FOXBORO — As I was driving home from northern New Jersey two months ago, I pulled my day-timer out from my briefcase, opened it up to the month of November in the calendar section, and circled "Nov. 22."
From hearing several New England Patriots, including and especially quarterback Tom Brady, they didn't need to circle anything. That date was quickly etched in their memory.
A few hours before that trek on Route 95 northbound that Sunday afternoon, the New York Jets not only beat the Patriots, 16-9, but they embarrassed them. With their rookie coach, Rex Ryan, smugly piling on as well, they talked trash toward the Patriots and lived to tell about it.
Well, Nov. 22 is now only three days away and the "Great Grudge Match" isn't so flashy.
The Patriots and Jets are not only fresh off losses, but knockout losses; the kind of losses where a doctor is called in, holds up a few fingers, and asks "What day is it?"
All you have to say about the Patriots is fourth-and-2. No more explanation will ever be needed.
As for the Jets, it's not so simple.
They allowed two kickoff returns from touchdowns to blow it against Miami (a 30-25 loss) before allowing the mediocre Jacksonville Jaguars to maul their "highly touted" defense (Maurice Jones-Drew had 123 yards rushing and quarterback David Garrard completed 16 of 26 passes for 221 yards, 1 TD) at the Meadowlands.
The bruising defeats have taken the luster off this game, which was supposed to center on good old-fashioned hatred, in the sports sense of course.
All of sudden, showing up the other team, which has seemed to be the tenor of this Pats-Jets matchup over the last decade, doesn't matter.
Both teams had better win ... or else.