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NY JETS articles- 11/11/08

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Feely keeps Nugent at bay - probablyBY ERIK BOLAND | erik.boland@newsday.com

November 11, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Jay Feely likely kicked well enough to take the field Thursday night.

How far beyond that still might depend on the health, which apparently is rapidly improving, of the kicker he replaced.

Feely, signed after Nugent was hurt during the season-opener in Miami, had been inconsistent, going 12-for-16 before Sunday's game. There were whispers he might be a bad game - or bad kick - away from being jettisoned as Nugent just last week started practicing again for the first time.

But in the Jets' 47-3 victory over the Rams, Feely went 4-for-4 on field goals, including a 55-yarder on the final play of the second quarter that tied a franchise record. He also hit from 22, 46 and 49 yards.

"I felt great," Feely said. "It was a natural high. When you have a game like that where your team plays so well and you just dominate an opponent, you want to be a part of it so that you can enjoy it and revel in it, as well. That's what it was like for me."

Feely unwittingly hinted that Nugent is progressing faster than has previously been disclosed, saying that he and Nugent have had "kick-off" competitions at the end of practices.

"The situation itself, there is so much uncertainty for both Mike [Nugent] and I, knowing who was going to kick," Feely said. "You just have to say, 'I'm going to do my best every day,' and not worry about if I play or not or where I'm going to be in a week. I just kind of ride with it."

Coach Eric Mangini, asked if Feely would be the kicker Thursday, wouldn't say one way or another.

"We'll take a look at Nuge," Mangini said. "I think Jay did a great job. That last field goal at the end of the half was pretty impressive. I think it would have been good from even further out. I like the way he's competing. I like the way he's producing."

Thomas out for the Pats?

The Patriots, gutted by injuries since Week 1 when Tom Brady was lost for the season, might be without one of their best defensive players Thursday. Several reports yesterday said Patriots LB Adalius Thomas, who has 30 tackles and five sacks this season, will miss the rest of the season with a broken arm. The Patriots earlier in the year lost S Rodney Harrison and RB Laurence Maroney to season-ending injuries.

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Linemen are making big impact-Bob Glauber

November 11, 2008

I won't lie to you: Writing about offensive linemen isn't the easiest thing in the world. Reading about them might be even harder. Let's face it: The 300-plus pound men who spend their NFL Sundays battling in the trenches don't exactly engender the kind of hyperbole and interest reserved for the players who throw, run or catch the football. Or even those who chase said quarterbacks, receivers or running backs.

But as we pause to reflect on the state of New York football after two more impressive wins by the Jets and Giants, it is impossible to ignore one of the irrefutable truths of how they've gotten this far: the brilliant play of their collective tonnage of guards, tackles and centers.

Just past the halfway mark of the season, the Jets and Giants' offensive lines have hit their stride, helping them to the top of their divisions and setting up what will no doubt be a compelling run through the rest of November and December. The Giants are 8-1 and in command of the NFC East, in large part because of a running game that is second to none in the NFL, averaging a league-high 168.9 yards per game behind the varied styles of bruising running back Brandon Jacobs and shifty changeup backs Derrick Ward and Ahmad Bradshaw.

The 6-3 Jets are tied atop the AFC East with the Patriots. Why? It's not only because Brett Favre has invigorated the passing game and the defense is showing the kind of promise expected from their offseason makeover. It's because the running game has been almost as good as the days of Curtis Martin. They're ninth in rushing average at 123.4 yards per game behind the one-two punch of Thomas Jones, who already has 750 yards and eight rushing touchdowns, one shy of his career high, and scatback Leon Washington.

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The running has been terrific, but only because the blocking has been superb. So take a bow, all you Big Blue blockers: left tackle David Diehl, left guard Rich Seubert, center Shaun O'Hara, right guard Chris Snee and right tackle Kareem McKenzie. Well done.

Same goes for the Gang Green Five of left tackle D'Brickashaw Ferguson, left guard Alan Faneca, center Nick Mangold, right guard Brandon Moore and right tackle Damien Woody. Impressive stuff indeed.

And while we're at it, how about a few bouquets for the pass protection. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been sacked just 11 times all season, including only once in Sunday night's 36-31 win over the blitz-happy Eagles. He was not sacked against the Steelers two weeks ago. Pittsburgh's defense had produced seven sacks each in their games before and after facing the Giants.

