The conservative way to play it would have been to say yes, New England’s up next, it’s important because it’s a division rival, no more, and why don’t we talk about the Patriots on Wednesday when we really start up our week of preparation, and let’s bask one more day today in the warm afterglow of Sunday’s satisfying win over the Colts.
But Rex Ryan didn’t play it that way at his day-after news conference. The media wanted to know his latest take on the Pats. And he didn’t disappoint.
Are the Patriots, at 3-3 like everyone else and his brother in the AFC East, more vulnerable than they had been in the past? the Jets head coach was asked.
“Are they more vulnerable? I don’t know. They’ve lost three games. That’s probably more than they normally lose in a season,” Ryan said. “But we need to worry about ourselves more than anybody else. I think that’s where we’re at today, tomorrow, or some of our preparation even on Wednesday, but we obviously have to dial into our opponent specifically as well. For us to get to where we want to get to, we have to improve ourselves. I think that’s what we’re really working on doing as well.”
So when did he begin thinking about the Patriots?
“I’ve never stopped thinking about the Patriots, but that’s it,” he said with a laugh. “That’s a team we have to beat to win our division. And obviously Buffalo and Miami are improved, not taking anything away from them, but the team that’s won our division since I’ve been the head coach here is always New England. That’s the one you have to beat for sure. You think about them, you even build your roster sometimes in trying to compete, trying to beat this team. You’re always thinking about them.”
We’ve never known Rex to diss the Patriots. Even when he was talking about not having “come here to kiss Belichick’s rings,” it wasn’t to run down Bill Belichick’s, Tom Brady’s and New England’s successes but rather to let them, plus the Jets’ fans, players and reporters, know that he wouldn’t be going into these games with his hat in his hand.
Still, some take Ryan’s belief in his team when it’s Patriots week to somehow be disrespectful toward one of the NFL’s great franchises. Thus a reporter’s question today about why Rex likes to “tweak” the Patriots. Ryan explained his position again.
“Well, I just think that I want them to know — and they know — that I think we’re going to beat them. I don’t buy into all that other stuff,” he said. “Look, I recognize that they’re a great football team. Belichick’s a great coach. I never once said that he wasn’t. Again, we’re not going to back down or concede to anything. They’re going to get our best shot, we know we’re going to get theirs, so it really doesn’t matter who says what. We are going to be ourselves.
“We’re coming up there to take our swing, and we’ll see if we land that punch to win a game.”
Jets visits to Foxboro have been a mixed bag this millennium, with some magnificent victories and some resounding defeats. But the Jets needed something like their plus-margin win over the Colts (plus-4 in takeaways, plus-211 rushing yards, plus-7:20 in possession time and plus-26 on the scoreboard) to fortify them for the swings they are about to take.
More on Jets-Patriots to come on Wednesday, plus we’ll unveil a remarkable first in franchise history from Jets-Colts that not even Rex Ryan knew about and is quite happy with.
Smitty Weighs In
Reporter John Holt notes that S Eric Smith always gets excited this time of year, and his reason for excitement isn’t due to Halloween quickly approaching. Instead, like with their head coach, it’s because he and his teammates begin preparation this week to face Tom Brady and the Patriots.
“It’s a big rivalry for us,” Smith said this afternoon. “It’s a division game. We’re both at the top right now. You know it’s usually going to be a good game.”
Over the years, the AFC East foes have had plenty of intriguing battles. Last year New England defeated the Jets in both the team’s meetings, winning, 30-21, in Foxboro and 37-16 five weeks later at MetLife Stadium. But in 2010, the Green & White overcame the Patriots’ impressive 14-2 regular season by defeating Brady & Co., 28-21, in the AFC Divisional Round Game, which advanced them to the conference championship for the second year in a row.
Both teams will enter Sunday’s contest with 3-3 records and knotted up a top of the AFC East standings. The Jets are coming off a 35-9 win over Indianapolis, while New England will look to bounce back from a 24-23 loss at Seattle. Regardless of the Pats’ record, Smith knows they are still the team to beat in the division.
“You know they’re going to come ready to play and cause a lot of problems in matchups, and things we’re going to have to deal with,” he said.
The seventh-year pro is optimistic that the offseason additions of safeties LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell boost the secondary’s ability to slow down New England’s high powered offense.
“We do have a lot of guys that can cover and play man-to-man well, so that might give us a little bit of an advantage,” Smith said. “But with this offense they’re running, it’s up-tempo. It’s going to put a lot of stress on us.”
As a member of the Jets defense, Smith said game-planning for New England’s offense always presents a challenge because not only can they spread defenses out with their passing game but this season have proven they can beat opponents on the ground as well.
“Guys are just going to have to get off blocks and run to the ball,” he said.
To emulate the Patriots’ up-tempo offense, No. 33 said the scout team will move at a faster pace this week in practice. He added that the Jets faced a similar task when they prepared for Miami earlier this season.
“It’s a rivalry game,” Smith said. “It’s one of the ones you’re up for no matter what.”
RB Ups and Downs
For the Jets running game, there were many highlights besides those already mentioned Sunday. Shonn Greene started cooking in the first quarter when the Jets rushed for 57 yards, a seemingly modest amount and yet their most in any quarter in the last 11 games, or since they gained 58 in the opening frame of the home win over Buffalo last year.
That distinction stood only until the third quarter, when McKnight’s 61-yard dash was the centerpiece of the 97-yard rushing quarter, the most in any quarter in the last 25 games, or since that “other” Bills game, when they rushed for 96 yards in the 2010 regular-season finale.
The downside was that on the same series, McKnight (ankle) and Bilal Powell (shoulder) left the game. Ryan today said both backs are undergoing magnetic resonance imaging exams today and that he would update reporters on their injuries on Wednesday.
Tags: Bilal Powell, Bill Belichick, Eric Smith, Indianapolis Colts, joe McKnight, New England Patriots, Rex Ryan, Shonn Greene
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