- Associated Press - Thursday, December 2, 2010

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) - Santonio Holmes tried to hold back. Really, he did.

The prospect of facing the New England Patriots‘ young secondary has the New York Jets wide receiver excited. He just didn’t want to admit it _ at first.

“If I could really speak my mind, I would,” he said Thursday. “But, just off the strength of me being a professional, I don’t worry about those guys. We have to worry about what we have to do here.”

While coach Rex Ryan insists they’re still a run-first offense, the Jets should have several opportunities to air it out Monday night against a secondary that ranks last in the league in pass defense _ surprising for a unit coached by Bill Belichick.

“Regardless of who’s on the field, what guys are playing, it’s his defense that he’s been running for a number of years,” Holmes said. “He’s going to continue doing the same thing, regardless of whether someone wants to exploit his team as the 31st or 32nd team in the NFL that has the worst passing defense. He doesn’t care. His record speaks for itself.”

True, but what about the possibility of being matched against Devin McCourty? Can any rookie really shut him down?

“Negative,” Holmes said, perking up. “That was proven Super Bowl Sunday two years ago, when they had a rookie follow me around the whole game.

“I wouldn’t do it if I was them.”

In the 2009 Super Bowl, Arizona used Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Holmes, who earned MVP honors by catching nine passes for 131 yards and the winning touchdown for Pittsburgh with 31 seconds left. That strategy didn’t work too well for the Cardinals, did it?

“No, no,” Holmes said with a laugh. “Not at all.”

The Patriots have McCourty, two second-year players in cornerback Kyle Arrington and safety Patrick Chung, and a fourth-year safety in Brandon Meriweather in their starting secondary.

“That’s our job,” Holmes said, “to go out and exploit those guys.”

New England’s overall defense ranks second-to-last in the league, an alarming statistic Ryan refuses to buy into.

“It’s misleading because they’re creating turnovers,” he said. “The numbers say one thing, but their defense is much better than what their numbers say.”

New England has 15 interceptions, including five by McCourty, and recovered five fumbles. But the Patriots have not allowed fewer than 24 points in their last four games.

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