Jets wary of Pats’ success

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NEW YORK – The Jets’ upset over the Patriots two months ago in the Foxboro mud was a galvanizing, confidence-building win, according to many players. After seven consecutive losses to New England, they needed that badly.

But there may have been a downside to the emotional victory: They roused the beast – and the beast rarely gets caught napping twice in the same season by the same opponent, which might not bode well for the Jets in their wild-card showdown Sunday in Foxboro.

That explains why Laveranues Coles wasn’t too thrilled upon learning the Jets’ first-round opponent. He knows the history. Asked if the Jets could benefit from a positive carryover from the previous meeting, Coles replied without hesitation.

“No,” he said matter-of-factly. “New England is a totally different team in the playoffs because of the way they prepare and the experience they have. They’ve won three Super Bowls. They’re the team to beat.”

Fool Bill Belichick once, shame on him. Fool him twice . . . well, it doesn’t happen that often.

Since the Patriots began their run of dominance in 2001, the season they won the first of three Super Bowls, they’re 6-1 when they get another crack at a team that beat them earlier in the year. The lone blemish occurred last season, when they lost a rematch with the Broncos in the divisional playoffs. Both defeats, it should be noted, occurred in Denver.

The Patriots are likely to take a different approach with the Jets. Much like his former protege, Eric Mangini, Belichick isn’t opposed to reinventing his team on a weekly basis, depending on the opponent and the matchups.

Example: In the Week 2 win over the Jets, the Patriots threw a changeup, playing a 4-3 defensive front most of the game. In the rematch, they went back to the 3-4, which didn’t work particularly well. What’s it going to be this time?

Mangini, who was at Belichick’s side for those three Super Bowls and the 10-1 postseason record from 2001 to 2005, knows all too well that his former boss is going to cook up a different way to attack.

“There are definitely things you can take away from it – lessons from the first game, lessons from the second game – but their approach is very opponent-specific and it’s very game-specific,” Mangini said.

A lot has changed since the Week 10 meeting, starting with the field. After that loss, the Patriots replaced their chewed-up grass field with FieldTurf. They’re 3-0 on the new surface, allowing quarterback Tom Brady to improve to 22-1 on artificial turf.

Another difference: Defensive end Richard Seymour is healthy and fellow end Ty Warren is back in the lineup. Warren, the Patriots’ steadiest defensive lineman this season, missed the last meeting with a shoulder injury. It forced Seymour, hampered by a hyperextended elbow, to play out of position, on the left side.

The perennial Pro Bowler was so ineffective that he was actually benched for part of the game. For a change, the Jets ran the ball efficiently, with Kevan Barlow wading through the muck for 75 yards on 17 carries. That probably contributed to Seymour’s grumpy postgame mood, saying Belichick was outcoached by Mangini. Ouch.

Since then, the Patriots have gone 6-1, although they did endure a sloppy stretch in which they committed 11 turnovers in a three-game span. It fueled another chorus of criticism from the doomsayers, who claimed it was a harbinger of doom.

All they did was finish 12-4, ending the regular season with a three-game winning streak that included zero turnovers. The Patriots cleaned up nicely. Now they have the added incentive of trying to avenge a loss.

“They’ve been giving it to the Jets for a while,” Jerricho Cotchery said, “and their confidence level is very high because they’re the Patriots.”

HARRISON HURT: Patriots safety Rodney Harrison sprained his knee in the season finale and will miss two to four weeks, Boston-area papers reported Tuesday. . . . With Andre Dyson (sprained knee) expected to miss his second straight game, the Jets signed ex-Chiefs CB Alphonso Hodge on Tuesday to their practice squad, according to a league source. Hodge could be signed to the 53-man roster if necessary. They also auditioned Mike Rumph, a former first-round pick of the 49ers, but he wasn’t signed. David Barrett replaced Dyson last week in the starting lineup, but their depth is thin at the position.



(c) 2007, New York Daily News.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

AP-NY-01-03-07 1948EST

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