FOXBOROUGH – Wire Service Report) – It seems as if everything Tom Brady does these days is some sort of milestone. This week is certainly no exception. After proving you can indeed go home again, Brady threw four touchdowns and no interceptions — the 21st time he has done that — in his first road game against the San Francisco 49ers, the team he loved growing up.
The win was the 199th overall in his career, tying him with Brett Favre for second place all time — just one behind the now-retired Peyton Manning. The Patriots are eight-point favorites for Brady to make it 200 this week against the 3-7 New York Jets. He threw a touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell on Sunday. Mitchell became the 63rd receiver to catch a touchdown pass from Brady — now second only to Vinny Testaverde’s 70.
On Wednesday, he was named AFC offensive player of the week for the 27th time, tying Manning for the all-time lead there.
“Congrats to Tom. He’s a great player,” receiver Danny Amendola said. “No question, he’s our leader and we love playing for him.”
Brady needs just 57 yards Sunday to become the fifth quarterback in history to throw for 60,000. Brady has completed 70.4 percent of his passes, with 16 touchdowns and one interception, in the six games since his return from his four-game Deflategate suspension. The Patriots are 5-1 in those six games to sit at 8-2 in pursuit of their fifth Super Bowl title.
While Brady is as sure as it gets for the Patriots, the Jets come into this game as losers of six of their last seven. Last week, they tried Bryce Petty, but veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick is back at the helm this week after a bye.
“He’s healthy, he’s been our starter,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said. “I don’t see anything that could change that right now.”
With Jets fans again looking toward the future, Bowles made a statement by going back to the veteran over the youngster.
“I don’t think anything of that argument,” he said of the future. “We take it week by week. We’ll try to get four (wins). If we get four, we’ll try to get five and we’ll go from there. I don’t give away jobs. You have to take the job.”
Fitzpatrick has thrown eight touchdown passes and 13 interceptions this season.
The Patriots are more than familiar with Fitzpatrick, knowing he’s a veteran who can beat you in different ways.
“I played him before. I know this year the record hasn’t showed it, but this is a guy that last year won 10 games for them,” defensive end Chris Long said. “He is a franchise quarterback and he is a guy that can hurt you with his arm and his legs and he’s creative, he’s tough, I’ve even seen him go downfield and block on some extended run plays.
“He’s not afraid to get hit, so he’s a guy we definitely have a lot of respect for.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick said, “He’s a dangerous player, very smart, has control of the offense, has the ability to get into plays that he likes. They use their receivers in the running game on look-passes, things like that.
“He’s tough. You see him scrambling for extra yards, diving forward, blocking on running plays if the runner reverses his field and things like that. He’s a fearless player. He’s tough, very competitive, and you’re right, he’s played very well against us whether it was in Buffalo or with the Jets, so we have a lot of respect for him.”
While the Jets are having problems all over the field, New England is trying to establish some identity on defense. They sacked Colin Kaepernick five times — all in the first half — last week, but that gave them just 21 for the season. They have turned the opposition over just seven times, with no turnovers in the last three games.
The Jets have coughed the ball up 20 times, second most in the NFL, so if the Patriots are going to get turnovers you’d figure playing two of the next six games against the Jets would be their chance.
Asked if turnovers can be just a matter of bounces, Long said, “Sometimes that’s all it is. We have to continue to work on the things we need to work on and one of those things is getting turnovers. But a lot of times the ball just darts your way or a tipped pass or a guy will have bad ball security — it’s all being opportunistic sometimes.”