Favre has kept his uniform clean the last two games with zero sacks allowed by his linemen. In the first six games, Favre was sacked a total of 15 times. Ouch.

Get the idea? These 10 gargantuan blockers have been essential in giving their fans hope for big things the second half of the season. Even if the nuances of blocking techniques, hand placement and footwork don't translate quite as interestingly as passes, catches and runs.

But at least the linemen are starting to be recognized for their contributions. John Madden was gushing about the Giants on Sunday night; nothing like a good offensive line performance to get the juices flowing from the former Raiders coach. Then again, the Giants seem a bit uneasy with all the praise.

"We are all getting very uncomfortable with all these compliments," O'Hara said. "I think we are all in unfamiliar territory. So as much as it is nice to hear people say things about you, I don't think any of us are really looking for any new endorsements. We are not looking to be on the cover of Men's Vogue. We will leave that for Eli."

Someone asked O'Hara if the Giants' linemen would qualify for Vogue.

"I don't know," he said. "It would probably be more like Men's Husky."

Gotta love the linemen.

No wonder the Giants have gone to great lengths to keep this group together. The Giants have extended the contracts for Diehl, Seubert, O'Hara and Snee over the last two seasons, and McKenzie, the former Jets' right tackle, signed a seven-year, $38-million deal in 2005.

The Jets haven't had the luxury of time, but they have managed to coalesce rather nicely as the season has gone on. Faneca and Woody were part of the team's $140-million makeover during the offseason, joining former first-round picks Mangold and Ferguson. Moore, an undrafted free agent in 2002, has quietly been one of the team's most consistent blockers since 2004.

"I think with any offensive line, things take time, and I think we're coming together," Faneca said. "There's still work to be done."

Spoken like a true lineman, who is trained never to be satisfied. It's part of the creed of the "Mushroom Society," that semi-secret brotherhood of NFL linemen who operate by the creed: "Kept in the dark and fed a bunch of ..."

Maybe that's why they're more comfortable accepting criticism, not praise. Sorry, fellas. Can't criticize these results. It's all good.

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Disdain for Patriots running high for JetsBY ERIK BOLAND | erik.boland@newsday.com

November 11, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - To words such as "big," "huge," and "monumental" already used in discussing Thursday night's first-place showdown between the Jets and Patriots, add another one:


"They obviously don't like us and we really don't like them, either," tight end Chris Baker said yesterday.

That, of course, should come as no surprise, though the festering enmity between these two organizations in the past has mainly confined itself to the higher-ups and, of course, the coaches.

But the bad feelings have filtered down to the players and Baker added something that will always add kindling.

"I don't think they really respect us," he said.

If that's true, it in large measure probably has to do with the Jets (6-3) having, to put it politely, limited success against the Patriots (6-3) in the Bill Belichick Era. The Jets have lost 13 of the last 15 meetings between the teams, a statistic defensive end Shaun Ellis, who has been around for all of those games, is tired of hearing.

"Maybe that's the problem: You all keep bringing up the negative stuff," Ellis said to a small group of reporters standing around his locker yesterday. "We don't need to be constantly reminded every time we play this team how bad we've been against them. We're trying to get it fixed and hopefully. we can get it done this week."

Ellis said it good-naturedly but there was a serious tone in his voice. He was one of the more disconsolate players in the locker room after the Jets' 19-10 loss to the Patriots on Sept. 14 at the Meadowlands, a game in which Matt Cassel made his first start replacing Tom Brady.

"It's always a hard-fought game and they always come out on top," Ellis said after that game. "It seems like we're always on the other end of the stick."

Right guard Brandon Moore put it in simpler terms after the loss: "Same old story."

"We haven't been successful against them," Moore said yesterday. "We definitely don't like losing as much as we have to them, but like I said before, this is a new game, a different team."

The Jets hope so. They've been on quite a ride since that Week 2 loss, going into their bye week 2-2 and coming back to play poorly against three bad teams - the Bengals, Raiders and Chiefs. But victories over the Bills and Rams the last two weeks have players' confidence levels soaring, just in time for a game that could go a long way in determining the AFC East champion.

"I think we're definitely a different team than we were in September," Baker said. "We have a feel for our own identity as far as what we're trying to get done."

