Belichick poised for ‘different’ foe

By Monique Walker
Globe Staff / January 10, 2011

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One of two regular-season losses for the Patriots this season came at the hands of the Jets. The worst loss of the Jets’ season came against the Patriots.

Despite the long history between the AFC East rivals, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said yesterday he doesn’t believe Sunday’s divisional playoff game between the teams can be predicted based on the past.

“I don’t think the last game, or even the first game, either one of those games is going to mean a whole lot,’’ Belichick said. “Both teams know each other well. We’re ready for a whole new week of preparation. Even though we’re familiar with them and they’re familiar with us, it feels like every time you play a team, games go a lot differently.

“We’re not expecting anything other than starting this game off and trying to do a better job than the Jets do.’’

This will be the first playoff meeting between the Jets and Patriots since Jan. 7, 2007, when New England defeated New York in the wild-card round, 37-16, in Foxborough. The Patriots split with the Jets that season. It was the only playoff meeting between the teams since Belichick began leading the Patriots.

The Jets defeated the Colts, 17-16, Saturday night to advance to the divisional round for the second consecutive season. The Jets relied on kicker Nick Folk’s 32-yard field goal in the final seconds to secure the victory. The back-and-forth battle had the attention of Belichick, who said he tuned in to watch.

“It was a terrific game,’’ he said.

The third meeting of the season will mean the end of the season for one team, which should trump any rivalry. The Patriots and Jets have split their regular-season meetings in four of the last five seasons.

“I think everyone knows what the importance of the game is,’’ Belichick said. “I don’t think it changes a whole lot. We all know this is a one-game season. They know it. We know it. Both teams prepare for it that way. Both teams will give it their best, and we’ll see what happens.’’

In Week 2, the Patriots were defeated by the Jets, 28-14, in East Rutherford, N.J. When the teams met up again Dec. 6, the “Monday Night Football’’ contest quickly became a dud as the Patriots walked off with a 45-3 victory. Belichick said he expects an improved team to arrive at Gillette Stadium Sunday.

“Obviously, they didn’t have a good night that night. But, they do a good job running the ball,’’ Belichick said. “They’ve got big-play receivers and tight ends. They do what they do on defense — a lot of man coverage and they’re pretty physical on the front line. [They’re] very good in the kicking game. Good return game — that was a big play for them [Saturday] night on the kickoff return after the Indianapolis field goal. They’re a solid team. Their record reflects that.’’

The week leading up to the game promises to be interesting with the free spirit of Jets coach Rex Ryan. Last week, he threw a jab at the Patriots. While praising Colts quarterback Peyton Manning’s film study, Ryan added that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady gets help from Belichick while watching film.

Belichick avoided that topic.

“I really don’t think a whole lot about stuff like that,’’ he said. “I just try to coach our team. I think you have to ask Rex or somebody else about that, whoever said it, whatever the context was, I don’t know. I’m worried about getting our team ready.’’

Now that the Patriots know their opponent, Belichick said the focus turns from self-evaluation to preparation.

“I think the most important thing is the week of preparation and how the teams prepare [for] Sunday,’’ Belichick said. “I think that’s what it really comes down to. I don’t think what happened last week or in some game in December or some game in September or some game in October, I don’t think that’s going to have too much bearing on it.

“I think what happens between now and kickoff and how the teams perform once the game starts, I think that’s what will decide the winner.’’

Monique Walker can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @monwalker

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