hobbs doesn't intercept Brooks Bollinger, the Jets were only two touchdowns away from winning the game. This is significant only in proving that the Jets still had a chance to win this game despite the perceived superiority of the Patriots all game long.

This game was atypical of most every game this season in that it was the offense that generally did not come through in the clutch, but the defense did a masterful job. The first drive of the game was killed when Brady was sacked for a nine-yard loss by Bryan Thomas and Dewayne Robertson during a complete jailbreak by the Jet front four and a total breakdown in blocking by the Patriot offensive line. The third drive was shattered thanks to a questionable clipping call on Stephen Neal and a sack of Brady by John Abraham on a stunt rush.

The Patriots would then score on their next four drives, but three of them ended in field goals. One of these field goal drives, the first one and the first drive of the second quarter, saw the Patriots perched at the Jet three, facing fourth and two. Needing just two yards for a first down at the one, Bill Belichick elected to kick the field goal instead. If the play fails, the Jets have the ball inside their five-yard line and their offense totally out of commission. Belichick elected to play it conservative instead.

Vinatieri missed his first attempt, pushing a 45-yard attempt wide left. He came on and hit one from 21 yards to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead. More significantly, his next kick made Vinatieri the all-time leading scorer in Patriot history, passing Gino Cappelletti, who as always was watching the game from the Patriot radio booth. Cappelletti, who proclaimed Vinatieri the best kicker in team history nearly five years ago, cheered on the current Patriot kicker as he made the historic kick.

The next drive saw the Patriots drive to the Jet 16, but they simply ran out of time in the half. With seven seconds left, Vinatieri was brought on to kick a 34-yarder (the one which moved him ahead of Cappelletti) to make it 6-3 Patriots at the half. In the fourth quarter, with the Patriots leading 13-3, the Patriots drove to the Jet 12. But the second of the aforementioned Watson drops and a misfire to Givens led to Vinatieri booting a chip shot 22-yard field goal. With Dillon finally finding room to run late in the game, the Patriots did not use him to set up a better shot at the end zone.

But the Patriots, true to form, did what they had to do to win the game. Brady hit on 27 of 37 passing and finished with a rating of 93.4. Dillon rushed for 65 yards and averaged 4.1 yards per carry. Troy Brown, Deion Branch and Givens all caught five passes to lead a balanced attack. The Patriots made zero mistakes and, though did not have the points they should have had against a bad team, were generally efficient and productive.

The defense was a bright spot all game long. Martin was held to 29 yards rushing and a 1.9-yard average. Bollinger finished with a rating of 39.8 thanks to 15 of 37 passing and one interception (Hobbs). Laveranues Coles was held to only four catches and only 35 yards receiving. Bollinger was sacked twice, but the Patriots came at him all game long with aggressive blitz packages which resulted in a hail of hurried throws, tipped balls and busted plays.

The fact that the Jets were unable to complete any long passes was a big plus for the Patriots. Bollinger's longest pass completion of the day went for 17 yards, and that one went to backup tight end Joel Dreessen midway through the fourth quarter. Cornerbacks Asante Samuel and Hobbs were not tested at all during the game, thanks largely in part to the aggressive nature of the front seven and the constant pressure they put on Bollinger all game long.

The Patriots are now in a rather odd position, considering how this year has gone, to clinch the AFC East as early as next week. With a win at Buffalo and a Miami loss at San Diego, the Patriots can officially look forward to the playoffs. This win over a team they could have beaten blindfolded is a good start. With a tough test at home in Tampa Bay looming two weeks away, the Patriots can better prepare for that game with a similarly efficient performance next week at Ralph Wilson Stadium.

The Jets were a weak opponent. But the Patriots could very well have put a good enough feeling in their minds which can carry them a long way.