FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – If there was a turning point in the New England Patriots’ 30-21 victory over the rival New York Jets Sunday afternoon, it came very early.

As in three or four days early.

To a man — and football coaches love it when they hear this — the Patriots said this victory was forged during the week, in practice.

Coaches say it all the time: “You play like you practice.” And on this particular Sunday, that was particularly true.

“They had a good week of practice,” said Belichick in his post-game briefing. “They worked hard, pushed through a lot of bumps and bruises, banged up and a long trip back from Oakland and all that. But they hung in there and I thought they did a really good job this week.

“It was one of our good weeks of practice, so hopefully that was reinforced by what we did in the game.”

Now, every time these teams play, it’s a big game. Players, coaches and fans know that.

So maybe the focus is a little sharper than usual.

“Guys came in very focused, understanding that this was a big game for us and it can really get us a jump-start in the division,” said wide receiver Wes Welker, who continued his historic start to the season by catching five balls for 124 yards. “I think the guys did a great job of really understanding our game plan and really moving the ball down the field.

“It all starts in practice. Whenever we do it there, it always carries over.”

Defensive tackle Vince Wilfork said players came in on Tuesday — their day off — to start watching film on the Jets. The preparation didn’t stop until just before kickoff.

“All the way to Saturday night leading into the game, we really nailed it,” said Wilfork. “Bill (Belichick) didn’t give up until the last second. We were in here until our 2:15 meeting, still talking about things we needed to do to win the game. I think everybody took it upon themselves to make sure we would be in pretty decent shape as the game went on. And we were.”

The Patriots’ defense, especially, seemed prepared. Yes, it gave up 21 points.

“And we don’t like that,” said former Jet defensive end Shaun Ellis.

But the unit also forced seven 3-and-outs — series on which the Jets did not get a first down — after forcing just eight in their first four games.

“It was one of the things we really harped on in practice, putting us in the position to get off the field after third down,” said defensive end Mark Anderson. “We executed the game plan well, stopping them on first- and second down and putting them into a position of third-and-long.

“We then put the pressure on the quarterback and the defensive backs played bump-and-cover, which gave us a chance to make plays.”

Offensively, the Patriots rushed for 152 yards to complement Tom Brady’s 321-yard passing day. BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns.

For left guard Logan Mankins, it was simply the accumulation of a week’s work, which included a full-contact day on Thursday when the team wore full pads — one of only 14 fully padded practices a team is allowed in the season.

“Jets Week is always a tough week,” he said. “You’ve got so much to prepare for, so many looks that you’ve seen and so many looks they haven’t shown that you’re anticipating they might use, that you’re going over a million things.

“But we had a good week, got after it physically on Thursday and everything was good. You have a good week in practice, it usually leads to a good game.”

And when the offensive line does its job, the team usually does well. Wide receiver Deion Branch knows this, calling the offensive line, to borrow a baseball term, the team’s closer.

“They start it and they finish it,” he said. “It starts with them. How far this team is going to go, starts with that front line and it’s going to end with the front line. As long as they protect in the pass game and they run block, we’ll be OK. Hey, we all get the extra credit on the outside, but the credit truly goes to those guys.

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at:

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Twitter: MikeLowePPH