Even with Brady sidelined, Jets still can't solve Pats puzzle

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Brett Favre has a fondness for crossword puzzles. He and his coaches devised a way to use them to help the quarterback's learning curve in the Jets' offense.

After the Patriots squashed the Jets 19-10 at Giants Stadium on Sunday, Favre has a new crossword entry and answer:

Hey, Brett, when silver is mixed with green in an AFC East game, what letter best describes the result?

"L."

As in laugher for the Patriots. As in loss for the Jets, eight straight now to the Patriots in this place. Overall, 11 of the last 12 vs. the Patriots have wound up losses for the Jets.

This one was particularly aggravating for the Jets.

They too often were hesitant. Too trepid. They played like they owned the most talented roster from top to bottom and would win out over 60 minutes.

It started with the game's opening drive, the clear point in the game where the Jets made the Patriots look off-kilter and a step behind. The Jets with creativity and precision moved the ball from their 20 to the New England 17. On third-and-8, Favre scrambled. He slid. Had he dived, he would have easily gained the first down. But he slid, playing it safe, and settled for a 4-yard run. Then the Jets missed a 31-yard field goal.

The Patriots took over, drove 76 yards and converted a 21-yard field goal.

And in a game that the Jets would never lead, that set the temperament for everything that followed.

Jets off-balance. Jets one step behind. Jets losing the matchup game.

It was clear on Wes Welker's slip screens that killed the Jets. Clear on Adalius Thomas' late fourth-quarter rush where the Jets were forced to block him with running back Leon Washington. Washington is 5-foot-8, 202 pounds. Thomas is 4 inches taller and 68 pounds heavier. Thomas just rag-dolled Washington and Favre, simultaneously, in the backfield for a 20-yard sack to the Jets' 7. On the next play, the Jets slid their tackle wider and used a double-team to handle Thomas. Again, one play too late.

And it was clear the Jets were totally out of sorts on a fourth-and-3 defensive call just inside two minutes left when Welker once again bit them with a 5-yard catch through the heart of the defense. The Patriots then ran out the clock.

On that play for the Jets, "L" stood for lousy.

"Wow, I learned real quick this game right here, it's serious," said Patriots cornerback Deltha O'Neal, who joined the team 13 days ago as a free agent from Cincinnati. "It's heated. There is some real purpose in these games. It's emotional. This rivalry for Boston is like Red Sox-Yankees. And these fans here today, they reminded me of being in the Black Hole at the Raiders' home. These fans were pretty pumped and nasty today. So, you can imagine, this was an important and satisfying win for us."

Much more than simply reaching 2-0 for the Patriots.

More than showing they are a team that can win big without Tom Brady but with Matt Cassel directing things.

After all, these are the Jets who, in the Patriots' minds, instigated the video-taping scandal and swiped Curtis Martin and coach Eric Mangini. The Jets who with Favre would give New England comeuppance. And with no Brady, injured and out for the year? The Jets could not wait for this shot.

But they shriveled in the moment.

Cassel did a nice job of making the plays he was required to convert and leaning on his teammates to do the rest.

And this was just the type of game that Bill Belichick prepares his team to win. He told them all week, each individual man, do your job. Belichick believed if he could get each of his players to do that, he had the better and deeper roster. That he could dominate special teams. At this juncture in the season, he was proved right.

"They really out-executed us," Washington said, recalling his tough time in pass protection vs. Thomas, among other headaches. "I have blocked him before, you know. Not much. And definitely not very good today. And if you don't execute against that team, you have a real problem."

With Brady, the Pats have mangled the Jets.

Without him, they simply mesmerized them in execution and in exploiting pivotal, singular matchups.

What a pleasurable way for the Patriots to win their 21st consecutive regular-season game. To win it against, in their view, the insufferable Jets.

"It just comes down to playing football," Cassel said rather matter-of-factly, exactly the way he played.

"You know," said Patriots dependable defensive end Richard Seymour, "there are a lot of different ways to skin a cat. We have been winning football games around here for a long time. You know, we can win with our defense. We took a team with a new, great quarterback and held them to 10 points today. That's something we feel really good about."

Jets receiver Laveranues Coles said afterward that it's only one game. That the Jets expected to win but did not. That the Jets season does not hinge on one game.

He is right -- in part.

It was one more Jets game, however, in a string of them vs. the Patriots that ended in "L."

The Jets are not a puzzle to the Patriots.

New England figured out the answers a long time ago.

"It feels good," Thomas said as he walked out of the Patriots' locker room, recalling his two-for-one play on Washington and Favre and the Patriots encompassing command. "So many people counted us out without Tom. We know how to rally around each other. We know how to play our game."

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