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News of the FIRST PLACE NY JETS 11/14/08


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FOXBOROUGH - It was three games woven into one.

There was the Jets jumping out to a 24-6 lead with five minutes left in the second quarter. There was the Patriots charging back to make it 24-all with 10:16 left in the fourth quarter.

Then there was what unfolded from that point, which turned out to be a clinic in what Patriots coach Bill Belichick preaches and what Jets coach Eric Mangini - who learned under Belichick - now teaches.

It was situational football at its finest.

What the Patriots and Jets produced from that point - with pendulum swings that took both teams on a wild ride - is not often seen in a full 60 minutes of action, let alone the final 10:16 of regulation and another 7:50 of overtime.

Where does one begin?

Let's start at 24-24, with the Jets taking over at their 33, because that's when the third game of last night's three-in-one special truly began.

The Jets went on a 14-play, 67-yard drive, masterfully orchestrated by quarterback Brett Favre. The Patriots were in their base 3-4 defense or a nickel package (five defensive backs), and the crucial plays were third downs that extended the drive - a 3-yard catch by Chansi Stuckey on third and 2, and a holding penalty on Mike Vrabel at the goal line on third and 6. Jets tight end Dustin Keller also had a big 14-yard catch on second and 9.

"We just couldn't get off the field," said Patriots defensive lineman Richard Seymour. "We were right there and just didn't make the play. In a game like this, you have to make those plays. We usually come up on the opposite end of that spectrum."

Keller, a rookie first-round draft choice, was a Patriot killer all night with eight catches for 87 yards. He was effective because the Patriots were often covering him with a linebacker, a favorable matchup for the Jets. If the Patriots had covered Keller with a defensive back, they would have been more vulnerable against the run.

"It puts a lot of pressure on a defense being able to use that weapon the way Brett has," Mangini said. "It spreads things out."

Yet while the Jets had seized back the momentum with a Thomas Jones 1-yard touchdown run with 3:10 left - going ahead, 31-24 - there was plenty more situational football to be played.

The Patriots went three and out; instead of going for it on fourth and 17, they punted with 2:35 left. They had one timeout remaining, but knew they'd have a stoppage at the two-minute warning.

The Jets ran Jones for 5 yards. Time out. Then Jones ran for 3 yards. Two-minute warning.Continued...

After the stoppage, the Jets were ready to close it out.

It was power on power, the Patriots putting five defensive linemen on the field, with three linebackers. The Jets also loaded up at the line of scrimmage.

"It's third and 2, and I think everyone in the building knew that if we got a first down, it was over," Favre said.

But linebackers Jerod Mayo and Tedy Bruschi combined on a tackle, stopping Jones 1 yard shy of the first-down sticks.

The Patriots got the ball back at their 38 with 1:04 remaining, and in a masterful spike-filled drive, they moved to the Jets' 16 with eight seconds left. The Jets were protecting the sidelines and giving up plenty of space in the middle.

"At that point, they're fighting two different things - yardage and time," Mangini said. "What you don't want to do is have them complete a 10- or 15-yard pass and get out of bounds. That's the worst-case scenario. We were in a rolled-up coverage with help to the sideline; where we were light was in the middle. But with 1:04 left, those are high-percentage calls."

Yet the percentages worked against the Jets as quarterback Matt Cassel hit receiver Randy Moss with 16-yard touchdown pass along the right side of the end zone with one second left.

"We were pretty much under all their receivers, with help over the top, knowing they had to go into the end zone on that play," Mangini said. "But he's Randy Moss. He made an amazing play. We had every single receiver doubled. It was great execution [on their part]."

The Jets appeared defeated.

"At the end of regulation, they had all the momentum, every reason to win it, and we could have just as easily folded," Favre said.

But after winning the coin toss in overtime, Favre led a 14-play drive, culminating in a 34-yard Jay Feely field goal. Again, Keller was big, with a 16-yard catch on third and 15, a 12-yard catch on second and 6, and a 4-yard catch on third and 1. And Favre delivered an across-the-body throw to Laveranues Coles for 16 yards.

