Patriots must gear up for Jets' running game
''This team wants to run the ball. They let you know the want to run the ball, that's their motto, that's what they stand for,'' Patriots nose tackle Vince Wilfork said Thursday. ''You talk about teams being able to establish the front lines, the first team you can think about is the Jets - on both sides of the ball, not just offensively.
''We understand what they want to do.''
Despite a 3-11 record, the Jets are second in the NFL in rushing. Back on Oct. 16, the first times the teams played, the Jets ran for 218 yards in a 27-25 loss. That was before they added wide receiver Percy Harvin and his receiving/rushing talents to the mix.
''They do a real good job, especially up front,'' said Wilfork, who faces yet another battle with center Nick Mangold and his pals. ''Those guys are physical and tough. They have different weapons. It seems like they have about 10 backs that come in that run the ball for them. The quarterback position (Geno Smith or Michael Vick), Percy coming over, having (Chris) Ivory, (Chris) Johnson, I mean, you name it, (Bilal) Powell. . They're a threat, so we know how important it is for us to do a real good job, which the first time we didn't do.''
The Jets have averaged 147.1 yards per game on the ground, while the Patriots have yielded 103.5 yards per. Ivory (six touchdowns) and Johnson (one) have combined for 1,352 ground yards, while Smith has added 211 and Harvin 109 on 20 carries.
''When they run the ball well and have success at it, it keeps you on the field longer,'' said linebacker Akeem Ayers. ''It can tire teams out. They're good. They run the ball, they run the ball hard - they just have a lot of success at running the ball. Their linemen are good up front, the running backs are good at finding the hole, they can get a lot of big runs.
''Percy Harvin is just like a running back as well. He can do everything a running back can do and he has that speed to really break some big runs.''
Sometimes New York will hit opponents with the wildcat, with a direct snap to any number of people.
''If it's one particular player that just runs the wildcat you can kind of dial in and be alert for that particular guy in that alignment,'' says New England defensive coordinator Matt Patricia. ''They've used just about everybody there. They'll all be back there at some point, whether it's Chris Johnson, Ivory, Powell or (receiver Jeremy) Kerley. All of them have been able to be in that position and to run that offense.''
All this, Wilfork says, makes the record a bit misleading. And divisional games are always extra gritty.
The Jets have six losses by eight points or less, one in overtime, and should be fired up for what seems to be Rex Ryan's final home game as coach.
''It's nothing (about records),'' said Wilfork. ''When you play a division opponent, it's always a tough game, just because we know each other so well. We can't get caught up in any records; we know they're going to play hard.
''So we have to do a real good job of going in there and being at our best, because if we don't we'll be in trouble.''
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