EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Geno Smith has watched the film several times and knows exactly where it all went wrong.
The New York Jets had a real chance to beat the New England Patriots in Week 2. It would have been huge for the rookie quarterback — a road win against a bitter rival in his second NFL start.
Then, it all fell apart.
“Twelve plays,” Smith said. “The final 12 plays of the game, in my opinion, are what changed it for us. We were right in it.”
Smith threw three interceptions in the fourth quarter, including one in the final moments that sealed the 13-10 win for the Patriots.
“I wasn’t seeing things as clearly as I’m seeing them now,” he said.
Smith and the Jets (3-3) will get another chance against the Patriots (5-1), this time at MetLife Stadium on Sunday.
“I’m sure it will be real competitive down there,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “and I think we’ll have to play better than we did the first time if we’re going to win.”
A week ago at this time, this was shaping up as a potential showdown for first place in the division. New York, though, played a dud of a game in losing to Pittsburgh 19-6. New England, meanwhile, knocked off previously unbeaten New Orleans as Tom Brady threw a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with 5 seconds left to win it 30-27.
“It’s like, `Oh, dude,”’ Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “That’s him. That really is him.”
Winning, after all, is commonplace for the Patriots. Especially in the AFC East.
New England has won six straight regular-season matchups against New York, and 12 straight overall against division opponents, the longest such streak in the NFL.
“We’ve lost some guys, dealt with some issues, like every other team,” Brady said. “We’re handling them OK. We’re 5-1. It’s a decent start. It doesn’t really get you anywhere at this point and I think we’re still looking to make improvements.”
Here are five things to watch as these two bitter division rivals meet for the second time this season:
BRADY’S BRILLIANCE: The Patriots’ win Sunday marked the 38th time Brady has led them to a victory from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie, so Ryan and the Jets know they can’t celebrate until the clock hits zero and they are in front.
His 28 comeback drives when trailing in the fourth quarter tie him with Brett Favre for fifth most in NFL history.
“It’s amazing, man, just to see him do it like that,” Patriots rookie wide receiver Aaron Dobson said.
RYAN’S HOPE: During his first season with the Jets in 2009, Ryan boldly declared that he didn’t come to New York to kiss Belichick’s rings. But so far, Ryan is 2-7 in the regular season against New England. Another loss Sunday would put the Jets’ chances to unseat the Patriots in serious jeopardy.
“To say that you’re going to model your franchise after them or whatever? Shoot, I’ll take their quarterback,” Ryan said. “We’ll see how many wins I’d have or whatever, or anybody else. ... Belichick and all those guys, absolutely we respect them, but we fear none of them. I can promise you that.”
GOOD GENO OR BAD GENO?: Smith’s rookie season has been a roller-coaster ride. He has shown flashes of brilliance, as he did two weeks ago at Atlanta with a turnover-free performance that included three touchdown passes. But, he has also had games like the one against the Patriots and last Sunday against the Steelers, when he was picked off twice.
WALKING WOUNDED: Both teams enter the game having lost key contributors to season-ending injuries.
New England placed linebacker Jerod Mayo, the team’s top tackler, on IR with a pectoral injury. He joins nose tackle Vince Wilfork on the list. Cornerback Aqib Talib (hip) was uncertain, as were wide receiver Danny Amendola and guard Dan Connolly, who suffered concussions last week. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who hasn’t played all season, was limited in practice early in the week.
New York lost running back Mike Goodson (knee) and wide receiver Clyde Gates (shoulder) for the season, prompting the Jets to take a chance on former Pro Bowl kick returner Josh Cribbs to provide a spark on offense and special teams.
CATCHING ON: Brady has mostly a new cast of receivers around him, but he is starting to get in sync with them.
The Patriots lost most of their top pass catchers from last year, but Thompkins and Dobson have been promising, as have Amendola — when healthy — and Austin Collie, the newest newcomer who made his first two catches on New England’s winning drive last week.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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