FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Eric Mangini spent quite a few late nights at the office helping Bill Belichick draw up championship-winning game plans during six years as an assistant coach with the New England Patriots.
The rookie head coach is running his own bleary-eyed meetings these days with the New York Jets, but Belichick's influence is clear.
"Anytime that you go into a new position, there are a lot of things that are borrowed," Mangini said. "And I borrowed a lot of information from great people along the road."
The Jets and Patriots aren't exactly carbon copies of each other, but from the 3-4 defensive scheme to the no-nonsense approach by the coaching staff, the teams have lots in common. And for good reason. New England has won three of the past five Super Bowls.
"There are definitely similarities defensively," Belichick said. "The bottom line is the Jets are a good football team."
The most obvious similarity between the teams is their use of the 3-4 defensive scheme, something Mangini brought with him. The Patriots have thrived in that system, especially this season while allowing a franchise record low of 14.81 points per game, but it took some time for the Jets to adjust before winning three in a row to make the playoffs.
"We've gotten more comfortable with it as the weeks progressed, and the coaches got more comfortable with us," linebacker Victor Hobson said. "That gives people a lot more freedom to do more things."
Tom Brady knows that firsthand. After losing the first meeting at home in Week 2, the Jets stepped up the pressure against New England's quarterback eight weeks later. The result was a 17-14 victory, and the lasting image was a muddied Brady sitting on the turf as the Jets celebrated around him.
"It was a big confidence booster, but that was just one game," defensive end Shaun Ellis said. "This is a totally different game, there is a lot more at stake. They'll be more prepared than the last game."