By Rich Levine
FOXBORO The last time the Patriots and Jets met, it really wasn't much of a meeting.
Led by Tom Brady's 310 passing yards, Wes Welker's 15 catches for 192 yards, and, yes, Laurence Maroney's 77 yards rushing to go with two touchdowns, the Pats' offense made somewhat easy work of the vaunted Jets D on their way to a 31-14 win.
Before practice on Thursday, that game was, predictably, a topic of conversation in the New England locker room. And just as predictably, the Pats were quick to write off the possibility of that prior success having any effect on what happens this Sunday at the Meadowlands.
"Sometimes you have one of those days where you're able to just get into a zone and make some plays," Welker said of last season's dominating performance, "and I'm sure they're gonna be coming up with something to take that away this time around."
"This is a different team," said Julian Edelman, who had three catches for 26 yards last time the two team met. "They drafted a new corner, and they're going to have different schemes, probably, so we're just out there preparing our best and doing whatever we can."
Perhaps the bigger story than the new corner the Jets drafted (Kyle Wilson, out of Boise State), is the one who they traded for former All-Pro Antonio Cromartie.
Cromartie, who measures at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and is one of the stronger, more physically gifted cornerbacks in the league, is expected to line up against Welker on Sunday.
"He's super fast," said Welker, who admits he's still not back at 100 percent after offseason knee surgery. "I don't think there's anyone faster in the league than that guy. His speed and his range and recovery and everything like that. And his size, he's a big guy. He's a rare combination of size and speed and definitely somebody that you have to stay on top of your routes and not get sloppy."
But if there's one spot where Welker does have a leg up in the match-up, it's with his quickness (even he's not yet fully recovered).
"It's usually bigger guys have more problems with that," he said, "so I'll try to use that to my advantage for sure."
He'll also have a little more help on Sunday than he did last week, thanks to the return of Edelman, who missed the Bengals game, and much of the preseason, because of an injured ankle.
"I'm real anxious to get back out there, he said. "I love playing the game and anytime you don't get to play with your teammates that you've been training so hard with, going through double-days and going through camp with, it's a little disappointing. So I'm chomping at the bit."
When asked if he learned anything from the 31-14 win?
"I don't even remember that, really," Edelman said. "When our offense is clicking, we're pretty tough. That's what I learned. But this is a different team."
The addition of Edelman, combined with the emergence of Brandon Tate, should help Welker offset what is undoubtedly the most hyped match-up of the afternoon.
Randy Moss vs. Revis Island.
With cornerback Darrelle Revis back from his holdout and already slinging trash talk the way of Moss, you can expect the two to go at each other all day. And while the Patriots have complete confidence in their star getting the best of Revis, they'll be ready to pick up the slack if Moss does in fact find himself stranded.
"Obviously, Revis and Randy are great players, and they're going to go at it," said Welker. "It just means he's gonna battle and do what he needs to do, and at the same time every else has to battle and make sure they're doing their job."
The defense also had their way with the Jets last November, intercepting rookie Mark Sanchez four times including a first-quarter pick six by Leigh Bodden and holding New York to barely 200 yards of total offense.
You'd think that that, combined with Sanchez's poor showing on Monday night against Baltimore, might have the Pats feeling overconfident. Okay, actually, you know that wouldn't happen, but either way, the Patriots made sure to express that they aren't taking anything for granted against the Jets offense on Sunday.
"I'm sure Sanchez has a chip on his shoulder, but that's not going to change how we prepare for the game and execute," said Darius Butler. "We're ready for the challenge. I'm sure he's a different player than he was last year."
"They have a quarterback who can get the ball down the field," said Jonathan Wilhite, "and receivers who can go get it, so we have to be ready to go."