The New York Jets say they have respect for the Patriots and what New England has done recently. No question about it, the Patriots are an improved team, and wide receiver Wayne Chrebet doesn't think the Jets will be able to dominate the game this time. That's right, dominate.
There are always going to be differing opinions about which team should have won a close game, but Chrebet's view of the Week Two mess of a game won 10-3 by New York seems ludicrously off base. In one breath he complimented the Patriots improvement before slapping them in the face.
"Like night and day," Chrebet told the New York Post Wednesday. "They've got a real good team and a real good coaching staff."
That part of the quote was fine, but then Chrebet went on to say, "I was surprised how we dominated the game the last time we played them. I know that isn't going to happen this time."
Dominance? That one is up for debate. Obviously the Jets came away with the victory, which is a credit to them. However, a look at just about any numbers from the game would seem to indicate the game was dead even, but the Patriots shot themselves in the foot with turnovers.
In the running game, the Jets held the edge with 111 yards to the Patriots 107. New England passed for 205 yards while holding Vinny Testaverde to 137 yards through the air. New York had 11 possessions, eight of which lasted five plays or less. For New England, it was also 11 possessions, eight of five plays or less. The Jets went three-and-out six times, the Patriots five.
The teams converted a combined 8-of-29 on third downs, with each side picking up four (The Jets had a slight edge in percentages because they faced 14 third downs to New England's 15). On special teams, Chad Morton averaged 31.5 yards on two kickoff returns, while Kevin Faulk averaged 25 yards per return. Troy Brown returned four punts an average of 11 yards each, while Morton had three returns for 4 yards, little more than 1 yard per return.
The only area the Jets really outclassed the Patriots was the turnover department. All four Patriots turnovers (two fumbles, two interceptions) came in New York territory, with New England knocking on the door. There was an interception at the Jets 3-yard line, followed by a fumble at the Jets 7. Those were only a precursor to an interception in the end zone that was returned to the New York 44-yard line.
In actuality the Patriots threatened all game long, but could not put the finishing touches on scoring chances. New England moved the ball inside New York's 40 six times in 11 possessions, including three trips inside the 10-yard line. By contrast, the Jets had the ball into Patriots territory just three times, and one of those possessions didn't move beyond the Patriots 43-yard line.
All those statistics don't even bring up the fact that New England had three attempts at a game-tying touchdown pass in the final moments with Tom Brady at the helm in place of an injured Drew Bledsoe. It was a sloppy game between two teams nowhere near the bumbling units they were earlier in the season.
For Chrebet and the Jets to feel as though they dominated is laughable.
Ayi placed on IR
The Patriots are playing with a short deck this week. In addition to the suspension of Terry Glenn, linebacker Kole Ayi was placed on injured reserve, leaving an open spot on the active roster.
Ayi appeared in one game for New England and injured his leg while playing special teams against St. Louis. Originally signed by the Rams as a rookie free agent, the 6-1, 231-pound Ayi made their 53-man roster and appeared in the first six games for the Rams, compiling eight special teams tackles. He was waived on Oct. 23 and re-signed to the Rams' practice squad. The next day, the New York Giants signed him to their roster, where he spent three games among the Giants' inactives before being waived on Nov. 14. He then was claimed by the Patriots off waivers.
There was actually encouraging news on Bryan Cox and Ted Johnson Thursday. Both players were able to practice Wednesday and both also reported to feeling well physically on Thursday.
Cox and Johnson are still questionable for Sunday's game, but having them would be a big boost for New England. The Patriots are hurting for depth at linebacker. Besides Cox and Johnson, Matt Chatham and Willie McGinest were unable to practice Wednesday, and Ayi is gone for the season.
Head Coach Bill Belichick said the health at the position is a major concern, but he also credited the performance of Tedy Bruschi, Roman Phifer and Mike Vrabel who have all moved around to different backer spots this season. The trio is also doing well picking up extra slack in the kicking game.
New England has scored 20 or more points in six of the last seven games, with the only losses over the stretch being a 31-20 defeat to Denver and a 24-17 loss at the hands of St. Louis. For the season the Patriots are 6-0 when scoring 21 or more, and 0-5 when scoring less than 21... Tom Brady ranks fourth in the AFC in touchdown passes with 16. He trails only Denver's Brian Griese (19), Oakland's Rich Gannon (18) and Indy's Peyton Manning… Comebacks have not been common in Patriots games this season. Thus far, the team leading after three quarters has won all 11 games this season.