FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) – The New England Patriots can look across the line of scrimmage today to see how bad their season might have been if their many injuries in the secondary were at another position.

Brooks Bollinger will play quarterback for the New York Jets after beginning the season as a third-stringer. The Patriots still have two-time Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady.

“That would be so tough” to do well with a No. 3 quarterback, Brady said. “There is a leadership that comes with playing quarterback and it is hard to establish yourself as a leader if you are not really in there.”

Bollinger is playing because Chad Pennington and Jay Fiedler are on injured reserve and Vinny Testaverde, signed during the season, has a sore calf and ankle. The Jets are 2-9 with a six-game losing streak, even though Bollinger played well last Sunday in a 21-19 loss to New Orleans. A week earlier, Kliff Kingsbury played after Bollinger suffered a concussion.

The Patriots are just 6-5 after winning the last two Super Bowls. But they lead the weak AFC East by two games despite having six defensive backs on injured reserve, the second straight season they’ve been depleted at those spots.

“They stocked up on some positions where they felt they got hurt last year and, lo and behold, they got hurt again. It is like us,” Jets coach Herman Edwards said. “I never imagined in my career, and I have been in the league 26 years playing and coaching, that I would have the fifth quarterback playing in the game.”

Brady is coming off his worst game of the season, a 26-16 loss at Kansas City in which he matched his career high with four interceptions. But there’s no doubt the Patriots are much better at quarterback than the Jets or that Brady’s role becomes more important with so many teammates sidelined.

“As a veteran player on this team and a captain, I’m expected to have a little more responsibility,” he said.

For the first time, he’ll face cornerback Ty Law, who spent his other 10 seasons with the Patriots. And the Jets have a solid defense.

“I’ve been here (in New York) a long time now so it’s just like another game to me,” Law said. “I don’t know how I’m going to feel once I get to the stadium.”

The Jets have 10 players on injured reserve and the Patriots have nine. Both teams are missing key offensive linemen. For New England, center Dan Koppen is out for the season and left tackle Matt Light hasn’t played since being hurt in the third game. For New York, center Kevin Mawae and tackle Jason Fabini are on injured reserve.

“I don’t like to make excuses, but some things are a reality,” Jets running back Curtis Martin said, “and when you take away 15 of your very good players, many of them starters, it’s going to make a difference. I don’t care what team it is.”

A good game by Martin, the fourth leading rusher in NFL history, would take pressure off Bollinger. So would another bad game by the Patriots’ defense, the second worst in the league after allowing 400 yards or more in seven of the last eight games.

“People have tried to throw some different looks at him, as New Orleans did,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said. “I think he handles it well. He’s accurate, he can make all the throws.”

And, like Brady, he’s a sixth-round draft choice from the Big Ten.

“He set the bar pretty high for a sixth-rounder,” Bollinger said.

Brady, from Michigan, also got his chance because of an injury. Drew Bledsoe suffered a serious chest injury when he was hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis and sat out the rest of the 2001 regular season. Brady, in his second season, went on to become the MVP of the Super Bowl.

Bollinger was drafted in 2003 out of Wisconsin, didn’t play as a rookie and threw nine passes last year. This season, he’s completed 71 of 122 passes for 724 yards in six games, with losses in all four starts.

“It was always tough playing Wisconsin,” Brady said. “He moves well. He runs well. He throws well. He has a good command out there.”

Last Sunday, Bollinger was 19-for-28 for 251 yards, all career highs, and the Jets had no turnovers. They even had a chance to beat the Saints, but Mike Nugent, who kicked four field goals in the game, missed a 53-yarder with 15 seconds left.

“We did some things well,” Bollinger said, “but it’s easy to see that there’s a lot left.”

The Patriots were badly outplayed in Kansas City, but injured running backs Corey Dillon and Kevin Faulk could be back.

Their quarterback probably will be a bigger factor.

“When you lose games and you don’t play very well, you just have to realize that there’s another day,” Brady said. “You just have to make sure one bad day doesn’t turn into two bad days.”

AP-ES-12-01-05 2019EST

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