FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- When New York Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine studies Tom Brady on film, he doesn't see the same ultra-poised quarterback that dissected defenses early in the season -- and for a decade before that.
Pettine believes the New England Patriots' quarterback is "anxious." In the NFL lexicon, anxious is close to skittish, which is close to an insult -- especially when directed at an iconic player.
"I think losing the center has affected him," Pettine said Thursday, referring to Dan Koppen's season-ending ankle injury in Week 1. "I know they have some issues there, so it seems to me that he gets a little more anxious at times, where before you would see him sit in that pocket and not move and scan the field."
Pettine also credited the Patriots' past two opponents, the New York Giants and Pittsburgh Steelers, for contributing to Brady's uncharacteristic mistakes -- a total of 10 interceptions. Now it's the Jets' turn to take their shot at Brady, hoping to fare better than they did last month in Foxborough.
Brady completed 24 of 33 passes for 321 yards, with one touchdown and one interception in the Patriots' 30-21 victory. What bothered the Jets more than anything is that they allowed BenJarvus Green-Ellis to rush for a career-high 136 yards.
"We didn't play well at very many positions," Pettine said. "The guys, especially up front, those guys look at [the film] and said, 'Who is that imposter wearing my jersey?' There were a bunch of guys that I think felt that way.
"That's not us and that's not what we are now. That's one of the reasons we feel good about this week. We feel we're a different team. We're much improved over that performance."
Since then, the Jets are 3-0, having allowed a league-best 12.6 points per game since Week 6.
Conversely, the Patriots have slumped. They've been held to less than 21 points in three straight games, prompting Brady to admit Wednesday that he has to make better decisions.
Brady and Pettine will be involved in a down-to-down chess match Sunday night at MetLife Stadium. Brady recorded a checkmate in the last meeting, outsmarting the Jets by showing rare patience with their running game.
When the Jets used extra defensive backs to defend the pass, leaving six or fewer defenders in the box, they got burned on the ground. They went with a "light" box on 58 of 79 defensive snaps, according to ESPN Stats & Information. In many of those situations, Brady checked to a running play, and Green-Ellis rushed 14 times for 99 yards.
The Jets, afraid of getting beat by Brady, were stubborn -- and it hurt them in the fourth quarter. Trailing by six points, needing a stop to get a chance to win the game, they used five-, six- or seven-DB packages on seven straight plays. The Patriots kept running, eating clock and eventually kicking a field goal.
Rex Ryan took the heat for the tactical mistake, but he didn't second-guess himself.
"Game on the line, I'd rather put it in Jarvis Green-Ellis III's hands than Tom Brady's hands," said Ryan, intentionally butchering the running back's unusual name. "And it backfired on us."
Ryan probably will play it the same way in the rematch, knowing a slow death is better than a quick death -- at least in football terms. But Brady hasn't been Brady, with many theorizing that the Steelers -- a zone team -- exposed the Patriots two weeks ago by playing press coverage against their wide receivers.
The Jets play predominantly press coverage, so they're probably not going to surprised the Patriots with anything. Now, perhaps, other teams are figuring out what the Jets have known for some time, especially when dealing with the Brady-Welker connection.
"Every team is starting to notice that if you bang [Welker] around, their timing is knocked off a little bit," cornerback Antonio Cromartie said.
No doubt, the Patriots have been a little off, especially Brady. The Jets have noticed.