"It's going to be a good one," said right tackle Damien Woody, who played for the Patriots from 1999-2003. "This late in the season, you're playing for first place in your division ... Everybody knows what's at stake."

Baker specified it.

"There's so much on the line," Baker said. "We haven't had a game, except for the playoff game a couple years back that a lot was riding on the game. They weren't do-or-die. But we're looking at it as a big game. It's a must-win, the way we look at it. We have to win this game to take control of this division."

Coach Eric Mangini stays away from weighing the importance of one game against another, and stayed in character yesterday. He might be excited on the inside, but gave no indication of that yesterday.

"What I'm excited about is playing two games like we played where there was consistency, where there was complementary football, where we minimized turnovers, where we've been able to minimize mistakes, generate turnovers, run the football effectively," Mangini said. "Those things excite me. I understand the environment we're going into, I understand the team that we're playing against and I understand it's a good opportunity for us. But maximizing our prep is really my focus right now."

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JETS: Again, he can be 'Mangenius'With win over Patriots, coach restores image

Shaun Powell

November 11, 2008

Maybe it was hype or maybe it was hope. Both were heaped generously on Eric Mangini the last time he took the Jets to New England for a big game and whaddya know, wound up winning it.

It was exactly two years ago tomorrow when that happened, when the Jets proved to be a field goal better than the feared and mighty Patriots, and the only thing chillier than the weather on that gloomy afternoon was the postgame handshake from the other coach.

Mangini beat his mentor, Bill Belichick, who now qualifies as a tor-mentor, and the Jets were suddenly on their way to years of glory and repeated runs toward the Super Bowl. Or so it was hyped. And hoped.

Well, as you know, stuff happened. The neat little story took a few wicked turns, and the young coach who seemed to hold a golden clipboard felt that very same clipboard become like lead. The Jets didn't exactly transform into New England South, as the franchise had hoped; only Mangini's stock went in that direction.

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The coach and the Jets haven't won a game they weren't supposed to win in a long time, not since that afternoon against the Patriots, you might say. Now, can you believe, with another trip to New England looming, Mangini has come full circle. He now has the opportunity to get back the shine he lost two years ago.

It's a big game.

Do the Jets have the coach to match?

For someone who could sorely use a reassuring victory, Mangini has a chance. Two of them, actually, because after the Patriots, next up are the Titans, currently undefeated and making noise about being the beast of the conference. But let's take this one titan at a time. Standing in the way of an outright lead in the division are Belichick and the Patriots, a pair of demons the Jets and their coach need to dismiss, for once, before we take them seriously.

The Jets are 6-3, feeling frisky after a smackdown of the Rams and finally in sync with quarterback Brett Favre, but this game comes down to their preparation.

This game is about Mangini, and whether he can outwit Belichick on three days' work. This is about Mangini and how he can restore the faith bestowed upon him by fans who knighted him before he had done anything to earn it.

Win this game, and Mangini invites new inspection of his coaching credentials.

Lose, and it's same-old, same-old.

"It's a great position for us to be in and try to win," Mangini said. "We need to maximize the opportunity. It's New England. It's a tough game."

It would be very refreshing and reassuring to Jets fans if Mangini does a number on Belichick. Will they see something profoundly original and creative in the game plan Thursday night? Will the Jets expose a weakness or put the Pats on the ropes quickly? Will Belichick become rattled by something he didn't see coming? Can Mangini put a team on the field that plays with a purpose?

It's a tall task, mainly because Belichick, no surprise, is having a terrific season. He's winning with players you never heard of before. Well, actually they do have a big name: BenJarvus Green-Ellis. Sounds like a law firm, not a rookie running back coming off a 100-yard game. Credit the Patriots for scoring points without getting much from Randy Moss and nothing from you-know-who.

Yes, without Tom Brady, the Pats are getting by with backup quarterback Matt Cassel. Two months ago, Cassel was just good enough to beat the Jets in Game 2, nothing more. Now, he's fueled by a dose of confidence and a 6-3 record.

But Cassel is exactly why Mangini needs this game. He can't allow a guy who couldn't get off the bench at USC to beat him twice in a season. He can't let escape a golden chance to beat a team that doesn't have Brady. It's time. The Jets have fattened up lately on Cincy, K.C. and St. Louis, three marshmallows. They need a statement win, and this could be the one that gives the Jets the division for good.

