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Patriots win defensive tussle, 13-7

Defense answered the call against a productive Jets offense while the running of Corey Dillon played a key part in keeping the Patriots perfect on the season.

It was defense on display as the AFC's two undefeated teams met in a battle for first place in the East division.

Once again, New England proved that no matter what type of game they find themselves in, it will do what it has to in order to come out on top.

"I'm really proud of the football team today," Head coach Bill Belichick said. "I thought our guys stepped up. They played tough and made a lot of big plays in the fourth quarter in all three phases of the game."

This time it was solid play by the defense all around, holding Curtis Martin to 70 yards on the ground and his team to a lone touchdown. Chad Pennington had 162 yards in the air on 19 completions.

For New England, Tom Brady was 20 of 29 passing for 230 yards and a touchdown. Catching five of those passes was David Givens for 107 yards. More key to the win was the running of Corey Dillon whose 22 carries for 115 yards critical in playing the type of ball possession football necessary to win this type of game.

Rodney Harrison, Ted Johnson and Tedy Bruschi had monster games on defense with 10 tackles each. Johnson also threw in a forced fumble.

The Jets defense looked solid against the Patriots run during the first series of the game, stopping Dillon for losses of 2 yards twice and another time for no gain. Passing was a different matter as Brady found Givens for gains of 18 and 15. But faced with a third and 10 from the Jets 28, all Brady could do was dump down to Faulk for 5 yards and Vinatieri came on for a 41-yard field goal that was good.

New York threatened on its first drive, patiently moving the ball downfield with short passing and the running of Martin. On third and one from the New England 19, Pennington rolled to his right and connected with Sowell in the flat. Ted Johnson laid a hit on him and the ball squirted out. Randall Gay, who started in place of Eugene Wilson, recovered on the 7-yard line.

"That was big," Ty Law said. "It stopped their momentum, because they had the momentum at the time. It was good that we were able to create a fumble and get it back and kind of swing the momentum back in our favor. You never know what could have happened if they go down there and score three points or score a touchdown. You never know how the game would have gone from there."

A second mistake for the Jets came on the Patriots subsequent possession when New England was lined up to punt on fourth and one. New York was flagged for 12 men on the field and New England had a first down and new life.

Two plays later, Givens made a beautiful leaping grap 42 yards downfield and the Patriots were first and 10 on the Jets 10. That was the extent ot the drive as the quick Jets defense swarmed the red zone and Vinatieri and a 27-yard field goal was all the Patriots could manage.

Down only 6-0 and despite its early mistakes, the Jets were in no need to panic and they stuck with their patient offensive approach all the way down the field to the two-minute warning. Along the way Martin moved into fourth all-time in rushing attempts (passing Barry Sanders) and seventh in yards (passing Jim Brown) in the NFL. More importantly his running and Pennington's accurate passing put the ball on the New England 1-yard line in 12 plays. On the thirteenth, Pennington kept it around left end and scored. With the point after, the Jets had a 7-6 lead with 1:55 left in the first half.

A good return by Johnson set up Brady at his 38. He immediately hit Johnson over the middle for 14. His next play was a 24-yard catch to Faulk that had Faulk breaking away from his defender just as the pocket broke down around Brady.

Passes to Patten and another to Faulk moved New England to the Jets 14, first and 10. A roughing call on Dewayne Robertson for a late hit on Brady moved the ball half the distance to the goal. After Faulk carried for no gain 11 seconds remained on the clock. Brady took the snap and bought time from the Jets rush as he moved right out of the pocket. He spotted Patten on his crossing pattern in the back of the end zone and rifled the ball between defenders. Patten held on and New England regained its lead at 13-7.

"Really, the difference in the game was the two-minute drive at the half," Belichick said. "Offensively, Tom [Brady] and the offensive group really answered the Jets' touchdown before the half. That ended up being the difference."

The third quarter came and went without either team adding to its score. Both teams' progress on any drive got no further than around midfield until Dillon banged a 44-yard run off left guard just at the end of the quarter. Five more yards from Faulk brought the ball to the Jets 36.

A taunting call on Patten negated his 15-yard catch that followed. That play was a precursor to worse things as on the next one, Brady dumped off to Klecko who was hit by John Abraham and fumbled. Eric Barton of the Jets recovered. Klecko was helped off the field on the play and the Jets were first and 10 on their own 39.

The New England defense continued its stingy ways and held New York on five plays.A 9-yard sack of Brady by the Jets ends Shaun Ellis and Abraham ended New England's following drive.

With plenty of time left to play -- around eight minutes -- the Jets had the ball once again on its own 14 after the Josh Miller punt. A key fourth and one keep by Pennington kept the drive going still in Jets territory, but two big completions to McCareins for 16 and 20 moved things into the Patriots side of the field. On third and five from the 27, Martin was slowed down in the backfield by Richard Seymour and brought down for a loss of 3.

That brought up a fourth and eight situation for New York. With just over two minutes left to play and down by six, the Jets went for the first down. Pennington's timing pass intended for Chrebet was well covered by Rodney Harrison and Randall Gay and the Patriots took over on downs.

"It's like that every week, someone has to step up and make a play," Harrison said. "Somebody has to step up, so we're used to it. So it's not like there's a sense of panic."

New England needed a first down to seal things and that's exactly what Dillon delivered after three straight runs. The game ended on Brady's knee.

"It was a playoff atmosphere out there, I'll tell you that," Law said. "Two undefeated teams coming in, division rivals, so the magnitude of the game was outstanding. We still have to play better. We didn't play our best football game yet, and that is what we were trying to achieve when we came out, and we didn't do that."

The Patriots travel to Pittsburgh next week. writer Frank Tadych contributed to this report.

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