The Patriots tried their base defense. They tried their nickel package.

But the Jets, in a classic case of game-ending situational football, were not to be denied.

Mike Reiss can be reached at mreiss@globe.com.

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FOXBOROUGH - They will be coming out of the woodwork today, in every corner of the city that colors itself green and white, a song in their hearts, a No. 4 jersey draped proudly over their shoulders. All those years pounding helplessly and hopelessly on Bill Belichick's door, and then, heavens to Broadway Joe, comes the super night when Brett Favre kicked the damn door down.

And Brett the Jet, a 34-31 overtime victor, and his friends are in first place today. If you have lived and died with the franchise for what feels to you like an eternity, you try to stay grounded, because all too often you have sunk in the Mud Bowl of your dreams. But for now, there is no denying that Favre is indeed your Hope Diamond. Finally, all the possibilities they imagined across 16 seasons in Green Bay live inside your imagination now.

To be The Team to Beat, you have to beat The Team to Beat, and that's what Favre and the JetsNew York Jets did last night. It hardly means you book a hotel room in Tampa. But it does mean your team is for real, and that should be more than enough for the moment.

It means your team is peaking, finding its identity, developing a swagger. It means your team believes. Tom Brady couldn't play? Tough. No one cried for you when Vinny Testaverde shattered his Achilles' in the '99 opener. All's fair in love and border war.

This is the kind of Us-Against-the-World triumph that can galvanize a team, tell it that yes indeed, you bet we can be Road Warriors just like the GiantsNew York Giants were last January on their way to the Canyon of Heroes.

If you are a Jets fan, this one was: Worth Waiting 4.

"It ranks right up near the top," Favre said. "Being in the moment, obviously, it's easy to say that it may be at the top."

Favre had driven the Big Green Bus over Belichick with the game seemingly on the line with three minutes left in regulation.

But he couldn't nail the coffin shut, and gallant Matt Cassel, with 1:04 and no timeouts left, engineered a last-gasp drive that culminated in a 16-yard, both-feet-in-bounds touchdown pass to a sprawling Randy Moss, against Ty Law, with one second left.

Overtime.

Favretime.

"Based on the history, I'm sure most people were betting against us," Favre said.

He got it first, at his 20.

"It's either now or never," Favre said he thought to himself. "This is your one shot. . . . They were rollin' on offense, our defense was tired . . . it was all or nothing.' "

His teammates had turned their lonely eyes to him and reminded him that this was the moment, this was the reason, he was here.

"There was no one more nervous in that building than me," Favre said. "I'm no different than anyone else."

And he promptly whipped a third-and-15 bullet to Dustin Keller wide open over the middle for 16 yards.

"I happened to look over and saw coach Belichick tell them, 'Get back,' " Favre said. "They got back, but they pushed towards the slot. I was probably as shocked ass anyone."

Then Keller again for 12 yards.

On second-and-10, Favre rolled right and threw across his body over the middle for Laveranues ColesLaveranues Coles , for 16 yards, to the New England 24 - 14 plays, 64 yards, 7 minutes, 50 seconds.

Jay Feely booted the 34-yarder to win it.

Favre, at his locker, revealed that Patriots fans were taunting the Jets with "Same Old Jets" chants in the third quarter when his turtle offense became frozen.

"They ain't saying it now," Favre said.

Favre was asked if he said anything to them.

"No; Jay did when the ball went through," Favre said.

When the ball went through, Eric Mangini looked at Favre with a great big smile and patted him on the helmet as the two embraced for maybe 10 seconds.

He had thrown a pair of touchdown passes in the first half and would have had a third if Keller hadn't dropped a gimme 4-yarder.

He was a marksman, in command of his offense more than he has been all season, nary a reckless throw in sight.