Just as important, this could be the victory that makes us see what the Jets saw in Mangini when they hired him away from Belichick.

Mangini is 15-18 since he beat Belichick two years ago. Since then, the clipboard has gotten heavier and the handshake warmer, two things Mangini would like to change, starting Thursday night.


Jets at New England

8:15 p.m.

TV: Ch. 11, NFL Network

Radio: WEPN (1050)

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November 11, 2008

ERIC Mangini was his typical dour self yesterday, acting as if the Jets' showdown with the Patriots Thursday night in Foxborough was just another game. There's no time for any extra emotion, not with the short work week ahead.

"There's not much time for anything other than the nuts and bolts," Mangini said yesterday at the Jets' practice complex.

The stoic coach can stick to his script and act like playing the Patriots is no different than playing the Bengals. But the rest of the planet understands the next four quarters could chart the rest of the Jets' season.

This is one of those crossroads games that can either expose or validate a franchise. The Jets (6-3) are feeling as good about themselves as they've ever felt in the Mangini era after a tough road win at Buffalo followed by a record blowout victory over the Rams last Sunday at the Meadowlands. The offense, defense and special teams are making unified contributions, raising the team's overall standard of play to the point at which a division championship is no longer wishful thinking.

"We've made a lot of plays in those games and we're just trying to feed off that energy," cornerback Darrelle Revis said.

Beating the Patriots (6-3) not only gives them first place in the AFC East, but also enhances their ego after years of being treated like the Patriots' AFC East stepchild. The Patriots have won 11 of the last 12 meetings against the Jets, a dominance Jets defensive end Sean Ellis hates to hear about.

"We don't like to be constantly reminded when we play this team about how bad we've been against them," Ellis said. "I'm tired of hearing it. I've been hearing it for years and I'm sick of it."

The only way to end such talk is to beat the Patriots, who despite losing quarterback Tom Brady in the season-opener remain the more respected team. First place is at stake, and so is everything the Jets have worked for to get to this point. Lose, and the questions will linger about whether the Jets have indeed turned the corner.

"It's everything you could ask for at this juncture of the season," right tackle Damien Woody said.

The short week may actually help the Jets. Instead of spending yesterday reviewing film of their 47-3 domination of the Rams, the Jets immediately went to work on the Patriots, using a 19-10 loss in Week 2 at the Meadowlands as added motivation. That game was "horrible," Revis said. It was a haunting reminder of how frustrating playing the Patriots has been.

There's no time to get over-hyped or to over-analyze, and the momentum of the last two weeks will be extra fresh come Thursday.

"We just have to put it all on the line and bring our best game," Ellis said.

If the Jets are as good as they think they are this is the kind of challenge that could launch them toward a special season. They'll have sole possession of first place in the AFC East and a win over their division nemesis. Even Mangini had to acknowledge the opportunity.

"It's a great position to be in," he said. "To be a division leader is very important. But what I'm excited about is playing two games like we have played. Those things excite me."

I'm guessing three straight wins would excite him even more.


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Posted: 4:01 am

November 11, 2008

Whatever celebration and euphoria came out of the Jets' record-breaking 47-3 thrashing of the Rams on Sunday is officially over.

It's Patriots week, and it's a short one.

The 6-3 Jets have won five of their last six games and there's a growing feeling inside their locker room that they could be sitting on something special this season, as the chemistry has started to take hold.

To fully see that through, though, to show themselves and the NFL that this can be a special year, the Jets have to go to Gillette Stadium Thursday and beat the Patriots, take sole possession of first place in the AFC East and proceed from there.

The players, old and new, have become used to winning - so much so that you still hear the occasional mumble of distaste about the maddening loss to Oakland last month.

Success is intoxicating and the Jets are enjoying the ****tail. They, of course, are craving more.

On Thursday, the drink gets stronger. The stakes become much higher. These are the Patriots, the Jets' nemesis, a team the Jets have lost to four times in a row and 11 of the last 12. They've had one win against the Patriots since 2002.

"It's everything you could ask for at this juncture of the season," right tackle Damien Woody said yesterday. "It's always tough playing up there. There's going to be a lot on the line. They've got a lot of good players and so do we.

