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Patriots fend off Jets in 24-17 victory

Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini met near midfield, exchanged a fleeting, business-like handshake and again went their separate ways. No warm embrace, and barely a word spoken.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Sept. 17, 2006) -- Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini met near midfield, exchanged a fleeting, business-like handshake and again went their separate ways.

No warm embrace, and barely a word spoken. That's the way it's been since the student left the teacher's New England Patriots to become the head coach of the New York Jets, adding to an already spicy rivalry.

Belichick's Patriots held off a late rally by Mangini's Jets for a 24-17 victory, sending the rookie head coach to his first loss.

"It was the Patriots against the Jets," Belichick said. "We were just trying to coach against the Jets. I was just trying to do the best I can for my team, and I'm sure he's trying to do the best he can with his team."

In this case, the best Mangini and Jets had to offer wound up just short.

New England (2-0) took a 24-0 lead on touchdown runs by Corey Dillon and Laurence Maroney, and a TD catch by rookie Chad Jackson.

But the Jets stormed back in the second half. Jerricho Cotchery and Laveranues Coles each made brilliant touchdown receptions, Mike Nugent kicked a 42-yard field goal and Jonathan Vilma blocked a late field-goal attempt to give the Jets (1-1) one last chance in their home opener.

"I'm proud of the way these guys fought back," Mangini said. "Down 24-0, we had a chance to tie the game at the end. I'm proud of that fact, but you can't dig yourself into a 24-0 hole."

After getting the ball at his 9 with 1:05 left and the crowd at Giants Stadium on its feet, Chad Pennington led New York to its 45. But a long pass down the right sideline to Justin McCareins was intercepted by Tedy Bruschi, ending the comeback hopes.

"You can't fall behind 24 points and expect to win any game," Vilma said. "Give them credit. They held on. They did a good job."

Mangini was New England's defensive backs coach under Belichick from 2000-04, and served as defensive coordinator last season before becoming head coach of the Jets.

"It was the last thing I was thinking about this week," Mangini said. "I focused on our players and our team. That's it. It's green for me all day, every day."

Mangini, who said he hadn't spoken to Belichick in some time, talked about how much he learned while helping lead the Patriots to three Super Bowl titles. It showed on Sunday as the Jets, looking flat after an opening-week victory at Tennessee, made a game of it in the second half.

Cotchery's 71-yard reception made it 24-7 in the third quarter. Pennington scrambled and his long pass down the right sideline went to Cotchery, who turned, backpedaled and leaped for the ball near the Patriots 30. He was hit hard by Chad Scott and fell on top of Eugene Wilson's back, but hearing no whistle, Cotchery popped up and ran into the end zone.

Belichick challenged the play, but the referees ruled only Cotchery's hand touched the ground.

"Once I caught the ball, I knew I landed on top of the defender," Cotchery said. "So I knew my knee didn't hit the ground and I was just going to get up and run."

On New England's next drive, Tom Brady 's deep pass down the middle for Doug Gabriel was intercepted by David Barrett.

From New England's 46, Pennington threw a short pass across the middle to Coles. The veteran made a cut outside, causing Wilson to fall, and then cut inside, eluding a sliding tackle attempt by Ellis Hobbs and leaving a trail of Patriots behind to make it 24-14 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter.

"Chad gave me an opportunity to catch the ball, and I got a lot of downfield blocking," said Coles, who had six catches for 100 yards.

Brady finished 15-of-29 for 220 yards with one TD and an interception, while Pennington was 22-of-37 for 306 yards, two TDs and one interception.

The Jets recovered a fumble by Brady when safety Kerry Rhodes blitzed and hit the quarterback's right arm. Bryan Thomas recovered the ball and Nugent, who missed two field goals and an extra-point in the opener, kicked a 42-yarder to make it 24-17.

New England got the ball back with 9:20 left, and took just over 8 minutes off the clock with a typically efficient Brady-led drive. Despite rookie Stephen Gostkowski 's 29-yard attempt being blocked, the Patriots got the job done.

"We know how to close out games," Bruschi said. "That's one thing I can say. We let them back in, but the offense bailed us out at the end."

Notes: Bruschi was in the Patriots' starting lineup after missing the season opener last weekend with a broken right wrist. ... Jets guard Pete Kendall was inactive after injuring a hamstring in the season opener. ... Cotchery had six catches for 121 yards. ... Dillon led the Patriots with 80 yards rushing on 20 carries, while Maroney had 65 yards on 16 rushes.

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