Patriots-Jets Preview

The New England Patriots may be dealing with a slew of injuries,

but their most important player is still healthy.

Tom Brady also tends to have few issues against the New York

Jets.

A week after engineering a stunning winning drive in the final

seconds, Brady will try to make things go a lot easier Sunday as he

tries to continue his dominance of the host Jets.

New England (5-1) leads the AFC East by 1 1/2 games over Miami

despite an injury report that’s grown to 10 players. Star

linebacker Jerod Mayo joined tackle Vince Wilfork on season-ending

injured reserve this week, while cornerback Aqib Talib’s hip injury

along with receiver Danny Amendola’s and guard Dan Connolly’s

concussions could keep them out Sunday.

The Patriots, though, will apparently have star tight end Rob

Gronkowski available, as his agent said he’s been cleared to make

his season debut after undergoing surgeries on his left forearm and

back.

“A lot of teams face challenges. It’s just really how you deal

with them,” Brady said. “We’ve lost some guys, dealt with some

issues, like every other team. We’re handling them OK. We’re 5-1.

It’s a decent start.”

Brady may have been less optimistic had he not engineered a

game-winning drive to help the Patriots rally past New Orleans

30-27 on Sunday. The two-time NFL MVP capped the eight-play,

70-yard drive in the final 73 seconds by hitting rookie Kenbrell

Thompkins with a precision, arcing pass in the corner of the end

zone with five seconds to play.

“We just knew that it was going to come down to the last

minute,” said Thompkins, who has four touchdowns in four games.

“Until that clock said all zeros on it, we were going to fight

until the finish.”

That’s not usually necessary against the Jets (3-3).

Brady has an 18-4 career regular-season record against New

England’s division rivals as a starter, leading the Patriots to

wins in each of the last six meetings after beating them 13-10 at

home in Week 2.

He’s completed 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,743 yards and 14

touchdowns with one interception and a 110.6 passer rating during

that winning streak. That includes a pair of victories at MetLife

Stadium as Brady connected on 44 of 66 passes for 652 yards and six

touchdowns while running for another and not getting reached for a

sack.

The Jets defense got to him once on Sept. 12, but it’s totaled

16 in four games since. That unit is fourth in total defense,

allowing 303.8 yards per game and has been particularly superb

against the run, ranking second while yielding an average of 75.7

yards.

“They’re all pretty big, physical guys,” said Brady, who went 19

of 39 for 185 yards and a TD in Week 2. “Got some really good

players over there, especially in the front. They’re a very good

defense.”

New York, though, is dealing with its own injuries, particularly

to the secondary. Cornerbacks Dee Milliner (hamstring) and Kyle

Wilson (concussion) were full participants in practice Friday, but

wide receiver Santonio Holmes (hamstring) is out this week.

The defense, however, couldn’t take much blame for last week’s

19-6 home loss to previously winless Pittsburgh, holding the

Steelers to 328 yards of offense while the Jets mustered a

season-low 267.

“Obviously, we have to get better,” coach Rex Ryan said, “and

that’s where our focus is going to be.”

They’ll need to since each of the Jets’ next three opponents are

current division leaders. After facing New England, New York visits

Cincinnati next week before hosting the Saints in Week 9 ahead of

its bye.

“I think we’ll get a better sense this week,” center Nick

Mangold said. “We’ve got a heck of a game coming up, a division

game. We’ve got to put some work in to get better. We’ve already

dropped one to them.”

Geno Smith’s worst performance of the season came in that

meeting. The rookie completed 15 of 35 passes for 214 yards with a

season-high three picks while being sacked four times.

He wasn’t much better last week, going 19 for 34 to amass 201

yards with two INTs after completing 80 percent of his passes with

three TDs in a 30-28 win at Atlanta six days earlier.

Smith has seven touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

“Although I am a rookie, I don’t tend to use that excuse as the

reason behind me making those mistakes,” Smith said. “I think

they’re just simple mistakes in a game and they’ve got to be

eliminated.”

Perhaps facing a banged-up Pats defense can help Smith rebound.

That unit has surrendered an average of 386.3 yards – 269.3 passing

– in its past three games.