There's always big hype when the Patriots are gearing up for a game against the Jets. But this week there is more than just the rivalry to assess, as the Pats announced yesterday the release of Albert Haynesworth.
Haynesworth was one of the more controversial and publicized traded players in the shortened 2011 offseason, and with just three tackles in six games played for the Patriots, one of the bigger busts as well.
In a cruel twist of fate, the Patriots also lose another safety; this time to injury. Serviceable strong safety Josh Barrett was placed on injury reserve for the season, further weakening an already demolished Patriots secondary.
Adding to the drama is the fact that the Patriots and Jets are both 5-3 in the standings, tied with the Buffalo Bills. The Patriots beat the Jets in their first meeting, but lost to the Bills. The Jets lost to the Patriots but won against the Bills. So New England certainly has a lot more riding on the game this week than just a win over their rival.
A win in the Meadowlands would put the Patriots a game and a half ahead of New York with the full season sweep. A loss puts an already struggling team behind the eight ball. The Patriots round out November with games against the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles; inconsistent teams that are both beatable but also dynamic and unpredictable.
As they do every Wednesday, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady stepped to the podium at Gillette Stadium to answer questions regarding the latest roster moves and plans for the game ahead on Sunday night.
Belichick opened his press conference by addressing the release of Haynesworth, revealing typically little about the specific events leading to the decision and quickly changing the subject to Josh Barret's IR status and looking forward to the Jets game.
"I'll just say on the Albert [Haynesworth] situation, I thought that both he and myself, speaking for the staff, we really tried to make it work," Belichick said. He had a few physical limitations to overcome when he got here but I thought he really tried to do what we asked him to do. We tried to work with him and in the end it just obviously didn't work out. The best thing we can do is just move on."
When pressed to ask about it again, he cut reporters off.
"That's really all I have to say about it. We'll talk about the guys that are here; we'll move onto the Jets."
Belichick was also asked about progress with Chad Ochocinco, and if he saw any improvement considering all the targets he got last week against the Giants.
"I mean, again, as I said at the beginning, I think everybody can do a better job. That includes everybody - it includes me, it includes all the coaches, it includes all the players. There's room for improvement for all of us... there's things that we're doing well - we just have to do more of it, we have to do it more consistently."
His comments seemed to be about as optimistic as they can coming from the mum head coach, as he also spoke highly of Kyle Love, and addressed the correlation between their turnover rate and wins and losses.
Tom Brady went on to answer questions about his interceptions issues in the last game and in this 2011 season, saying:
"Just decision making. I've just got to make better decisions, he explained. "Some teams have gotten their hands on some balls and tipped some balls. Every team does that...You throw the ball and they get their hand on it and make a play. It's just part of the game and part of football. You try to not have it happen as an offense; when it does, you just move on."
Brady also had some perhaps surprisingly encouraging things to say about Ochocinco's progress and how things might be starting to click between the two of them on the field.
He said of Chad, "... he's continued to do a great job in practice and his role that he's really carved out for himself. He's going to continue to be out there and hopefully make a bunch of plays for us. One of these days, it really is going to click for all of us and the offense is going to...You always just go back to the foundation that we built, which is based on hard work and getting out there and working your tail off."
Additionally, wide receiver Deion Branch contributed his thoughts on a conference call on Wednesday morning. He addressed the fear that doubt about the capabilities of the team have crept into the locker, saying:
"No doubts around here, and that's me being honest. We see in the film what we're doing wrong....Guys are still very enthusiastic about coming in, getting the gameplan for this week and getting out to practice and seeing what (is the) gameplan for this game to play the Jets. As far as the two losses, we looked at the film once we came in...We're all mad about the losses, but at the same time there are very coachable mistakes that were made during the course of the games, and hopefully we'll try to go out and eliminate those things so we don't go down that road again.
One thing is for certain; the Jets and the Patriots do not fear one another and are both confidence that they can put their best on the field on Sunday night. If Belichick means what he said regarding everyone improving, including the coaches, perhaps this week could serve as a boost after the past two demoralizing losses.