No shortage of unforgettable tales from the Patriots-Jets rivalry

FOXBOROUGH, Mass./EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- When it comes to the rivalry between the New England Patriots and New York Jets, most would agree that nothing tops the "butt fumble."

Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez plowing into the backside of offensive lineman Brandon Moore, losing the football and having it returned for a touchdown in a 49-19 loss on Nov. 22, 2012, is the type of unforgettable play that still generates a buzz.

So, too, is the Sept. 23, 2001, game in which Jets linebacker Mo Lewis knocked out quarterback Drew Bledsoe, opening the door for Tom Brady.

Those are the obvious ones, but with the Patriots set to visit the Jets on Sunday -- and with the rivalry between the franchises having come down a notch in terms of intensity because of the Patriots' dominance and the Jets' ineptitude -- it's timely to revisit some other top moments.

Longtime reporters Rich Cimini (Jets) and Mike Reiss (Patriots) share their accounts of some of these moments:

Jan. 15-16, 2011: I was walking out of a Providence restaurant on the eve of the Jets-Patriots divisional playoff game when I glanced at my phone and saw a tweet from Braylon Edwards, who alerted the world that Dennis Byrd had delivered an inspirational speech to the team. Byrd, whose career had ended with a broken neck in 1992, surprised everyone by flying in from Oklahoma. The next day, the Jets played out of their minds and shocked the Patriots, the franchise's biggest win since Super Bowl III.

The entire script was almost too corny to believe. For the coin toss, the Jets captains walked out with the jersey that Byrd wore on that fateful day in '92. Afterward, some players were overcome with emotion as they recounted Byrd's speech and its impact.

Me? I'll remember a moment a few hours before the game. I met Byrd in a private suite, where we talked for 15 minutes. From there, I walked with him to the press box, where reporters were waiting to speak with him. Still walking with a pronounced limp, he put one hand on my left shoulder to steady himself as he made his way down a private hallway -- a chilling reminder of everything that had been taken from him. After the game, standing outside the locker room, Byrd told me he'd have given just about anything to be out on the field for a single play.

Sunday is the one-year anniversary of his tragic death in a car accident.

-- Rich Cimini

Jan. 14, 2011: Same game, different perspective.

Because of his deadpan delivery, few who were in the media work room picked up on what receiver Wes Welker did during his news conference two days prior to the AFC divisional-round matchup against the Jets. Poking fun at then-Jets coach Rex Ryan for a foot fetish, Welker referenced feet more than 10 times in his answers to reporters' questions, at one time saying players had to be "good little foot soldiers."

Welker's intentions didn't truly come to light until a few hours after his news conference, and coach Bill Belichick wasn't amused. Belichick sat Welker at the start of the game, and the Jets got the last laugh in a shocking 28-21 win.

"I guess I just got tired of him being the guy that talked trash the whole time," Welker said in the recently produced "A Football Life" documentary on his career, broadcast on NFL Network. "So I was like, 'OK, fine. I'm going to do it.'"

-- Mike Reiss

Sept. 9, 2007: About an hour after the Jets got blown out in the season opener 38-14, I walked out to the bus ramp at the old Giants Stadium, where players and coaches from both teams often mingled after games. I wanted to see if Eric Mangini and Bill Belichick, the estranged pupil and mentor, would have any interaction. They didn't. They stood about 20 feet apart, refusing to acknowledge each other's presence. In retrospect, what made the scene so profound was what occurred the next day.

The Spygate scandal broke. The Jets (read: Mangini) blew the whistle on the Patriots for illegally videotaping the Jets coaches from the sideline. It went down during the game, with security removing a cameraman from the Patriots sideline. There's no doubt both coaches knew the circumstances as they stood near each other after the game, so one can only imagine the thoughts racing through their minds. Their relationship, already strained, was shattered.

The ensuing controversy intensified the acrimony between the two franchises and tainted the reputations of Belichick and the Patriots, both of whom were heavily penalized. I caught up with Mangini a few months ago at his youth football camp, and 10 years later, he said he never intended to create a scandal of that magnitude. He also said he hopes to reconcile with Belichick someday. Personally, I don't think that will happen.

-- Cimini

Sept. 9, 2007: That was the aftermath, and few could have envisioned how that would blow up and become such a big story. But what struck me even more that day was what unfolded on the field.

Given the devastating way the Patriots' 2006 season had ended in the AFC Championship Game against the Colts -- a year in which Tom Brady was throwing to a receiving corps headlined by Reche Caldwell -- New England went on an offseason binge that included bringing aboard receivers Welker, Randy Moss and Donte' Stallworth.

There was sky-high anticipation for a 2007 season-opening game against the Jets, and adding to the intrigue was that Moss had been held out of most of training camp with a hamstring injury, sparking questions about his availability and effectiveness. Those were answered decisively, as Moss split a triple-team on a 51-yard touchdown and finished with nine catches for 183 yards in the 38-14 rout.

"I threw it about as far as I can," Brady said of the bomb to Moss.

It was an early preview of what was to come: The Patriots finished the regular season 16-0, with Moss -- coming off a down year in Oakland -- mesmerizing many along the way.

"I don't need to revitalize myself," Moss said after the opening game. "Everybody knows who I am."

-- Reiss

Jan. 3, 2000: I was sitting next to future ESPN colleague Sal Paolantonio in the auditorium at the Jets’ old facility on Long Island when Belichick pulled one of the biggest stunners in sports history: He resigned as Jets coach on the day he was supposed to be introduced as Bill Parcells' successor. I knew something was amiss when Frank Ramos, the Jets' public-relations director, told the room that Belichick had an announcement. I turned to Sal and said, "I think he's quitting."

The night before, shortly after Parcells had retired from the NFL (temporarily, as it turned out), I had started to hear some rumblings. One person in Belichick's circle told me Bill was "uneasy" about succeeding Parcells even though that was the contractual setup. Sure enough, he stunned everybody in the organization -- including Parcells -- by walking away. To this day, I still wonder what happened to that famous piece of loose-leaf paper, the one on which Belichick scribbled his resignation as the "HC of the NYJ."

A few weeks later, after a legal battle, Belichick was essentially traded to the Patriots, forever changing the Jets-Patriots rivalry.

-- Cimini

Nov. 12, 2006: The joke that some former players have made is that a loss to the Jets can lead to some extreme decisions. That might best describe what unfolded after a 17-14 home defeat to the Jets and Mangini, who was in his first year with the club after bolting the Patriots in a decision that rankled Belichick to some degree.

It was a rainy day, and the natural grass surface at Gillette Stadium looked like a mud pit in certain areas, with some players struggling to keep their footing. Afterward, in what was an unprecedented move at the time, the Patriots decided to replace the natural grass field with synthetic grass, taking advantage of the fact they didn't have their next home game until Nov. 26.

"The preference of this organization has been to play on grass," Belichick said at the time. "We've tried to do that. As everyone knows, we've had to replace it pretty much every year, in some cases more than once. As much as everybody has tried to make it work, for whatever the reasons or circumstances, it just hasn't been really the kind of quality that I think we would all like it to be."

If the Patriots had beaten the Jets that day, who knows? They might still be playing on natural grass.

-- Reiss