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Preview: New England at N.Y. Jets

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (Sept. 13, 2006) -- The rivalry between the New England Patriots and New York Jets continues to have no shortage of subplots.

Former Patriots defensive coordinator Eric Mangini faces his old boss Bill Belichick when New York and New England meet at Giants Stadium on Sunday.

Mangini left New England (1-0) in the offseason to become coach of the rival Jets (1-0), marking the second straight year Belichick's defensive coordinator departed to take another team's head coaching job. Cleveland coach Romeo Crennel left the Patriots following the 2004 season.

"This is the New York Jets versus the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick and Eric Mangini are just the coaches," Mangini said. "It's about us preparing our teams the best we can and that's how we're approaching it. It's how the Jets play and how the Patriots play."

Mangini's move to New York also continued the long-running coaching carousel between these two franchises. Belichick resigned from the Jets one day after then-New York general manager Bill Parcells named him coach following the 1999 season. Shortly thereafter, Belichick was hired to coach New England - where he had served as defensive coordinator under Parcells in 1996.

Parcells left the Patriots to coach the Jets in 1997, after which New England hired Pete Carroll, who had coached New York in 1994. Al Groh, another defensive coordinator under Parcells in New England, wound up coaching the Jets in 2000 after Belichick's resignation.

Adding yet another wrinkle to the rivalry, the Patriots this week filed a tampering charge against the Jets, who they claim revealed too much information to holdout wide receiver Deion Branch when trying to negotiate a trade late last month.

New England finally dealt Branch, the team's leading receiver with career highs in receptions (78) and receiving yards (998) last season, to Seattle on Monday for a 2007 first-round draft pick.

"It's been a long process," Belichick said. "I think we tried hard to make it work out. I think Deion tried hard. We tried. It didn't work out and we've moved on."

The Patriots' passing game struggled without Branch in the season opener as quarterback Tom Brady completed just 11 of 23 passes for 163 yards in a 19-17 victory over Buffalo.

"We just have to work hard to make sure this doesn't carry over to next week," said Brady, who completed only four passes to wide receivers. "It felt like we were always just out of sync."

Fortunately for New England, the running game was able to pick up the slack, gaining 183 yards for the team's highest rushing total since Dec. 5, 2004. Rookie first-round draft pick Laurence Maroney gained 86 yards on 17 carries, while veteran starter Corey Dillon ran 16 times for 73 yards.

"He runs one way, I run another and we keep fresh legs in the game," Maroney said after the Patriots recovered from a 10-point halftime deficit.

While New England came from behind to win, the Jets jumped out to a 16-0 lead last Sunday before needing a touchdown pass from Chad Pennington to Chris Baker with 2:10 remaining to defeat Tennessee 23-16 in Mangini's debut.

Pennington shined in his first regular-season game after his second shoulder surgery in as many years, completing 24 of 33 passes for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

"Chad has done a great job in preparing himself and getting himself back to the point of being our starting quarterback," said Jets receiver Laveranues Coles, who caught eight passes for 153 yards. "I'm just happy that he now has a game under his belt and showed he's back."

New York may not have needed Pennington's late heroics were it not for the struggles of kicker Mike Nugent. The 2005 second-round draft pick out of Ohio State missed field goals of 34 and 30 yards, as well as an extra point.

"In any kind of game, you always want a chance to go out there and contribute," Nugent said. "Anything I can do to help the team I want to do, and I was not doing that for my team (in the opener). My teammates and the coaches didn't deserve to be in that position.

"We should have had seven more points."

Like the Patriots, the Jets are also splitting carries between running backs, although the results were less successful in the opener. Starter Derrick Blaylock managed only 36 yards on 19 carries and Kevan Barlow ran 11 times for 35 yards and a score.

New England has won six consecutive meetings with the Jets overall and five in a row at Giants Stadium. New York has not defeated the Patriots at home since a 20-19 victory on Sept. 11, 2000, Belichick's second game coaching New England.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2006, The Associated Press, All Rights Reserved

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