FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Bill Belichick and Tom Brady won three Super Bowls with Eric Mangini on their side.
The Patriots coach taught his former student that maybe he can win another without him — especially with his quarterback in championship form.
Brady capped long scoring drives with short touchdown passes to Daniel Graham and Kevin Faulk, and Asante Samuel sealed it with a 36-yard interception return for a score with 4:54 left as New England beat Mangini’s New York Jets 37-16 on Sunday.
“We keep playing like that, we can make it a long ways,” wide receiver Reche Caldwell said.
New England (13-4), the only team to win a playoff game in each of the last four seasons, will play at AFC top seed San Diego (14-2) next Sunday. The Patriots are going for their fourth Super Bowl title in six seasons.
“I think our players stepped up and just made a few more plays, and that was obviously the difference in the game,” Belichick said.
The loss ended a surprising run by the Jets, who won their last three regular-season games to get into the playoffs. This was supposed to be a rebuilding season under Mangini, their rookie coach.
Mangini, Belichick’s former assistant, showed he learned a lot in his six years in New England. But the mentor still had some lessons left.
After the game, the two coaches, whose relationship has cooled since Mangini left to become coach of the Jets, met at midfield and Belichick hugged Mangini. It was a bit warmer than the loose, businesslike handshakes the two exchanged following their two regular-season meetings.
Added Mangini: “I’ve got to tell you, I wasn’t focused on that moment. It was nice, but I honestly wasn’t thinking about that.”
Brady improved to 10-2 against the Jets (10-7), and played much better than in the teams’ last meeting, when New York frustrated the quarterback with blitzes and won 17-14.
And this time, Brady was in control from the start.
“I think we had a great plan,” Brady said. “This is a pressure defense, and I think we were prepared much more for the pressure this time around.”
New England, which has won seven of eight since that loss to New York, improved to 9-1 at home in the playoffs. The Jets made things interesting early, taking a 10-7 lead in the second quarter on a 77-yard touchdown catch and run by Jerricho Cotchery.
CSN: Brian Urlacher, who played 13 seasons for the Bears, announced his retirement from football Wenesday on his personal twitter account.
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