"We just have to suck it up for the next few days and pour a lot of preparation into it and get ready to go play a heck of a football game. Everybody knows what's at stake. We feel like we're a different team from when we played them in Week 2 (a 19-10 Jets home loss)."

Cornerback Darrelle Revis echoed Woody's last thought, saying, "Week 2 was horrible. Now things are clicking and guys are feeding into the system. Guys are studying and focusing and making plays."

Eric Mangini said, "I understand the environment that we're going into. I understand the team that we're playing against. It's a good opportunity for us and maximizing our prep is really my focus right now. Everybody understands that our winning against the Rams and (the Patriots) winning against Buffalo, that is for first place in the division. So that's always exciting. It's always exciting to play a division game. It's always exciting to play New England. I think we all appreciate that."

Every player from one side of the locker room to the other expressed their respective thrill for this opportunity - to finally knock off their nemesis.

"It's a great position to be in - if you take advantage of it and if you do all the things you need to do to put yourself in a position to win," Mangini said. "There's still going to be a lot of football after this game. However, we have a good opportunity and we need to maximize the opportunity."

One thing the Jets know they cannot do Thursday is make dumb mistakes - bad penalties, missed assignments, turnovers, etc. The Patriots feed off those things. "The one thing they do really well is minimize mistakes and capitalize on other teams' mistakes," Mangini said. "It makes it that much more important for us to take care of the things that we can control, penalties, turnovers, things like that. Make sure that we don't give them those opportunities."

The opportunity for the Jets is this: Beat the Patriots for a change and take control of a division the Patriots have owned for too long.

"We can be first in the division (with a win)," Revis said. "We've worked hard this season. It's great for us to see some things pay off. We're coming off two big wins. We've made a lot of plays in those games and we're just trying to feed off that energy."


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November 11, 2008

In what can only be described as a bizarre move with curious timing, the Jets signed cornerback Ty Law yesterday. The move was first reported by the NFL Network and confirmed last night by The Post through an NFL source. The Jets said they would have no announcement last night.

Making this thing even more un-Eric Mangini-like is the fact that Law was even quoted by the NFL Network, announcing that he'll be playing against the Patriots Thursday night and he even talked a little trash along the way.

Law, who has played for both Mangini and Bill Belichick, has been out of the NFL since the end of the 2007 season. Yet he was announcing that he'll be playing Thursday? Hmmmm.

"This is going to be different playing Thursday night against the Patriots, matching up against my former team and the players I'm used to practicing against," Law told the NFL Network. "I know (the Patriots) are going to throw at me, but I welcome the challenge - bring it. I got the tricks for you."

Among the litany of things that makes this bizarre is the fact that the Jets are plenty deep a cornerback. Rookie Dwight Lowery has struggled of late, but the Jets have David Barrett and Hank Poteat to spell him.

Law played for the Patriots from 1995 to 2004. He spent 2005 with the Jets, and 2006 and 2007 with the Chiefs.


Mangini was non-committal when asked who'll kick for the Jets Thursday. Mike Nugent is seemingly healthy enough, though Jay Feely is coming off his best game as a Jet, making all four field goal attempts and kicking off well.

"We'll take a look at Nugent," Mangini said. "(Feely) did a great job (Sunday). So we'll make a decision here Wednesday or Thursday."

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Jets' offensive line in rush to avenge Week 2 goal-line flop against Patriots



It was a microcosm of the Jets-Patriots rivalry, a three-play sequence of sheer domination. The Jets unleashed three of their mightiest punches, and the Patriots didn't flinch. Porcelain fist, meet brick wall.

This, of course, was the infamous goal-line stand in Week 2, when the Jets, acting as if they were trying to make a tough-guy statement, were stuffed on three straight inside handoffs. They eventually lost the game, 19-10, and Eric Mangini was subjected to a week of second-guessing for stubbornly attacking the strength of the New England defense instead of letting Brett Favre throw a pass.


The failure - three runs and a cloud of nothing - deflated the team, especially the revamped offensive line. The players haven't forgotten. The chance for payback comes Thursday night in Foxborough, where the Jets and Patriots - both 6-3 - will play for sole possession of first place in the AFC East.

"It was a low point in that game and through the season," guard Brandon Moore said yesterday. "We take pride in goal-line. It has definitely driven us in other opportunities and throughout the year."

