Martin is key against Patriots

"Every time we play them, it's a personal vendetta," says New York Jets running back CURTIS MARTIN about his team's opponent this week, the visiting Super Bowl XXXVI-champion New England Patriots.


One of the interesting themes of the Jets-Pats rivalry is the familiarity of the participants.  These guys know each other.  Fifteen players/coaches in Sunday's game have bled Jets' green and Pats' blue.

Martin (New England, 1995-97) and Patriots head coach BILL BELICHICK (New York assistant head coach/secondary, 1997-99) are two prime examples.  Belichick has named a former Jet, defensive end ANTHONY PLEASANT, as one of his captains this season.  And he added three Jets to his Super Bowl troop this offseason – defensive linemen RICK LYLE and STEVE MARTIN, and safety VICTOR GREEN.  The Patriots have seven former Jets players on their roster – the most from one team on another team in the NFL.

You would think that all this familiarity might produce balanced games between the two.  In one way it has, in another it hasn't.   Seven of the past nine games between the teams have been decided by 10 points or less.  But…five of those seven have been won by the Jets. 

The key for New York in most of those games has been Martin, who is nursing a left ankle sprain.  He has averaged 104 yards rushing the eight times he has faced his old mates.  "I feel like the Patriots bring out the best in me," says Martin.

Of course, the Patriots have their own rushing threat in ANTOWAIN SMITH, who himself came from a division rival last year (Buffalo) to end up as New England's first 1,000-yard rusher (1,157) in three seasons.

The teams split last year, and the games mirrored the Patriots' championship campaign.  New England dropped to 0-2 on September 23 with a loss to the Jets, lost their quarterback DREW BLEDSOE to injury, and had to go with unknown TOM BRADY.  Two months later, a 17-16 win over New York was the second of six consecutive Patriots victories to finish an 11-5 season, and Brady was known throughout the league and on his way to Super Bowl MVP.

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