(SportsNetwork.com) – Short weeks have always been kind to Tom Brady and
the veteran quarterback will attempt to continue that trend when he and the
New England Patriots kick off Week 7 of the NFL season by hosting the New York
Jets in an AFC East matchup at Gillette Stadium.
Brady has compiled a 6-0 record as a starting quarterback on Thursday games
since 2002, including a 2-0 mark against the Jets. His 1,700 passing yards on
short weeks rank third in the AFC and his 13 touchdown passes are second in
the conference during that span. Brady has also passed for at least two
touchdowns in four of his six Thursday starts.
This time, he and the Pats will be aiming for their second consecutive victory
against a divisional opponent after a 37-22 win at Buffalo last weekend put
them on top of the division at 4-2.
Brady passed for a season-high 361 yards and four touchdowns against the
Bills, including a pair of scores to Brandon LaFell in the fourth quarter.
It was his 11th career game with at least 350 passing yards and four or more
touchdown passes, surpassing Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the third-most such
games in history. It was also a stark contrast this season for Brady, who has
been hampered by an ankle injury. Coming in to the Week 6 game, the three-time
Super Bowl winner had thrown only six touchdown passes through the first five
games of the season.
The Patriots scored on five straight possessions at one point, however, and
beat the Bills for the 21st time in the last 22 meetings. Rob Gronkowski had
94 yards on seven receptions, while Julian Edelman caught nine passes for 91
“It was a good win for us and I thought all three phases of our team
contributed,” New England head coach Bill Belichick. “Were able to move on to
the Jets here quickly, and we need to do that. We have to really put our foot
on the gas pedal and open it up full throttle and get into the Jets”
Belichick may be overstating things a bit because the Jets have been one of
the worst teams in football over the first six weeks, amassing just one
win behind struggling second-year signal caller Geno Smith.
The latest New York setback came against Denver last weekend when Peyton
Manning tossed three touchdown passes, inching him closer to Brett Favre’s
all-time record of 508, as the Denver Broncos held off New York, 31-17.
The Jets fought back from a 24-7 third-quarter deficit and had a chance for a
game-tying score following a Denver punt. Smith had only 56 seconds to work
with and no timeouts and quickly imploded, tossing an interception to Aqib
Talib, who returned it 22 yards for a score to seal things.
Smith finished 23-of-43 for 190 yards with two touchdowns and the interception
while rookie second-round tight end Jace Amaro hauled in 10 balls for 68 yards
and a TD for New York, which has dropped five straight since a Week 1 win
Eric Decker recorded six receptions for 54 yards and a touchdown against his
former team in defeat.
“It’s not as easy as one man, one position. We just have to find answers as a
team,” New York head coach Rex Ryan said.
“Obviously, we are frustrated. Five losses in a row has everyone frustrated,”
Smith added. “But we’re optimistic. We’re always looking forward, and just
have to prepare for this week. We’ve got a short week against a tough New
England team on the road. It’s another test. We better be able to step up to
New England holds a 54-52-1 edge in the all-time series, winning six of the
last seven encounters. This will mark the third consecutive season and the
fourth time in seven seasons that the Pats and Jets will play on Thursday. Two
of the previous three Thursday night matchups between the teams have been
decided by three points.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Not much is trending in the Jets direction here save for the fact that the
embattled Ryan has always circled New England on the schedule and tends to
have his charges ready for these games above all others.
It’s pretty clear that Ryan is going down with a Smith-piloted ship even
though he does have Michael Vick in reserve.
“I think Geno is the best way to go right now,” Ryan said. “That’s why I’m
comfortable saying he will be our starter.”
That’s hard to believe because Smith has completed only 57.1 percent of his
passes and thrown six touchdowns and seven interceptions for an NFL-low 69.7
Whether sticking with Smith is a direct order from general manager John Idzik
or purely a Ryan decision can be debated but that’s material to look back upon
once the eulogy of the Ryan era in New York is written.
With Smith at the helm it’s almost imperative that the Jets get the running
game going because the shaky West Virginia product is simply not going to
succeed without the ability to use play-action.
“We’re built to run,” Ryan said. “I think we’ve just got to stay the course
with it and see what happens.”
Since Ryan became head coach in 2009, the Jets have rushed for more yards
(1,367) against the Patriots than any other team and will head into Thursday
night’s contest with the fifth-most rushing yards in the AFC (727) behind the
running back tandem of Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson.
Ivory leads New York with 325 rushing yards and two touchdowns and ran for 104
yards in the Jets’ 30-27 overtime win against the Patriots last season.
Johnson, who is second on the team with 200 rushing yards, is second in NFL
with 8,165 rush yards since entering the league in 2008.
Mucking up the plan will be the season-ending knee injury to starting guard
Brian Winters but New England suffered its own blow, losing middle linebacker
Jerod Mayo, the team’s leading tackler, to a season-ending leg injury.
Injuries will also affect things when the Pats have the ball, New England
running back Stevan Ridley, who leads his club with 340 rushing yards, was
lost for the year against the Bills with a torn ACL, while the Jets are facing
life without starting corner Dee Milliner, who went down with a torn
“It’s hard to replace. There are no swaps,” Brady said of his team’s injuries.
“There’s no, ‘Let’s move this guy into that role,’ because guys like Jerod and
Stevan play such a big role. I think the rest of the group has to pick it up
and understand the things that they brought to the table that we need to
continue to bring. Everyone just has to do more.”
Doing more in this instance for Brady will be big backs Brandon Bolden and
“They’re big, physical runners,” Brady said. “They have some explosiveness to
them. They run hard.”
After a slow start to his 2014 season Brady himself has picked it up over the
past two games, completing 50-of-72 passes for 653 yards with six TDs and no
interceptions against Cincinnati and the Bills.
The uptick in production has been tied to the re-emergence of the tight end in
New England’s offense, specifically Gronkowski, who has 13 receptions for 194
yards over the past two games, and Tim Wright.
Brady’s history on Thursday nights says the Patriots are coming out on top but
Ryan usually has the Jets competing very hard against their biggest rival.
“My message is pretty simple: Hey, we might be counted out, (but) we’re not
dead,” Ryan said. “We are going to fight our tails off.”
The final score of this one could be indicative of whether or not Ryan has
lost his team. If New York keeps it close, the players are still fighting
those tails off and believe in Ryan’s bravado. If not, Rex’s shelf life in
Gotham has expired.
“I hope we get to 7-0 by Friday morning,” Brady said, referring to his perfect
Thursday record. “That would be pretty sweet. That’s the goal.”
Sports Network predicted outcome: Patriots 27, Jets 17