EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Todd Bowles figures he’ll have to continue drawing up game plans to defend against Tom Brady for years to come.
Forget the fact that the New England Patriots quarterback is already 40. Brady is still performing as if he’s a spry youngster.
“Brady will probably be playing after I’m long retired at the rate he’s going right now,” Bowles said with a smile.
Brady is off to a terrific start statistically, leading the NFL with 1,702 yards passing while ranking second with a 112.0 passer rating. He also has the league’s two best passing yardage games of the season, throwing for 447 yards against New Orleans on Sept. 17 and 378 against Houston a week later.
“Everybody knows what he can do,” Jets defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said. “You can never doubt him or count him out.”
Brady and the top-ranked offense of the Patriots (3-2) head to MetLife Stadium to take on the Jets (3-2) on Sunday for early-season supremacy in the AFC East .
On the other sideline, Brady will see a quarterback who’s just two years younger in New York’s Josh McCown.
Playing against a signal caller who’s actually older than him will be something rare these days for McCown, who has faced Buffalo’s Tyrod Taylor (28), Oakland’s Derek Carr (26), Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles (25) and Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer (21) and Kevin Hogan (24). At least his opponent in Week 3, Miami’s Jay Cutler (34), is in his 30s.
“It’ll be nice for once and hopefully it will happen again later this year,” McCown said of facing an older QB. “Obviously, Tom has set a standard and a mark for quarterbacks in our league. What he’s been able to do is nothing short of remarkable and, to a degree, it’s special to go against him because he’s widely regarded as the best to ever play. In my opinion, probably rightfully so.”
With a victory, Brady would break a tie with Brett Favre and Peyton Manning for the most regular-season wins by a starting quarterback in NFL history with 187. Brady’s 211 combined career wins, including regular season and playoffs, are already a league record.
“To get to play against him and to get go against him, it’s part of it that when you’re done with your career, it’s a cool thing to look back on,” McCown said. “But my focus will be on doing the best I can to move the football against their defense.”
Here are some things to know heading into this battle of the aged:
BRADY’S HEALTH: Brady was on the injury report for the first time this season with a left shoulder injury. The quarterback hasn’t missed a regular-season start due to injury since 2008, and he downplayed the significance of this one .
“I’ll be there Sunday,” he said. “Don’t worry about that. I’ll be there.”
While Brady’s passing numbers have been sound, he’s getting sacked a high rate. He’s already been taken down 16 times after going down just 15 times in 12 regular-season games last season.
STILL SEARCHING: Meanwhile, Wilkerson and fellow defensive lineman Leonard Williams are looking to get their first sacks. Wilkerson has been dealing with a sprained shoulder and now also has a toe ailment. He hasn’t used the injuries as an excuse, but he has just one quarterback hit this season.
Williams, who made the Pro Bowl last season after having seven sacks, at least has a team-leading six quarterback pressures.
SMALL IMPROVEMENTS: The Patriots lingered at or near the bottom of the league in the defensive rankings during the first four weeks of the season. They allowed a season-low 14 points in their 19-14 win at Tampa Bay last week, twice holding the Buccaneers’ offense without points after a pair of turnovers by Brady.
New England enters this week still ranked at the bottom of the league in total defense (allowing 447.2 yards per game) and pass defense (323 yards per game). But defensive coordinator Matt Patricia likes the way his unit is trending, beginning with the way it responded under pressure last week.
“Sometimes when you get off the field and then you’re trying to get to the sideline and get things corrected, you’ve got to flip that switch and get back out there and be able to execute at a high level,” he said. “It’s good to have those situations come up and for us to be able to handle them.”
STEPPING IN?: Jets starting running back Matt Forte has missed the last two games with turf toe, and Bilal Powell could sit out this week with a strained calf. That means rookie Elijah McGuire could get lots of action, even if Forte returns.
McGuire, a sixth-rounder from Louisiana-Lafayette, is second on the team with 176 yards rushing and a TD. He has also caught five passes for 55 yards.
QUIET GRONK: Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski hasn’t yet put up his usual gaudy numbers, ranking fourth on the team with 20 catches for 318 yards and two touchdowns. He sat out New England’s last game with a bruised thigh, but is expected to play at New York. He has 54 catches against the Jets, his most vs. any opponent, for 655 yards and six TDs in 11 games.