Then Cassel morphed into Tom Brady and scared the living daylights out of Favre and the Jets.

Overtime.

Favretime.

Worth waiting 4.

steve.serby@nypost.com

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Mangini can be proud- Vaccaro

FOXBOROUGH - When the end arrived at last, it brought silence to this place that has seen such football wonders across the past few years. For most of the previous 15 minutes, Gillette Stadium had been a raucous, ribald wall of sound, close to 69,000 voices colliding in joy at the inevitableness of the whole evening.

And then, suddenly, there was nothing.

"That," Kerry RhodesKerry Rhodes would say, "is the greatest sound of all."

Jay Feely had swung his right leg around, booted the football purely and cleanly from 34 yards away, and most of the regulars at Gillette Stadium didn't bother to see the end result to fasten a lock on their vocal cords. The JetsNew York Jets ' sideline didn't wait long, either, exploding onto the field, galloping everywhere, hugging, slapping, laughing, pointing at the scoreboard.

Freezing Jets 34, Patriots 31 in their memories, just as it was on the board.

"I feel like I just played three games," said Dustin Keller, the rookie tight end who announced himself grandly last night with a remarkable eight-catch effort.

Every time Brett Favre needed to make a play - meaning every time the Jets were desperate for a play to keep alive their hopes of a division title - he looked toward Keller and his gluey fingers.

"It was almost like a dream," he would say. "An incredible dream for me."

The whole game was. The whole night was. For the first 25 minutes, the Jets looked like the most unbeatable, invulnerable team on the planet, racing to a 24-6 lead, looking like they could name their score, unplugging the electricity at Gillette Stadium.

Then, over the next 25 minutes, they were nothing short of - all together now - the Same Old Jets, allowing Matt Cassel to slip into Tom Brady's uniform, allowing the Patriots to come back, tie the game at 24, send Jets fans from Montauk to Mohonk and everywhere in between into spasm and shivers of harsh, awful memory.

And what nobody could know was this:

That was all prologue. That was all just warm-up.

"Ebbs and flows," an almost beatific-looking Eric Mangini said later on. "Back and forth. You have to reload and finish the game."

The Jets reloaded, with Favre engineering an astonishing 14-play, 67-yard drive that covered seven minutes and six seconds of real time but really seemed to cover about 40-odd years worth of frustration, futility and flabbergast.

And even that heroic march seemed utterly meaningless when Cassel mounted his own desperate charge, eight plays and 62 yards in 63 seconds capped by Randy Moss' description-defying touchdown grab with one second to play.

"Good teams," Mangini would say, "know how to get up from something like that."

And, really, wasn't that what we've been searching for with these Jets all across the season's first 11 weeks?

Haven't we wanted to know if they really were a good team - maybe even a very good one - one worth investing the hopes and hurt feelings of 40 years in?

Were they the juggernaut that pasted the Cardinals and the Rams? Were they the jokers that somehow lost to the awful Raiders and nearly fell to the awful-ler Chiefs?

"We needed to win this game," Favre would say, "for ourselves."

Now comes the craziest part of all: They did. Overtime started with a 5-yard sack, and then a third-and-15 with what sounded like all of New England and Old England bearing down on them. Then Favre hit Keller for 16 yards and things got a little quieter. Three more first downs diminished the din even more.

And then Feely finished them all off, sent them on a long trip home along Route 1, sent the Jets into yelps of glee and into one of the more rarefied places they have ever been.

First place, AFC East, six games to go.

"I'm pretty proud of the way we finished," said Mangini, and he should be proud of them, and of himself, and of this game that seemed custom-fitted from the Jets' personal Playbook from Hell, yet somehow seemed to announce something new, something fresh. And maybe something very, very real.

michael.vaccaro@nypost.com

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Just like old times for Law-

FOXBOROUGH - Any questions about whether Ty Law would play just two days after signing with the New York Jets were answered quickly last night.

