''Blame Shaun Ellis,'' Pace joked on Wednesday. ''If Shaun didn't get that hit on the sideline, they might have somebody else at quarterback. But things happen like that sometimes.''
Actually, it was Mo Lewis who slammed into Drew Bledsoe's chest during a game in 2001 and injured the Patriots quarterback. In came Brady - and the rest is NFL history.
''Was that Mo Lewis?'' Pace said when corrected by a reporter. ''I'm sorry. Yeah, Mo Lewis.
''So, blame Mo Lewis.''
Lewis actually will be in attendance Sunday at MetLife Stadium when the Jets and Patriots square off.
The former Jets linebacker, who hasn't been in the public eye much since his retirement after the 2003 season, will serve as the team's ''pilot of the game'' - and maybe have a chance to reverse all that bad karma when he goes to midfield for the pregame coin toss as the honorary captain.
Brady is 22-6 against the Jets, including 1-1 in the playoffs, as a starter with 42 touchdown passes and just 13 interceptions. The Patriots have also won nine of the past 10 matchups.
There's plenty at stake in this one, with the Patriots (12-2) looking to secure home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs and the Jets (9-5) trying to keep place in the postseason hunt.
''It's a big game because it's the next game,'' Pace said. ''You want to be playing significant games in December. We've done a good job of putting ourselves in position to do that. Now, it's just about capitalizing.''
In the past, Jets-Patriots included lots of hype through the week, especially during the six seasons Rex Ryan was coach. This year under the low-key Todd Bowles, hardly a peep for New England to use as bulletin-board material.
''There's not a lot of talking like there has been in previous years,'' Pace said. ''It's just: Go out and handle your business like you're supposed to.''
Brady has made a career of that with the Patriots, leading them to four Super Bowl titles. New England has also won the AFC East 12 times since Brady became the full-time starter in 2002, including each of the past seven seasons.
The Patriots quarterback isn't slowing down, either, even at age 38. Brady is having one of his best statistical seasons while passing for 4,405 yards with 35 touchdowns and just six interceptions and a 103.8 quarterback rating. That has Pace thinking Brady will keep playing for a while longer.
''Probably another 10 years, to be honest,'' Pace said. ''I don't see that guy retiring any time soon, and he shouldn't. He's done a great job for a long time.''
With Christmas coming, Pace had one suggestion for the wish list of all Jets fans.
''Hopefully, he gets traded at some point in time,'' he joked. ''Trade him to the NFC somewhere. He's done it well and done it at a high level for a long time.''
Under Ryan, the Jets were 4-10 against Brady and the Patriots, including a playoff win at New England during the 2010 season. New York is 1-4 during the past five meetings, but each of those games was decided by seven points or fewer.
''The thing about playing them is, I think they bring the best out of us,'' Pace said. ''You've got to be on point when you play them. If not, it's going to be a lopsided score.''
The Jets held a fourth-quarter lead in October when the teams played the first time this season. But Brady led a late go-ahead drive and New York blew some late opportunities to get the tying score before falling 30-23.
A slump followed with the Jets dropping three of their next four games. But they've bounced back in a big way with their first four-game winning streak since 2010.
''I'd love to be up by 20 in the fourth quarter,'' Pace said. ''But if that's not the case, it's probably going to come down to No. 12 (Brady). It starts with him. Just find a way to get back there and get some sacks, find a way to get some turnovers. If nothing else, just get a hand in his face and hits on him. I think those things add up.
''It's going to be a tall task, but one I think that we're up for the challenge.''
NOTES: Backup QB Geno Smith (illness) and CB Dee Milliner (hamstring) didn't practice. Pace (abdomen), LB David Harris (back), WR Quincy Enunwa (neck) and TE Kellen Davis (back) were limited. ... Bowles on whether New England is the envy of the AFC East: ''I think that's a fan question. I'm trying to get our own team off the ground, so I don't worry about the envy or anything else like that.''
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