FOXBOROUGH — Conventional thought suggests the Patriots should dismantle the Jets with ease whenever the two face. New England long ago established its superiority in the AFC East, making a mockery of the division’s other three teams.
Why would the lowly Gang Green pose a problem for the freight train from Foxborough?
Numbers reveal a hazier tale as the Patriots prepare to play New York this Sunday at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
It’s been six years since the Patriots enjoyed a breezy victory in the Jets’ home quarters, clobbering New York, 49-19, on Nov. 22, 2012. Since then the rivals have met five times in New Jersey, each contest falling directly into a bin labeled “nail-biters.”
In those five games at MetLife Stadium, New England is 3-2with a plus-4 point differential. All five were decided by a single possession, with both of New York’s wins necessitating overtime. Last year New England overcame a 14-0 first half deficit, prevailing, 24-17.
In the eyes of many Patriots, there’s something oh-so disagreeable about the water in the Meadowlands.
“It’s always tough down there with the Jets,” coach Bill Belichick said. “I’m sure it will be again this time.”
“It’s going to be a great atmosphere,” added Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore. “It’s always hard playing down there against a division team, so we’ve got to be ready to go.”
It’s been everything but peaches and cream for New England away from home in 2018. Undefeated at Gillette Stadium, the Patriots have lost three of five on the road. This represents a 180 of sorts from 2017, when New England rode a stellar 7-1 road record to a 13-3 overall mark.
One impetus for the decline in performance has been New England’s sloppiness out of the gate. In all three road defeats, the Patriots were saddled with double-digit first-half deficits. New England fell behind, 14-0, after one quarter in Jacksonville and 13-0 late in the second quarter at Detroit.
“As the record shows, we didn’t show up well many times on the away games,” defensive end Trey Flowers said. “We know we have to come with a type of energy and match the energy of the opponent.”
Flowers went even further diagnosing New England’s road tribulations, illustrating a blueprint that could help the Patriots notch their first stress-free win at MetLife in years.
“Not getting off the field on third down, not stopping the run, not being physical — little [things] like that hindered us on the road,” Flowers said. “I feel as though, us bringing the energy, that’s the hardest thing going on the road. Other team got their crowd and a whole lot of things going for them. We just have to be able to match that intensity.”
Old friends catch up
Gilmore and Red Sox center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr., who attended the University of South Carolina together, reacquainted Saturday as the Gamecock football team dispensed of Chattanooga at home.
The two had much to catch up on, namely Bradley’s torrid run through the postseason, which ended with Boston claiming the World Series trophy.
Gilmore understands firsthand the physical strain implicit in a deep postseason charge. He and the rest of the Patriots set off on a long recuperation process the minute confetti began to rain down upon the Philadelphia Eagles following their Super Bowl LII victory in February.
But football and baseball are dramatically different beasts.
“I did ask him if he was sore,” Gilmore said. “He was like, ‘No.’ I’m like, ‘Bro, you’re not sore?’ ”
Indignation over baseball’s carefree ways aside, Gilmore and Bradley had a blast shooting the breeze. Gilmore wasn’t aware that Bradley would be present when he traveled to South Carolina on New England’s bye week. When he heard through an acquaintance that Bradley was in attendance, Gilmore shot his pal a text.
“It was great,” Gilmore said. “Great player [and] a great person, so it was fun catching up.’’
Running back Rex Burkhead, who has been on injured reserve with a neck injury since Week 3 and is eligible to return Dec. 2 against the Vikings, was a late arrival to Tuesday’s rainy practice session. Burkhead had a good excuse for his tardiness: the birth of his son . . . Tight end Dwayne Allen was the lone absence at practice. He is expected to miss a few weeks following a knee injury suffered against the Titans Nov. 11 . . . Tight end Rob Gronkowski (ankle/back), right guard Shaq Mason (calf), and running back Sony Michel (knee) were present and are expected to play against the Jets . . . Gilmore said that, despite its unhealthy qualities, macaroni and cheese is his favorite Thanksgiving dish.
Owen Pence can be reached at email@example.com.