The 34-year-old cornerback made his first appearance on the second defensive play of the night against New England. Law was signed on Tuesday, but coach Eric Mangini wasted no time having him to defend Randy Moss for much of the night. Law, who last played for the Chiefs last December against the Jets, showed no signs of rust, staying with Moss, who did not have a catch in the first half.

Law was victimized on the final play of regulation when Matt Cassel hit Moss with a 16-yard touchdown to tie the game and force overtime, though Law had good coverage on the play.

"It feels good," Law said after the Jets' 34-31 overtime victory. "I played a little bit more than I anticipated. A little rusty, but it feels good to get a win. I made it a little bit harder for us, but it's good. I think it's going to build a little character. That one's kind of sticking in my mind a little bit. It was a great throw, a great catch. It's one of those plays I've got to make the next go-round."

*

Leon Washington 's 92-yard kickoff return in the second quarter was his first of the season and fourth of his career, a franchise record. The kickoff return for a touchdown was the 11th by the Jets since 2001, the most in the NFL.

*

Kicker Mike Nugent remained on the inactive list with Mangini opting for Jay Feely, who has kicked in every game since Week 2 . . . WR Brad Smith ran for 17 yards on a direct snap in the first quarter. On the play, Brett Favre lined up as a receiver and motioned with his hand like he was open for a pass . . . The Jets have scored on their opening drive in five straight games.

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Jets' Dustin Keller grabs spotlight

BY OHM YOUNGMISUK

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Friday, November 14th 2008, 2:22 AM

Sipkin/News

Rookie Dustin Keller had a big game for the Jets on Thursday night.

FOXBOROUGH - The Jets spent heavily to upgrade their defense and offensive line, and made the biggest trade of the year to acquire Brett Favre. But of all the new faces the Jets brought in specifically to win games such as Thursday night's, it was rookie tight end Dustin Keller who finished off Bill Belichick and the Patriots.

Keller led all Jets receivers with eight catches for 87 yards. But he saved his best for the winning drive in overtime when he had three receptions for 32 yards - including a critical 16-yard catch on third-and-15 - to help set up Jay Feely's field goal in the Jets' pulsating 34-31 win over the Patriots Thursday night.

PHOTOS: JETS 34, PATRIOTS 31

"A lot of guys say that a rookie in my situation doesn't know the magnitude of a game like this," said Keller, who had six receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown last Sunday against the Rams. "But for sole (possession of) first place...it doesn't get any better than that."

The rookie from Purdue showed why the Jets drafted him late in the first round as he exposed an Adalius Thomas-less linebacking corps with one huge reception after another.

Keller made one of the biggest plays of the season for the his team when he kept its winning drive alive with a wide-open 16-yard reception on a third-and-15 from the Jets15.

Two plays later, Favre needed six yards for a first down, and he hit Keller for 12 to move the Jets to their own 47.

RELATED: JETS BOOT PATRIOTS IN OT

Then, facing a third-and-1 at the Patriots' 44, Favre went to his new safety valve with a 4-yard pass for another first down. Keller was so effective on the final drive that the Patriots, perhaps concentrating on the tight end, allowed Laveranues Coles to slip open for a 16-yard reception a few plays later that put the Jets at the Patriots24. Four plays later, the game was over with Feely's field goal, and Keller was suddenly a rising star.

"He hurt us tonight," was about as much as Belichick could admit afterward. "We have to do a better job on him."

Keller did drop a touchdown pass near the end of the first quarter when Favre found him on a second-and-goal play from the Patriots' 4-yard line.

However, Keller - who has impressed with more playing time in recent weeks following Bubba Franks' injury - more than made up for it in the clutch. Besides his overtime heroics, Keller had three catches for 23 yards in the fourth quarter and helped draw a defensive holding call on Mike Vrabel on a pivotal third-and-6 at New England's 7. That automatic first down set up Thomas Jones' 1-yard touchdown run that put the Jets up 31-24 with 3:10 left in regulation.

