FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Here are the four things you really, really need to know about the Jets following Thursady's practice …
"When he started looking for the rush when there was no rush. When he thought after a certain amount of time, he was fidgeting. I give Ben Roethlisberger a lot of credit, he's man enough to stay in the pocket, look in the barrel of the gun and take the hit. Most quarterbacks don't like getting hit. When they get hit, they turn into a totally different person."
-- Bart Scott, asked after January's playoff win when he knew the Jets had Tom Brady confused
If you believe that Tom Brady's 2010 season was ultimately not defined by his historic 36/4 TD-INT ratio, 3,900 yards passing, 111.0 passer rating or second MVP award, but rather by his shaky performance in the playoff loss to the Jets, then you probably think his absurdly fast start to the 2011 season (on pace to throw for 6,212 yards -- a passer rating again at 111.3) has been plenty fun to watch but means almost nothing.
Look, that's probably not a reasonable level of expectation, but that's life when you have three Super Bowls and rank somewhere among the top two or three in history at the position in sports most judged by how many titles you have won. (Put it another way: How many TD passes did Brady throw in 2001? 2003? How about 2004?) The last game Brady plays every season will mean more than all the others before combined.
And when you look at Brady's numbers in the Jets game -- 29-for-45, 299 yards, two TDs and one INT -- they don't come close to accurately measuring just how confused he was for virtually the entire contest. How many times did we see an indecisive Brady in the pocket, taking forever to make a play before finally throwing behind or over an intended receiver (or one who never knew a pass was coming)? Scott's postgame comments were absolutely dead-on -- Brady heard footsteps that sometimes weren't there. He made more bad decisions in 60 minutes than he had in the previous eight games. The one interception was a perfect example -- some pressure from Calvin Pace was just enough for Brady to badly overthrow BenJarvus Green-Ellis.
“He was skittish,” Jets defensive lineman Trevor Pryce (now gone) said of Brady. “I’ve never seen him like that. In the first half, he was terrified.”
So now the Jets get Brady again, and once again they get a Brady playing at a level very rarely seen in NFL history. And once again, the Patriots will be significant favorites and the Jets will enter Foxboro a flawed team with problems on both lines, a banged-up quarterback and a locker room that seems a loss (maybe two) away from turing into the tabloid equivalent of a wet dream for the headline writers at the New York Post.
But while the Jets haven't been exempt from a brilliant Brady -- he was 21-of-29 for 326 yards, four touchdowns and zero INTs in the 45-3 win last December -- the truth is this: There is only one team in the NFL that can claim they have at least come close to cracking the Brady Code.
In 2010, Brady threw 537 passes (including playoffs) with five interceptions. Three of those five picks came against the Jets (in 110 pass attempts). And the Patriots lost three games in 2010 -- two were to the Jets (hard to believe that Mark Sanchez -- with a 71.0 career passer rating -- has a winning record against Brady).
"We study well, critiquing Tom trying to see his strengths and his weaknesses," Darrelle Revis said. "I think that's the best thing we can do. We tried to rattle him in the playoff game and we did. We got him uncomfortable back there and that's what people say about Tom is try to rattle him and get him moving in the pocket."
Forget the Jets offensive line, or the Patriots secondary, the health of Aaron Hernandez or Nick Mangold, The World According to Antonio Cromartie or any of the other admittedly intriguing subplots. If the Jets can't do to Brady what they've been able to do to him three times over the last two-plus years -- the combination of pressure and confusion -- they will give up 30 or more points and probably lose.
"It's really a team deal, you want to put him in situations where maybe he's more careful with the ball than he has to be," said Jets coach Rex Ryan about trying to slow down Brady on Thursday. "If you play standard defense against him you've got no chance. I mean zero. I mean you better hope for a hurricane or something, because that would be your only chance. And, quite honestly, I've been on the sideline wishing for a hurricane. He's that good, he's that kind of guy. He's as good as it gets right now."
How much stock do you put in a quality practice? Think 90 minutes of solid work on a Thursday afternoon might translate into, well, anything 76 hours later? Rex Ryan -- who has been critical of his team's performance in practice all season -- sure hopes so.
"Today might have been the best practice we've had all year, so we were really encouraged by that," Ryan said at the start of his press conference. "Great practice today, you know I tell it the way it is. Last week we had a very poor practice with our offense and had a really poor game. We looked sharp out there today, great communication, very, very few mental mistakes. We just looked crisp."
Plaxico Burress, as has been mentioned this week, made a pretty significant catch in his last play on offense against the Patriots. Ryan was asked if he anticipates much single-coverage against Burress on Sunday.
"We will sign up for that exact play," Ryan said. "I'm good with that, hadn't thought about it. I hope we have some of those plays in. But he is a matchup nightmare because of his size and catching radius. Hopefully we'll get some opportunities. Clearly he's a tough matchup for every corner in this league."
Hey, Derrick Mason, Bill Belichick told you to "shut the f--- up" and dropped twin "f--k you's" on the sideline during a Patriots-Ravens game in 2009. No problem, stuff happens ... except it was captured by NFL Films and shown on the recent documentary "Bill Belichick: A Football Life." Any thoughts?
"I don't know, I really don't know," said Mason, who said he still hadn't watched the documentary and had "no idea" that the footage was going to be shown. "I enjoy having fun with the coach of the opposing team, I enjoy it. Always have. It never turns into anything else. It [having the coach drop an F-Bomb buffet] never happened before. Never. And I probably caught him at a bad time, at the moment. It came out wrong, I don't know. It's football, I respect him as a coach. My relationship with him has always been really good, highly completive."
Mason said he has talked "numerous times" with Belichick since and things are swell (my word, not his). The 15-year veteran mentioned that his agent had some contact with the Patriots during the brief offseason, but it never got past the preliminary stage.