FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Tom Brady has taken a beating this season - far more than usual. In fact, the 40-year-old has already been sacked more times in five games this season than he was all of last year.
And don't think the Jets haven't noticed that.
"Oh yeah, we have noticed Tom Brady holds onto the ball a little longer than he usually does," said Jets defensive end Leonard Williams. "For us, that's definitely given us something to look forward to, getting after the quarterback. We know he's the head of the offense. If we can get to him and affect him as much as possible, we can affect the game."
Of course, that's easier said than done for several reasons, including the fact that the Jets' pass rush hasn't been very good so far this season. In fact, their best two pass rushers, Williams and Muhammad Wilkerson, have combined for zero sacks so far.
And the truth is that Brady, despite the beating he's taking, is still Brady. He's completed nearly 70 percent of his passes, thrown for 1,702 yards with 11 touchdowns and just one interception, all for the top-ranked offense and passing offense in the NFL. So if he's affected at all by his age or the pounding that has reportedly left him with a sprained left shoulder, it hasn't really been obvious in the games.
"You know, really I don't think so," said Jets defensive coordinator Kacy Rodgers. "Of course he's been hit a few times, but he's still moving the ball, he's still effective passing the ball and deadly accurate.
"This guy's like Father Time," Rodgers added. "It's unbelievable. You watch him on tape and he's still able to do it. It's amazing."
Making things even worse for the Jets is that Brady has plenty of help with an offense that's averaging 29.6 yards per game. That's 11 points more than the Jets are scoring (18.4). In fact the Jets haven't scored more than 23 points in a game all season, and they needed overtime against the Jaguars two weeks ago to do that.
Somehow their 25th-ranked defense is going to have to at least slow down the Pats, though Rodgers knows that's the biggest challenge he's faced all year.
"It's not even close," he said. "There's so many problems. They've got two tight ends you've got to worry about covering, three backs, then you've got to deal with (receiver Brandin) Cooks taking the top off, (Danny) Amendola running East and West, (Chris) Hogan doing his thing. It's just (a matter of) which problem you want to take care of first."
And which one would that be?
"I don't know," Rodgers said. "I wish I had the answer."
Of course the biggest problem is Brady, the future Hall of Famer, which means the easiest solution would be to pressure him as much as possible. He won't be rattled and he likely won't be completely knocked out of his rhythm, but a strong pass rush could cause the timing of the New England offense to be disrupted just enough to give the Jets a chance.
And they absolutely believe they have a chance to turn that pressure up.
"We've taken a look at it for sure," said linebacker Darron Lee. "We're trying to get some pressure on the quarterback because it'll help our coverage. We know he likes to get the ball out fast, but if we can make him second guess or something and get that pressure there that would be a huge plus for us."