FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley likened this week’s pivotal prime-time game against the New York Jets to a chess match.

“We know them like the back of our hand,” the rookie said Friday, “and they know us.”

The Jets appeared to have no clue what was coming at them a month ago. The patented pass-happy Patriots (5-3) caught New York (5-3) completely off-guard Oct. 9, when running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis set career highs with 27 carries and 136 yards and also scored two touchdowns in leading New England to a 30-21 victory.

Looking to avoid their first three-game losing streak since 2002 with at least a share of the division lead on the line Sunday night, the Patriots are now hoping for an encore of Bennie vs. the Jets.

“He just comes and plays hard every game,” Ridley said of Green-Ellis. “Each game’s going to open up different opportunities and Bennie came through for us last time against the Jets and hopefully he’ll step up again.”

While Patriots Coach Bill Belichick said that this game could be played in the parking lot outside and still generate the same level of hype, Green-Ellis admitted to silencing any distractions, focusing solely on the upcoming opponent.

This week, it just happens to be the Jets.

“I don’t let the outside stuff bother me as far as the hype or the media or anything like that,” he said.

He’s the real reason the Patriots did in the first meeting.

After totaling 197 yards on 50 carries through the opening four games, Green-Ellis erupted for his fourth career 100-yard performance against New York, scoring the winning touchdown late in the third quarter.

The roles have certainly reversed since.

As New York enters this game on a three-game winning streak, it’s the Patriots who are skidding, mired in an offensive slump that’s seen them average just 19 points over the past three games after posting at least 30 in 13 straight regular-season contests.

Lacking a balanced attack could be why.

Since running the ball 35 times as a team against New York, the Patriots have averaged a hair over 20 carries a game.

Green-Ellis’ production has dipped, too. He’s nursed an injured toe that’s seen him limited in practice this week, and has handled the ball just 31 times for 119 yards in his last three games, giving him 452 yards for the season.

Having running back Kevin Faulk back in the lineup will help. The 13-year veteran missed the first six games on the physically unable to perform list stemming from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered early last season. After playing well against the Steelers, carrying the ball six times for 32 yards and also catching five passes, he was inactive for last week’s loss to the Giants.

And despite boasting triple the amount of professional experience as Green-Ellis, Faulk said earlier this season he has learned from his backfield counterpart.

Ridley has soaked in lessons from both.

“This team is really a special team,” Ridley said. “I’m still learning each and every day on how to be a pro from those two guys in front of me.”

One thing in particular has stuck with him, and everybody else who watches the Patriots.

“They know how to protect the football,” Jets Coach Rex Ryan said.

More specifically, so does Green-Ellis. Rarely dropped for a loss, he has carried 446 times in his career without a fumble.

To put it in perspective, the Jets’ Shonn Green has fumbled six times on 425 attempts in his three-year career.


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