Right now, no unit on the Jets is playing better than the line, which hasn't allowed a sack in two games and has vaulted Thomas Jones to the top of the AFC rushing list. But there won't be validation until they do it against the Patriots, who have captured 13 of the last 15 meetings.

"We're definitely a different team than back in September," said Chris Baker, the Jets' best blocking tight end. "With the guys we have, we should be able to run the ball against anybody. Our offense is built to run the ball. No matter who we go against, that should be a point of emphasis."

The line seems to suffer some sort of indignity every time it faces the Patriots, which owns one of the top defensive lines in Richard Seymour, Vince Wilfork and Ty Warren. In six games under Mangini, including the 2006 wild-card game, the Jets have averaged only 82 rushing yards against the Patriots.

In 2007, the problem spread to pass protection, as the Patriots sent two Jets quarterbacks to the X-ray room. Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens suffered ankle and shoulder injuries, respectively, in separate games, causing them to each miss a start.

For a line, nothing is worse than watching your quarterback get crushed. Second on the list would be getting stoned at the goal line, a bad memory for the Jets, who used their "jumbo" package (two backs, three tight ends) and still couldn't penetrate the New England defense.

Since then, the Jets' high-priced line, featuring newcomers Alan Faneca and tackle Damien Woody, has improved dramatically.

"Hopefully, if we get in that situation, it won't happen like that again," fullback Tony Richardson said.

ELLIS GETS DEFENSIVE: As the longest-tenured member of the Jets, Shaun Ellis has lost more games to the Patriots than any player on the team. He's tired of it, and tired of hearing about it from the media.

Asked yesterday about the Patriots' recent domination, Ellis went into a mini-rant.

"Y'all keep going back to, 'You always struggle against those guys,'" he said. "... We don't need to be constantly reminded every time we play this team how bad we've been against them."

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It's short week but Jets-Pats rivalry is long story

Monday, November 10th 2008, 10:20 PM


Bill Belichick may not be employing spies anymore, but the Patriots' coach is scheming to beat Eric Mangini and Jets again as the longtime rivals clash Thursday night in a battle for first place.

There's an old story - there's always an old story - about the Mets scoring 20 runs against the Cubs and I'll get to the punch line in a little while.

I wish one guy had called my home during the last Jets game, somebody who knows I share a couch with the rest of America on Sunday afternoons. I won't use his name but he probably remembers who he is. Call him a third-string friend. Anyway, he's the one who assured me the Jets would turn the corner after they drafted Browning Nagle.

In my fantasy, he'd ask, "Are you watching the Jets game?"

"No," I'd lie, "I'm in the kitchen, strummin' on the old banjo."

"You got to turn on the game. It's halftime and the Jets have 40 points."

Me, using the punch line to that old Mets story: "Are they winning?"

Seriously, folks, there's no denying the Jets were at their very best against St. Louis on Sunday. And maybe it doesn't much matter that it was a game between a bad team playing a very bad game and a good team enjoying a great - near-great - day. (The players never use the word great, kids. They say "a complete game.")


It's best to forget about the game, the final score, or try to make the argument that the Jets have turned the corner. Instead of what they're usually doing at this point in the season, hitting the wall. (OK, they've won three straight but they lost to an awful Oakland team and were life-and-death to put away Kansas City.)

In a typical week, Monday is when the coaches review the recent performance, and find the mistakes. You can hear them grumbling all the way to Ho-Ho-Kus. They let the players know what not to do ever again. They plan for the next opponent. They practice. Even get to practice on Saturday. But because this week ends Thursday night against New England, at New England, "we're getting all that (done) in really 21/2 days," Eric Mangini said.

Here's a statistic that may not matter: The Jets have played one game on short rest in Mangini's two-plus seasons. Last November, after beating Pittsburgh, 19-16, they were back on the field Thursday, Thanksgiving Day. And played like turkeys, losing to the Cowboys, 34-3.

Those Jets were on the way to a 4-12 season. Same old Jets, blah, blah, blah. But those Jets aren't these Jets. The Greenies are 6-3 and tied for first with New England, the team that's always in first.

