FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (Nov. 30, 2005) -- The New York Jets entered the season with hopes of taking the AFC East title from the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Instead, they've been reduced to playing spoiler as they visit Gillette Stadium to take on the first-place Patriots.
The Patriots have swept the past two season series from the Jets, and have taken six of the past seven meetings en route to winning three Super Bowls in four years. New York's last victory against New England came on Dec. 22, 2002. The streak is the Patriots' longest in the series since a six-game run from December 1994 to September 1997.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is 6-2 career against New York, and has posted a 100.9 rating in the past four meetings with five touchdowns and no interceptions.
During the four-game losing streak to Brady and the Patriots, the Jets have used Vinny Testaverde and Chad Pennington at quarterback. The duo has combined for two touchdowns and eight interceptions during that stretch.
Brooks Bollinger, who is 0-4 as a starter this season, will get the chance to reverse the trend against the Pats, with Pennington and Testaverde sidelined by injuries. Injuries to backup quarterback Jay Fiedler, center Kevin Mawae and 13 others in all have ravaged a team that expected to be in playoff contention after making the postseason in three of the previous four years.
The Patriots are coming off a 26-16 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in which Brady matched a career high with four interceptions. With starting running back Corey Dillon sidelined with a calf injury, New England managed 74 yards on the ground. Dillon, the team's leading rusher, suffered the injury on the first play of a Week 10 victory against Miami. He is questionable for Dec. 4.
"That is a lot to make up against a team like this," said Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose team trailed 26-3 in the third quarter against the Chiefs. "We didn't play well enough. I think that goes across the board."
The Patriots' defense has given up 279 points and the offense has produced 243. Only three teams have finished a season as division winners after being outscored by their opponents. The largest margin was minus-12 by Minnesota in 1978.
The defensive unit, considered the key to New England's success in season's past, is ranked third from the bottom in the AFC in points allowed, ahead of only Houston and Tennessee. The Patriots' 10 total takeaways rank 31st in the NFL after finishing third with 36 last season.
"That's just the way it is," linebacker Tedy Bruschi said. "We're on top of the division, so we want to stay there."
The Jets lost 21-19 to the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 27 for their first six-game losing streak since 1996, when they finished 1-15.
Bollinger threw for a career-high 251 yards, but Jets rookie kicker Mike Nugent's 53-yard field goal attempt feel just short in the final seconds.
"This game was a good game for him," Jets coach Herman Edwards said of Nugent, New York's first selection in the 2005 NFL Draft.
"We haven't been in field-goal range the last couple of weeks. The last one, it's a tough one. I thought he hit it pretty well, I thought it was going in. We had a shot, hopefully we'll have more shots to win them."
Opponents have outscored the Jets 163-79 during their six-game slide and the offense has produced at least 20 points only once in that span.
"We improved a little bit, but we still didn't win; that's something that's tough," Edwards said. "We have to keep improving. If we can keep improving we give ourselves a chance to win."
The Jets have lost eight straight on the road since beating Arizona on Dec. 12, 2004 -- the team's longest road skid since 1963-65, when it lost 12 straight.
STANDINGS: Jets -- 4th place, AFC East. Patriots -- 1st place, AFC East.
JETS LEADERS: Offense -- Bollinger, 724 passing yards and 3 passing TDs; Curtis Martin, 706 rushing yards and 5 rushing TDs; Laveranues Coles, 53 receptions and 577 receiving yards; Coles and Jerald Sowell, 2 receiving TDs. Defense -- John Abraham, 5½ sacks; Ty Law, 5 interceptions.
PATRIOTS LEADERS: Offense -- Brady, 3,030 passing yards and 18 passing TDs; Dillon, 441 rushing yards and 7 rushing TDs; Deion Branch, 60 receptions, 756 receiving yards and 4 receiving TDs. Defense -- Roosevelt Colvin and Willie McGinest, 3½ sacks; Mike Vrabel, 2 interceptions.
JETS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense -- 80.3 yards per game (30th in NFL); Passing Offense -- 168.5 ypg (27th); Total Offense -- 248.8 ypg (29th). Rushing Defense -- 136.9 ypg (30th); Passing Defense -- 173.5 ypg (4th); Total Defense -- 310.5 ypg (11th).
PATRIOTS TEAM RANK: Rushing Offense -- 83.5 yards per game (29th); Passing Offense -- 264.3 ypg (4th); Total Offense -- 347.7 ypg (11th). Rushing Defense -- 118.8 ypg (21st); Passing Defense -- 267.5 ypg (31st); Total Defense -- 386.3 ypg (31st).
LAST MEETING: Dec. 26; Patriots, 23-7. At East Rutherford, N.J., Brady threw for 264 yards and two touchdowns and Branch caught seven passes, including a touchdown.
STREAKS AND NOTES: Jets -- K Nugent made a career-high four field goals last week after making only eight in his first 10 games. ... RB Martin became the fourth player in NFL history to rush for over 14,000 yards last week. ... The Jets have not scored a touchdown on the road in three games. Patriots -- The defense has allowed over 400 yards of offense in seven of its past eight games, including each of the past four. ... The Patriots have won 12 of their past 13 home divisional games, including eight in a row. Their only loss in that span was to the Jets on Dec. 22, 2002. ... With five catches last week for a total of 60 this season, Branch has eclipsed his previous career best of 57 in 2003.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Jets -- 0-6 on the road; Patriots -- 3-2 at home.
The Associated Press News Service
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