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Since they each entered the upstart American Football League in 1960 the New England Patriots and New York Jets have been rivals, just from a location standpoint.
To put things into perspective, when both teams began they were called the Boston Patriots and the New York Titans respectively. But while the two teams represented cities that generally disliked each other, mainly from their baseball rivalry, there was no real animosity between them until 1997.
This was when legendary coach Bill Parcells, fresh off a Super Bowl appearance with the Patriots, defected to the New York Jets. From then on rivalry has developed into one of the most heated in the NFL.
Here are five of the greatest games of this great rivalry:
This makes the cut, for one reason and one reason only: the beginning for Tom Brady.
Going into 2001 the Patriots were not expected to do much having gone 5-11 the year before, and after losing their opener and playing sloppy against the Jets, turning the ball over three times, including two times in the red zone. With about five minutes left in the fourth quarter on 3rd and 10 Bledsoe was flushed out of the pocket and hit by Jets linebacker Mo Lewis.
Although Bledsoe actually played the next possession, he was diagnosed internal bleeding and a scrawny second year sixth rounder from Michigan replaced him for the final possession. Although Brady was unable to lead the Patriots to victory this time, he was given a chance to prove himself while Bledsoe sat out for eight weeks.
The rest, as they say, is history.
This may not seem like a worthy game for the list because of the score, but think back to the circumstances surrounding this game. It was a Monday night game, and the two teams came in each with a 9-2 record vying for the top seed in the AFC.
Rex Ryan’s squad seemed to be the Kryptonite to Belicheck’s Patriots having won two of the last three games, including their first meeting in the regular season. But from the start, this game was as one sided as they come.
On all sides of the ball the Patriots dominated, jumping out to a 17-0 lead in the fourth quarter and not relenting from there. What makes this game even more significant is the juxtaposition between it and the final game between the Patriots and Jets in 2010.
This game is significant because it is the first playoff matchup between these two teams. The Patriots and Jets each finished the season at 11-5 splitting the season series.
The game featured two quarterbacks from the famous 1983 quarterback class, Tony Eason and Ken O’Brien. Because O’Brien had performed better during the regular season, throwing 3,888 yards 25 touchdowns with just eight interceptions, and home field advantage, the Jets were favorites to win this game.
The game was close through one half, with two Patriot field goals being the difference in the 13-7 lead. However, Patriots gained control of the game when, in the third quarter, linebacker Johnny Rembert picked up a fumble and returned it 15 yards for a touchdown, giving the Pats a 23-7 lead.
Although the backup quarterback Pat Ryan was able to lead the Jets to one more touchdown, it was not enough, as the Patriots prevailed, in what would be the first of their three consecutive road playoff wins, 26-14.
This game was the first game between these two teams with Bill Parcells coaching the Jets against his former team. Needless to say, the build-up for this game was huge.
Although the Patriots were coming off an AFC championship season and the Jets were coming off a 1-15 season, the head coaching change seemed to have put the teams on an even playing field. The actual game was a dogfight as the two teams traded scores throughout.
Late in the game with the Patriots leading 24-17, Neil O’Donnell was able to take the Jets downfield and tie the game on a 24-yard TD to Keyshawn Johnson. After this the Jets managed to get the ball back and move into chip-shot field goal range for the win.
However kicker John Hall’s attempt was blocked and the game went to overtime, where Adam Venatieri’s 34-yard kick won it for New England.
Hate it or love it, this is the most memorable game in the history of the Patriot-Jet rivalry. The Patriots had home field advantage and were coming off a 14-2 season, that included the 45-3 slaughter of the Jets mentioned earlier.
The Jets stumbled down the stretch, finishing 2-3 in the last five games, but had pulled out a win on the road against Peyton Manning’s Colts the week before to earn a trip to Foxboro. During the week the two teams traded verbal shots through the media, that started with Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie going on a strange tirade that included calling Tom Brady an A-hole.
Wes Welker took a more subtle stab at Jets coach Rex Ryan, who was discovered to have a foot fetish earlier in the year, by making numerous foot references in an interview.
Although Cromartie’s remarks were much more volatile, whereas Welker’s were humorous (and impressive that he kept a straight face), Welker was benched on the Patriot’s first series while Cromartie was not punished by Ryan.
Even without Welker for one series, the Patriots started off strong, scoring a field goal and holding the Jets scoreless in the first quarter. However in the second half the more balanced Jets offense scored two touchdowns to take a 14-3 lead going into the half.
Now playing from behind, the Patriots were forced to pass almost every down and the Jets pass rush and tight coverage of short passes began to disrupt Brady. Although Brady cut the lead to three with a touchdown and 2-point conversion, Mark Sanchez came right back with a touchdown drive of his own. And when the Pats cut it to a seven point game, the Jets recovered the Patriot onside kick and iced the game with a 16-yard touchdown run by Shonn Greene.
After the game the Jets were extremely boisterous in their celebration, causing receiver Deion Branch to call them “classless.” However, this is a new season with two new teams, and the only question is: which team and players will highlight the next chapter of this epic rivalry?