It's a big game, really big. Final proof of how much the game means: After the NFL Web site broke the story last night that the Jets had signed Ty Law, the Brett Favre of cornerbacks, it wasn't very long before the Jets denied the report. But it wasn't a loud denial. It's the kind of move teams like to make before big games.

I tried to sell the big-game angle to James Dearth, the long snapper. Big game, I found myself repeating yesterday, big game. "The next game is always a big game," he said.

Me: "They're a Super Bowl team."

Him: "They didn't win it."

The Jets will tell you it's always important to beat a division rival. They will go out on that particular limb. But a big game? Pshaw. "They're all big games," said Damien Woody. "We just have to do what we have to do."

This is Woody's first season on the Jet offensive line after escaping from Detroit. Before that he played on New England teams that won two Super Bowls. He knows about big games because he's learned how to minimize them.

The Patriots handled the Jets in Game2 this season. Have beaten them, in fact, 11 times in their last 12 meetings, including playoffs. The Jets must be determined to do something about that, right?

"Each game is a whole different world," was Woody's reply, 335 pounds of calm. "We all know the magnitude of the game but our mind-set is we're playing a division opponent. That's all it is."

Doesn't he understand that it's a terrific chance for the Jets to turn the corner? To land a haymaker in this one-sided rivalry?

Don't tell him about the last bunch of years: "This is all about the here and now. All that extra-curricular stuff, it's not gonna help us win the game."

No, but it might sell a few more newspapers.

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Patriots' Adalius Thomas to have surgery, miss game against Jets



Monday, November 10th 2008, 8:25 PM


Adalius Thomas says hello to Brett Favre last month. Now, the hurt linebacker says goodbye to the Patriots.

FOXBOROUGH - Just when Matt Cassel's arm seems to be getting dangerous, the Patriots face bad news about another one. Lynchpin linebacker Adalius Thomas reportedly broke his left forearm during the Pats' victory over the Bills on Sunday.

Although there was typically no confirmation from the tight-lipped Pats Monday, it appears Thomas will join his brethren on injured reserve. He'll definitely miss Thursday night's first-place showdown against the Jets, who failed to take advantage of Tom Brady's absence in their Week 2 loss. One report says Thomas, who is tied for the team lead with five sacks, will have surgery Tuesday.

The Patriots already have lost Brady, RB Laurence Maroney and SS Rodney Harrison for the duration and while they have recovered somewhat from those, Thomas will be hard to replace.

The versatile nine-year pro stays on the field in most every defense. He's been an outside pass rusher in the 3-4, off the line in the 4-3 and part of every sub package.

While the defense was still dominant after he left in the second quarter Sunday, the Jets present a more balanced attack. In the Patriots' win at the Meadowlands, he had three tackles and a 20-yard sack of Brett Favre, with Leon Washington trying in vain to block him.

"Extremely tough," cornerback Ellis Hobbs said of the loss. "Any time you lose a player, especially an impact player like him, it hurts. But he'll tell you himself, the machine can't stop. It has to keep on rolling."

"Our focus has to be on the Jets," said Mike Vrabel, a veteran part of the thin linebacker corps. "We're going to have 11 guys out there."

The Patriots do have a knack for plugging in replacements. The offense may not be as explosive as it was under Brady but Cassel no longer is seen as a liability. Meanwhile, Bill Belichick has gone to the run more (the Pats are fourth in the NFL in time of possession), even with injuries in his backfield. That's because of the emergence of BenJarvus Green-Ellis, who had his first 100-yard game of the season against the Bills.

An incredible story, Green-Ellis was signed as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Mississippi, was released in the final cut, then signed to the practice squad and then onto the active roster for his first NFL game Oct. 12.

Cassel won his first start and got his first win against the Jets, completing 16-of-23 for 165 yards, no TDs but no INTs. The Patriots had the reins on him in that one but he looks like a completely different quarterback now. "I think early on my heart rate was definitely through the roof," Cassel admitted after Sunday's game. "It's a little bit easier now. I think there's a little bit higher comfort level."

Maybe guard Logan Mankins was stretching it when he said, "I would rather have Matt than about 99% of the quarterbacks in the league," but the team has embraced him.

"What would you guys have said? You wanted to cut him," defensive lineman Richard Seymour replied when asked what he'd have said back in camp if told that Cassel and Green-Ellis would be leading the offense. "He's getting better week in and week out and that's what we need. We're not trying to put it all on his shoulders. It's a total team effort."