Favre compared Keller earlier this week to Antonio Gates of the Chargers.

"I told him, 'I wish I would have had you a few years back,'" Favre said.

Keller had his own message for Favre, after the way the two have hooked up in the last two games.

"I wish I could have a quarterback like that the rest of my career," Keller said.

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Jets' victory over Patriots validates trade for Brett Favre

Friday, November 14th 2008, 2:51 AM

Sipkin/News

Brett Favre had his finest moment as a Jet on Thursday night, leading the Jets to a game-winning field goal in overtime.

FOXBOROUGH - It almost became one of the most excruciating losses in Jets history. Instead, it was one of their most exhilarating victories.

Jay Feely's 34-yard field goal with 7:10 left in overtime allowed the Jets to forget how they blew an 18-point late first-half lead and allowed the Patriots to get even with one second left before putting together a nearly eight-minute drive in OT that led to the winning kick in a 34-31 game.

PHOTO GALLERY: JETS 34, PATRIOTS 31

One that put the Jets all alone in first place in the AFC East, but also raised more questions about Eric Mangini's ability to coach in a big spot. Once the Jets took the 24-6 lead and Bill Belichick gave up a shot at a 41-yard field goal late in the second quarter and the Pats failed to convert a fourth down, Mangini went into a shell that almost cost the Jets the game.

The Jets stopped attacking. Brett Favre stopped throwing anything that resembled a downfield pass and they went back to the dink-and-dunk offense that was supposed to leave with Chad Pennington. Meanwhile, Belichick put Matt Cassel in a no-huddle shotgun offense and the Jets could not stop him.

So many years of frustration and so many years of beatings from the Patriots were not going to be wiped away in one night.

RELATED: JETS BOOT PATRIOTS IN OT

But it was a start for the Jets.

Sure the Patriots were injury-depleted, but it's the latest in a season the Jets have been in first place since the final week of 2002. Now they have a clear path to the playoffs if they can keep it going over the final six weeks of the season.

If the Jets could not beat the Patriots this time, you had to wonder when it was ever going to happen. The Pats lost Tom Brady, the NFL's best player, to a season-ending knee injury in the first quarter of the first week of the season, but they still beat the Jets the next week in Cassel's first start since high school eight years ago.

Since then, they've lost Laurence Maroney, Rodney Harrison and Adalius Thomas. That's four of Belichick's top 10 players. Nevertheless, the Jets are not going to put an asterisk next to this. They will take the victory and try to build on it even if the Patriots team they beat Thursday night doesn't look anything like the one that went 18-1 last season.

The torch has not been officially passed in the AFC East. The Jets are just borrowing it for the rest of the season. The real Border War will resume next season when Brady returns.

The key early sequence happened late in the second quarter. Favre threw the only deep ball of the game to Jerricho Cotchery, who made a one-handed diving catch for a 46-yard gain to the Pats' 16. He secured the ball against his helmet as he was falling to the ground, which had to bring back awful memories for the Pats of David Tyree's catch in the Super Bowl.

This time, instead of Harrison being on Tyree's back, Ellis Hobbs was all over Cotchery. Two plays later, Favre connected with with Cotchery for a 15-yard TD pass as the Jets went up 24-6.

On New England's next possession, Belichick conceded the Pats were desperate when he passed up a 41-yard field-goal attempt on a fourth-and-3 from the Jets' 23. Cassel was then sacked. It was way too early to give up an easy three points. The move looked even worse when the Pats scored a TD with 15 seconds left in the half quarter.

If Favre can do big things with the Jets down the stretch and take them deep into the playoffs, the adulation he will feel in New York will make his icon status for 16 years in Green Bay seem like a high school pep rally.

