EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP)—Life without Tom Brady might not be so bad for New England after all.
“I thought Matt did a good job,” coach Bill Belichick said. “It wasn’t perfect. We had some rough spots. He did a good job of making good decisions. He didn’t put us in any bad situations and made some good positive plays. I thought he managed the game well.”
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to have more points than the other team and that’s what we did, so I’m satisfied,” Cassel said. “I didn’t have too many butterflies going out. I’ve been in the system for four years, so I’m confident I know I can run it.”
The Jets, slight favorites going in, and Patriots receiver Randy Moss said New England was still the team to beat even without Brady, who was lost for the season last Sunday when he injured his left knee against Kansas City.
The Patriots (2-0) then showed why, ruining the Jets’ home opener and Favre’s first regular-season home start for New York.
“We knew we had to play our best football to win,” Favre said, “and we weren’t able to do that.”
New England won its 21st straight regular-season game, and beat the Jets for the eighth straight time at the Meadowlands.
“To come in here, to this hostile environment, and win when everyone picked you to lose, is great,” safety Rodney Harrison said. “With all the stuff we had to go through and endure last week with Tom, this is a great victory.”
Favre went 18-of-26 for 181 yards and a TD for the Jets (1-1), but the Patriots took advantage of a big mistake by the veteran.
With the Jets facing a third-and-22 from their 11, Favre ran out of the pocket to his left and flung a pass to Chansi Stuckey for 28 yards. Three plays later, though, Favre made a poor decision, hanging a pass intended for Chris Baker that was easily picked off by Brandon Meriweather. It was Favre’s first interception with the Jets.
“I just underthrew it,” Favre said. “I saw the guy and maybe I got a little greedy. … I made a bad throw. I’d like to tell you something different.”
On third-and-9 from the 30, Cassel threw a screen to Kevin Faulk, who got a few blocks and got down to the 8. Three plays later, Morris leaped over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown to make it 13-3.
“A lot of it is comfort level,” said Cassel, who backed up Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart at Southern California. “I don’t have as much experience as Tom, of course, but I think I was OK managing the game.”
Gostkowski added a 28-yard field goal with 17 seconds left in the third quarter.
Favre led the Jets back into it, connecting with Stuckey for a 2-yard touchdown with 10:18 left, but Gostkowski kicked a 27-yard field goal to make it 19-10 as the Patriots ticked 5 minutes off the clock.
“We cut it to six and it was a chance for us to give them the ball back right away and give them a chance to go score, but we couldn’t get it done,” safety Kerry Rhodes said. “In those situations, you’ve got to make those kinds of plays.”
The Jets went three-and-out on their next possession, and the Patriots ran out the clock to seal it.
“They kept it simple,” Rhodes said. “They didn’t want (Cassel) to lose the game, so they did a lot of screens and safe passes. They tried to keep it safe for him.”
The Jets had their opening 11-play drive end with Jay Feely, filling in for the injured Mike Nugent, missing a 31-yard attempt. Cassel then led the Patriots on a 12-play drive, capped by Gostkowski’s 21-yard field goal.
Gostkowski’s 37-yarder gave the Patriots a 6-0 lead.
The Jets wasted an impressive drive that featured a vintage play by Favre. The veteran quarterback scrambled on third-and-9 from their 21, stepped up and threw across his body, finding Coles down the right sideline for 54 yards. A zigzagging 11-yard run by Leon Washington got the ball to the 3, but the Jets gave the ball to Jones three times for 1, 1 and minus-2 yards. They had to settle for a 21-yard field goal by Feely.
“It’s only one game,” Coles said. “Our season doesn’t hang on one game. We still have 14 more left to play.”
Patriots RB Laurence Maroney left early in the second quarter with a shoulder injury and didn’t return until late in the fourth quarter. … Moss worked mostly against double coverage and was held to two catches for 22 yards. … Former Jets RB LaMont Jordan had all 62 of his yards rushing in the second half for the Patriots. … Jones led all rushers with 70 yards on 17 carries.