FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The Patriots found another way to stay unbeaten - with a running game. And their stone-faced coach showed a new way to greet his nemesis - with a smile.
Facing rain, wind and chilly gusts above 20 mph, New England relied on Laurence Maroney's rushing instead of Tom Brady's passing and beat the New York Jets, 20-10, yesterday in the Spygate rematch to clinch homefield advantage in the AFC playoffs.
After the Patriots became the second team in NFL history to go 14-0, Bill Belichick broke into a broad grin at his sideline and kept it until he met Eric Mangini, his former protege and defensive coordinator. Mangini had angered Belichick when he left to become coach of the Jets last season.
"Great game, awesome," Belichick appeared to say as they shook hands. Then Belichick walked away, pumping his fist twice over his head.
"He said, 'Good game' or 'Good luck,' " Mangini said. "I can't remember."
Most of their previous four midfield meetings were colder than yesterday's weather. "Maybe they're friends again," Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi said with a laugh. "I don't know. We'll see."
Mangini had turned Belichick in for having a video assistant use a sideline videocamera in violation of NFL rules after the season opener in which the Patriots beat the Jets (3-11). The NFL fined Belichick $500,000 and the team $250,000 and took away their first-round draft choice next year for the illegal taping.
Belichick said there was no extra meaning to yesterday's win because of that.
"Just like the other games," Belichick said. "It's good to win. It's good to win in the division. It's good to sweep the Jets."
Video helped the Patriots when they challenged a call of a 7-yard touchdown pass from Chad Pennington, who was in for the injured Kellen Clemens, to Justin McCareins with 2:32 left. Replay officials ruled he didn't get both feet in the back of the end zone. Then Mike Nugent missed a 35-yard field goal attempt.
"The ball was slippery, but I thought I had it pinned in time," McCareins said. "Obviously not."
The Patriots led, 17-7, and the teams exchanged field goals in the fourth quarter.
Maroney ran for 104 yards, just the fourth time this season a New England rusher surpassed 100. The Jets entered the game having allowed the third most yards rushing this season.
"When you have elements like this you want to play great defense and run the ball," Brady said.
Brady didn't throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season and completed 14 of 27 passes for 140 yards and an interception. The Patriots' remaining games are at home against Miami and at the Giants. *