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Jets come in flying high

Since Week 2, they have been on ascent

By Adam Kilgore

Globe Staff / November 11, 2008

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The questions came at Eric Mangini one after another, until the Jets coach finally relented. In various ways, reporters had asked him how his team had changed since Week 2, when the Patriots beat them.

"Well, going back to Week 2," said Mangini, pausing while a coy grin creased his face. "The defining - I guess - the starting point of the season."

Mangini waffled about declaring the Jets' 19-10 loss to the Patriots Sept. 14 any kind of watershed, but his team's season, indeed, turned after that game. The 6-3 Jets have thrust themselves to the top of the AFC East by winning three straight games and five of their last six, including a victory Sunday that was the most lopsided in franchise history.

The Jets led the Rams, 40-0, at halftime and won, 47-3, eviscerating an opponent that the Patriots, just two weeks ago, squeaked past by a touchdown. If the Jets are to surpass the Patriots as the division's team to beat, Thursday night's game at Gillette Stadium is their chance.

Mangini underscored that urgency Sunday in the locker room after the Rams had been stripped and sold for parts. He barely mentioned any of the record victory's myriad highlights. Rather, he stood before his team and, according to the New York Times, said, "You know what we've got to do. See you tomorrow."

And Mangini was at it again yesterday - various reports said former Patriots, Jets, and Chiefs defensive back Ty Law signed a one-year deal with the Jets and will play Thursday night.

"In my mind, they're still the team in the division," center Damien Woody said about the Patriots. "They've had a stranglehold on the division for a while. We're tied with them in the division. Until you beat them, they're going to be on top."

A few lockers over, defensive end Shaun Ellis bristled at reporters, telling them he was tired of hearing about not beating the Patriots, who have won 13 of the last 15 games in the series.

The Jets have played well enough recently that the questions could cease with a win Thursday night. While defensive tackle Kris Jenkins arguably has been one of league's most valuable performers, the most glaring improvement has come on offense. The Jets averaged 15 points in the first two weeks while Brett Favre broke in behind center. Since their loss to the Patriots, they have averaged 32.1; the Cardinals entered last night leading the NFL at 29.2 points per game.

"What we've been able to do the last couple games is put together complete games," Mangini said.

The deeper reason behind the Jets' surge lies away from the field. Their offseason veteran acquisitions - Jenkins, guard Alan Faneca, Favre, Woody, linebacker Calvin Pace, and fullback Tony Richardson - have meshed on Sundays and, perhaps as important, have altered the locker room. Last season, the Jets lacked cohesion, with players practicing and then heading separate ways.Continued...

"The team is totally different from last year," second-year cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "It's positive. Everybody cares about each other.

"It's like a brotherhood here. Everybody spends time outside of work, just to hang out with each other. It's just good."

Despite their ascension, Jets players maintain that the short week of preparation will not allow positive feelings to linger.

"This game has nothing to with those games," running back Thomas Jones said.

The Jets, though, hold a unique advantage. They will become the first team (notwithstanding some high schools and Pop Warner teams scattered about Southern California) to face Matt Cassel for a second time. Cassel engineered the Patriots' win in September, back when hardly any film of him playing existed and he had established no patterns.

"It is good to have more film in terms of looking at his style, just being able to evaluate him as a player," Mangini said. "That's always positive.

"We've had a bunch of times where [it was] the first game against a new quarterback or a new coordinator or a new something. Their tendencies aren't as strong. Their characteristics, their patterns aren't as strong. So you have to feel it out over the course of the game, as opposed to going in with some assumptions that can either be right or wrong."

Said Revis, "It was kind of tough. He came when they were in a tough spot. He's responded well. He's doing what he's supposed to do. He's making plays. He's throwing the ball everywhere. He's proven to be an NFL quarterback."

The Jets are too busy to look back at that game otherwise. They put behind them the bungled goal line possession and sloppy defense from that loss.

"We're a different team now," Woody said.

They can erase the defeat for good Thursday by passing New England, an opportunity arriving at the perfect time.

"Oh, yeah," Revis said. "You know, the Patriots have beat us in the past. But that's why we play football every year. This is a big game for us. We can be first in the division."

Adam Kilgore can be reached at akilgore@globe.com

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