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Cold shoulder heats up Jets


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Cold shoulder heats up Jets

'Other guy' discovers Pat answer



FOXBORO - It was the Jets' most significant regular-season victory in two years, and the sweetest since ... well, it had been a long time since they experienced the thrill of a walking-on-air win.

The Jets finally beat their longtime nemesis, the Patriots, and Eric Mangini beat his mentor-turned-adversary, Bill Belichick. But what made yesterday's 17-14 triumph so special was how they won and why they won.

For three hours in the murk and fog at Gillette Stadium, the Jets out-Belichick'd Belichick, rattling the unflappable Tom Brady with a cunning defensive game plan. But their performance went deeper than Xs and Os; this was about emotion.

Not only were the Jets tired of being pushed around by the Patriots, who had captured the seven previous meetings, but some players said they were motivated by Belichick's cold-shoulder treatment of Mangini.

"He wouldn't want me saying this, but, yeah, we wanted it a little extra for Coach," Laveranues Coles said. "The guys were saying Belichick referred to him as 'the other guy' or something like that. Anytime somebody disrespects our coach, of course guys want to step up and play harder for him."

Belichick refused to acknowledge Mangini by name in last week's news conferences, underscoring the rift in their once-close working relationship. Some of Mangini's players got wind of the snub, and they felt it was a petty move by Belichick.

"He's definitely been dissing Coach," Kevan Barlow said. "We showed how we felt about that on the field."

Did they ever.

Playing its finest game of the season, the Jets' beleaguered defense - ranked 31st in the NFL - held Brady & Co. out of the end zone for the first 56 minutes. The Jets, unveiling a blitz-heavy game plan, forced two huge turnovers and registered a season-high four sacks, including Shaun Ellis' midfield takedown as time expired.

It wouldn't be a stretch to say that Mangini outcoached Belichick, as the Jets' first-year boss pushed all the right buttons. It started last Wednesday when, in anticipation of foul weather, he made the Jets practice in a driving rainstorm. "We played this game Wednesday in practice," said Barlow, marveling at Mangini's foresight.

Then, on Saturday night, Mangini added the finishing touches to the preparation, showing his team a clip of then-named Cassius Clay's historic upset over Sonny Liston in 1964.

The result was an inspired performance that resembled a vintage Patriots win. The Jets were opportunistic (14 points off turnovers) and resourceful (a surprise pooch punt by Chad Pennington). Afterward, they were almost giddy.

"Woo! Unbelievable!" said Matt Chatham, a former Patriot. "You don't want to overstate the 'woo!' or over-emphasize the 'woo!' because we have a lot of season left, but it's a pretty emphatic 'woo!'"

The Jets (5-4), coming off their bye, needed a win to stay within striking distance of the first-place Patriots (6-3), who dropped back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 22, 2002. (That, too, was a loss to the Jets.) The Patriots had gone 57 games without two straight losses, three shy of the 49ers' NFL record.

More importantly, the Jets needed a win for peace of mind. After dropping seven straight to New England, they were fed up.

"The bottom line is, you have to eventually stand up and say, 'Look, we have to win one of these games,'" Pennington said.

The ever-stoic Mangini, who received another lookaway handshake from Belichick after the game, tried to downplay the win. He talked about all the good times he experienced in Foxboro as a Patriots' assistant, adding, "Now I can add this memory" to his mental scrapbook.

The Jets played inspired, if not dazzling football in the mud, as Barlow rushed for a season-high 75 yards and a touchdown and Pennington (22-for-33, 168 yards) did just enough in the passing game. His most dangerous throw turned out to be his most successful one, a jump ball in the end zone that Jerricho Cotchery snatched from Ellis Hobbs for a 22-yard touchdown with 4:45 to play.

"I think he kind of fell asleep," Cotchery said of Hobbs, who let the Jets' flanker outmuscle him for a pass that fell out of the fog. That gave the Jets a 17-6 lead. Brady (25-for-37, 255 yards) needed only 31 seconds to make it 17-14, firing a 15-yard touchdown pass to Reche Caldwell and adding a two-point conversion with another throw to Caldwell.

On the ensuing possession, the Jets did a terrific job of milking the clock, mixing short passes with Barlow runs. Curiously, Belichick burned all three timeouts before the two-minute warning. That haunted his team, as Brady took over at his 11 with only 68 seconds left.

Brady drove to the Jets' 46, but Ellis swooped in to end it with his sack. Finally, the Jets celebrated a win four years in the making.

"You hate to talk about turning points," Chatham said, "but this was a huge emotional win for us."

And it was well-orchestrated by "The Other Guy."

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