"I think we're definitely a different team than we were back in September," tight end Chris Baker said. "We have a better feel of our own identity as far as what we're trying to get done. We're definitely a different team now."
"It was a low point in that game and in the season," right guard Brandon Moore said of the second-quarter sequence in which three straight runs by Thomas Jones were stuffed after the Jets had a first-and-goal at the New England 3. The Jets were forced to settle for a field goal en route to a 19-10 defeat.
"We take pride in the goal-line" said Moore, who added that the failure to score in that situation has "definitely driven us in other opportunities throughout the year."
The failure of Jones and the Jets to get into the end zone back in Week 2 was particularly frustrating because it continued a negative storyline from the 2007 season, when Jones was limited to one rushing touchdown, the lowest total of his NFL career.
But it wasn't a foreshadowing, as Jones now leads the AFC with 750 yards rushing. With 4.7 yards per carry, he is averaging over a yard more than he did last season, when he averaged 3.6. And with seven regular-season games left, he has eight rushing touchdowns, one shy of his career high with Chicago in 2005.
"I think we have a better feel of what we're trying to get done as a unit," Baker said of the offense. "Hopefully we can continue to build on it."
The seventh-year tight end mentioned the offensive line, himself, fullback Tony Richardson and wideouts Laveranues Coles and Jerricho Cotchery and said, "With the guys that we have we should be able to run the ball against anybody. I think (our) offense is built to run the ball no matter who we're going against."
Even the Patriots, who have been the Jets' perennial nemesis. But New England hasn't been very stout against the run this season, with those three plays being a notable exception. The Jets rushed for 104 yards at 5.0 yards per carry against New England in September, and the Patriots are allowing 4.1 yards per carry this season.
"It's a must-win, the way we look at it," Baker said, "to take control of the division."
Cornerback Darrelle Revis believes the Jets have made strides on defense as well since that warm day at the Meadowlands.
"(In) Week 2, it was horrible," he said. "Now, things are clicking. Guys are feeding into the system. There are a lot of changes that go on week-in and week-out of how we want to play teams. Guys are really studying and getting in their playbooks and focusing and we're making plays."
Kicking Game On Track
--K Jay Feely enjoyed a huge day Sunday, making all four of his field-goal attempts, including a 55-yarder just before halftime, tying a team record also held by Pat Leahy and John Hall. It also tied a career-longest for Feely.
Yet he didn't know until Friday that he'd be active for the game. Regular kicker Mike Nugent, out since opening day with a thigh injury, returned to practice the week before the St. Louis game and the two kickers ended daily practice with a kicking contest.
"It hasn't been nerve-racking," Feely said of the contest. "It's fun to compete. It's not something that you usually do during the middle of the season. The team had even more fun with it than Mike and I did because we were having a kick-off at the end of each practice. They were giving us each a hard time. ... You just have to try to do your best and be ready and be prepared."
Eric Mangini declined Monday to say whether Nugent or Feely would kick at New England on Thursday.
Turnover Problem Solved
--The Jets' problems garnering takeaways have disappeared this season whenever they face the NFC West. In a 56-35 win over Arizona on Sept. 28, they forced seven turnovers. They had five takeaways against St. Louis, leading to 27 points. They've forced six turnovers in the other seven games.
Included in Sunday's tally was Calvin Pace's 50-yard fumble return after blitzing safety Abram Elam's strip sack of Marc Bulger. "I thought it wasn't going to happen, or that it was a dream," sixth-year linebacker Pace said of his first NFL touchdown. "I heard the crowd roaring. I saw the end zone, and I was slow getting there, but I finally made it."
Also included was safety Kerry Rhodes' long-awaited first interception of the season. He also had a fumble recovery and an acrobatic deflection to set up Hank Poteat's pick.
"I wish I could say I was trying to tip it to Hank," Rhodes noted, "but I can't say that."
The Law Is In Town
--Veteran CB Ty Law has agreed to terms with the Jets on a one-year deal. Law also played for the Jets in 2005, when he had 10 interceptions, the third-most in team history in a single season. He played for New England from 1995-2004. Jets coach Eric Mangini coached the New England secondary from 2000-04.
Law, a five-time Pro Bowl corner, sat out the first nine games of the season as a free agent after being released by Kansas City last winter.
"This is going to be different playing Thursday night against the Patriots, matching up against my former team and the players I'm used to practicing against," Law told the NFL Network, adding that he expects to be used at both cornerback and safety.
Law, 34, has 52 career interceptions, more than any active NFL player. The Jets have been looking for help in the secondary. Third-year player Drew Coleman has struggled at covering slot receivers and rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery has been picked on recently by opponents.