Favre's legacy was secure before he came to the Jets. He can only add to it. If the Jets don't have a strong finish and a nice run into January, he simply gets added to the list of Jets QBs since Joe Namath who couldn't get it done, but it will be long forgotten when his career is ultimately judged. But if he wins big for a team that is now on the 40-year anniversary of its only Super Bowl, then the legend only grows.

No quarterback has ever started Super Bowls with a 10-year gap. Only Craig Morton (Dallas, Denver) has started Super Bowls at quarterback for two teams. So, even with all he has done, there's still a lot left for Favre. And plenty for the Jets, who needed Thursday night's win over the Patriots for their own self-esteem.

Woody Johnson didn't hand out $140 million in contracts in the offseason to upgrade the talent with players such as Alan Faneca, Kris Jenkins and Calvin Pace, and then endorse the trade for Favre, so his team could go into Foxborough with a shot at taking over first place against a depleted team and then lose to the Pats like they always do. He could have saved a bunch of dough and just brought back the 4-12 team.

The Jets were close to running the Pats out of their own building. Then Mangini tried to sit on the lead. His guys bailed him out Thursday night. Instead of being a loss that would have been impossible to overcome, the victory gives them first place all to themselves.

gmyers@nydailynews.com

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Ty Law's on Jets' side in victory

BY RICH CIMINI

DAILY NEWS SPORTS WRITER

Friday, November 14th 2008, 2:27 AM

Townson/AP

Eric Mangini and Thomas Jones embrace following Thursday night's victory.

FOXBOROUGH - After 11 months out of football and only two days of practice, CB Ty Law played a bigger-than-expected role Thursday night in the Jets' 34-31 overtime win over the Patriots.

Law played about 20 plays and was used in the nickel package, covering Randy Moss. Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

PHOTOS: JETS 34, PATRIOTS 31

Law, known for his physical style, played bump-and-run on Moss (three catches for 26 yards). Kerry Rhodes was used as an over-the-top safety, and the strategy worked brilliantly - until the final play of the fourth quarter.

On a fourth down, Law played "off" coverage and Moss made a brilliant, diving catch for a 16-yard touchdown, sending the game to OT. Afterward, Law was kicking himself.

"I played a little bit more than I anticipated and I was a little rusty," he said. "I made it a little bit hard for us, but it's good and it will build a little bit of character. That catch is what's sticking in my mind a little bit."

RELATED: JETS BOOT PATRIOTS IN OT

TOE-RIFFIC: For the biggest regular-season game in his coaching career, Eric Mangini decided to ride the hot hand - or, in this case, the hot foot. A brilliant decision, as it turned out.

Mangini stuck with Jay Feely, who had a career game last week, and Feely delivered the game-winner in OT, a 34-yarder. Incumbent Mike Nugent, out for two months with a thigh injury, made the trip, but he was among the inactives.

SIXTH TIME'S A CHARM? Talk about poetic symmetry. The Jets scored a go-ahead TD with 3:10 left in regulation on a goal-line sequence eerily similar to the Week 2 goal-line fiasco in the loss to the Patriots.

Just like the last time, the Jets had a first down at the 3. Last time, Thomas Jones was stuffed three times. This time, he made it on the third try, although the Jets benefited greatly from two New England penalties. On the TD run, he plowed through a hole created by LG Alan Faneca.

"Redemption, huh?" RT Damien Woody said with a smile.

SUPER GRAB: WR Jerricho Cotchery made an amazing 46-yard catch, one-handed, falling backward. He pinned the ball against his helmet.

"I was pretty much inspired by David Tyree on that one," he said. "I was doing whatever I could to hold on to the ball."

ULTIMATE MOTIVATION: On Wedneday night at the team hotel, Mangini showed a tape of the 2007 Ultimate Fighting light-heavyweight title bout between Quinton (Rampage) Jackson and defending champ Chuck Liddell. The upstart Jackson stunned Liddell with a first-round TKO.

Mangini's message to the team: Young and hungry defeats the established champ.

"A lot of his motivational stuff ends up coming true," LB David Bowens said.

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