FLORHAM PARK, N.J. — The New York Jets are out to make Tom Brady miserable.
Big hits, rushed throws and forced mistakes are all in the defense’s game plan for the New England Patriots quarterback. Maybe even a few hard shoves to the turf, too.
“It’s going to be very imperative,” linebacker Calvin Pace said, “that we get to him and kind of get in his head a little bit.”
With first place in the AFC East and the conference’s best record on the line at New England on Monday night, New York knows the pressure’s on to put pressure on Brady.
“He’s a guy that’s going to the Hall of Fame, a guy that has all of the numbers, has the rings, so it all starts with him,” defensive end Shaun Ellis said. “If we can make his job a lot harder, it’ll be more to our advantage.”
The Jets know that from experience, particularly their 28-14 win at home in Week 2. New York sacked him only once, but constantly harassed and frustrated Brady. Two of his four interceptions this season came in that game.
“I’d sign up for that again,” coach Rex Ryan said.
Of course, but it certainly won’t be easy. The key again will be to get the pass rush, one of the so-called weak spots for the league’s No. 3 defense, going early. Brady has been protected well, though, having been sacked only twice in his last three games, and three times in his last five.
“It’s not about sacking him because you’re not going to sack him,” defensive end Trevor Pryce said. “He’ll get rid of the ball. The best you can do is force him to make a throw maybe a second earlier than he wants to. That’s worth its weight in gold.”
Especially since Brady rarely makes mistakes on his own.
“There is no weakness in Brady’s game,” Ryan said.
Brady is certainly having another impressive season with his 105.8 quarterback rating ranking second in the NFL to Philadelphia’s Michael Vick (106.0). His 23 touchdown passes are tied for the league lead.
“We’ve got to stop him, get some hits on him and maybe show him a few things he hasn’t seen,” Pace said. “We also have to go out there and create some turnovers for our offense.”
The Jets pressured or hit Brady 23 times in last season’s victory over the Patriots at home. They disguised coverages and blitzes out of their 3-4 base defense and gave Brady little time to make decisions.
In the meeting earlier this season, Jason Taylor sacked Brady and knocked the ball out of his hands with just over 4 minutes left and Bryan Thomas recovered.
“It’s hard to pressure him,” said Taylor, whose 10½ sacks of Brady are his most against any quarterback. “You have to stay after it, and keep staying after it. He’s going to drop the ball down and let his playmakers make plays and not put his team in a bad position.”
There’s no Randy Moss this time around, but it almost seems it doesn’t matter with Brady. In the second meeting last season against the Jets, he found Wes Welker early and often, as the gutsy wide receiver set a career high with 15 receptions in the Patriots’ 31-14 win at New England.
“They did their homework and scouted us,” Ellis said. “It’s definitely going to be one of those games where it’s going to be a little chess match. Hopefully, we just go out and jump on them out of the gate.”
The Jets have 24 sacks, ranking them in the middle of the pack — a position they need to improve upon to be considered truly an elite defense. There were encouraging signs last Thursday, when New York sacked Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer three times, including Pryce’s victory-sealing safety late in the fourth quarter.
“It was more of a confirmation of how we know how to play,” defensive tackle Sione Pouha said. “We knew it was there and we knew we had the tools to do it, and it was just a confirmation of our confidence and abilities.”
The Jets were able to get a pass rush going late against the Bengals in large part because they had a big lead, allowing New York to send four men after the quarterback.
“It’s just a matter of us building off of last week,” Ellis said. “For the weeks prior, we kind of made up for it and hopefully we can continue that trend into this Monday.”
It would also make quite the setting for Vernon Gholston, the team’s top draft pick in 2008, to get his first NFL sack. The former sixth overall selection has taken lots of criticism for his inability to get to the quarterback, but has gotten oh-so-close the last few games.
“Obviously, me getting out there and getting the chance to get that close is great for me,” Gholston said. “The biggest thing is, it’ll come.”
Pryce would love for sack No. 1 to come soon.
“I’m doing my best to get him one before I leave here,” said Pryce, fourth on the active sacks list. “If there comes a time when they put me and him on the field together, I’ll do all of the dirty work and (he) can run and clean up. When that light goes off on him — it took me three years — but when it clicks, people are in trouble.”
And trouble is exactly what the Jets hope to cause for Brady on Monday night.
“You understand the type of defense that we have to play in November and December,” linebacker Bart Scott said. “It’s time to tighten the bolts down, time to be playing as good a football as you can because that’s what’s going to be needed.”