FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots turned their season around in plenty of time.
It’s probably too late for the New York Jets, especially if they drop their sixth straight game when they visit the heavily favored Patriots on Thursday night.
“We’re desperate, to say the least,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said.
The Patriots (4-2) quickly recovered from their low point, a 41-14 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that unleashed speculation quarterback Tom Brady was slipping and coach Bill Belichick’s genius was fading.
Unlike the Jets (1-5), that slide lasted just one week. A 43-17 rout of the NFL’s last unbeaten team, the Cincinnati Bengals, took care of that. And they followed it with a 37-22 road win over the Buffalo Bills.
“We’ll have to keep perspective,” Brady said, “not ride the highs and lows, because there’s a lot of them.”
The Patriots had just five offensive touchdowns in a stretch of 14 quarters, then scored seven in the last eight. Against Buffalo, Brady had his best game of the season with 361 yards passing, four touchdown passes and completions to 10 receivers.
Ryan certainly didn’t believe the criticism of the two-time MVP.
“That was hysterical,” he said. “You know what I mean? It’s like, ‘Yeah, really? OK.’ I mean, come on.”
Now if he could only brush off criticism of his own quarterback so easily.
Geno Smith is last in passer rating in the league and was replaced in the fifth game by Michael Vick, who said he wasn’t prepared. Smith started Sunday’s 31-17 loss to the Denver Broncos, and Ryan is sticking with him against the Patriots.
“We have an opportunity here to kind of right the ship with our first division game,” Smith said. “There is a shot. It’s definitely one that’s a stretch, but as long as we’ve got a shot, we’ve got an opportunity.”
The first-place Patriots have a big edge over their last-place AFC East rival.
Brady has won 40 consecutive regular-season home games against AFC opponents and is 6-0 in Thursday night games. And a New England defense that has allowed the fifth-fewest yards in the NFL goes against an offense that has gained the third fewest.
The Jets rushed for just 31 yards against Denver, but the Patriots are wary of the potential of running backs Chris Ivory and Chris Johnson.
“They’re a big part of their offense,” Patriots safety Devin McCourty said, not necessarily a good thing considering how the offense has struggled. “When you have two guys like that, it makes it tough to stop the running game.”