Call him crazy, but there's a part of Mike Pettine that relishes the shot at trying to match up with Tom Brady and the Patriots' high-flying offense.
"It’s a challenge and any coach that’s worth anything will love these opportunities to go against an offense like this," the Jets' defensive coordinator said this afternoon. "The nice thing about it is it makes it a lot more fun when you have the type of talent that we feel we have on the defensive side of the ball, particularly in the secondary. They are so driven by matchups, that they are the best at exploiting matchups, that Brady can scan the field and immediately find, ‘Ok, here’s where I’m going with it, here’s where we have an advantage.’
"They can trot out a lineup where they feel they have a potential mismatch at any one of them. That’s critical for us, to make sure if there is a weakness at a certain matchup, that we are a position to help that person out."
The Jets bottled up Brady in their stunning AFC Divisional win in January. He completed 29 of 45 but was sacked five times and was intercepted for the first time in 339 attempts. That performance gave the Jets a blueprint on how to contain the Super Bowl MVP quarterback, but Pettine knows they can't simply utilize it in its entirety again.
"The easy thing to say is, 'Well it worked the last time we played them and then just blow the dust off of that one and just use it,' " Pettine said. "There will certainly be elements from it, concepts of it, things that we learned from preparing for them three times last year and culminating in the divisional win. But I think that’s what makes them so good.
"I know there was more than a few days in Foxborough preparing – whether it was over the lockout or since the season started – for our defense, knowing that we had success against them in the playoff game. Again, it’s a challenge for us to make sure that we kind of forge ahead with some new things, but at the same time, not get away from what’s been successful against them in the past."
The Patriots boast the NFL's top offense, averaging 507 yards and 38.8 points per game. Brady has thrown for 1,553 yards through four games, the second-best total in league history. Kurt Warner tossed for 1,557 in 2000 as a mamber of the Rams.
Oh yeah, wide receiver Wes Welker has 40 receptions for 616 yards, easily tops in the league in both categories.
"You have to play the chess game with them and not allocate your resources the same way all the time and allow them to draw a bead on it," Pettine said. "There’s no team I think that’s better in the NFL figuring out your plan, making adjustments and then rolling up some yardage on you as the game goes along. That’s why the plan has to be deep and you have to have the ability to change by the series, change by the half because again, if you are giving them consistent looks, they’re too precise, they’re too good.
They're also more adept at running the ball lately. New England racked up 183 yards on the ground in their victory in Oakland on Sunday, with BenJarvus Green-Ellis (75 yards) and rookie Stevan Ridley (97 yards) each rushing for a score.
"Yeah, being two-dimensional, they were [tough] enough when they were one-dimensional," Pettine said. "Now, having the threat of running the football certainly presents a problem. As it’s been well-documented, the usual way we’ve played them is we’ve gone with smaller people and dared them to run and held up well enough in the run game to get them to throw it. And that’s probably a taller task this week. I don’t know if that plan will be able to hold up for the entire game.
"So our menu is a little fuller this week because they are a flavor of the week offense and it’s smart because it’s typically something you haven’t practiced against, you haven’t seen yet and it takes you a little while to figure it out. So we have to spend a lot of time on multiple things. We use the phrase, 'chasing ghosts' and sometimes you have to do that.
"You don’t really know what their formations are going to be, what their personnel groupings are going to be, and you might work against something all week and not see it, see something totally different. So you have to be very flexible in your approach when you play New England."