Archive for January, 2011

To Beat Steelers, Jets Must Look in the Mirror

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J.- Unlike their match-ups with the pass-happy offenses that Indianapolis and New England feature, the 2011 AFC Championship game will be decided in a place that the Jets feel comfortable. No, I’m not talking about Pittsburgh’s Heinz field, where the Jets are a career 1-7, rather the trenches.

A bruising defense coupled with an equally bruising ground game is how Rex Ryan and Mike Tannenbaum built this Jets team. As it happens, the Steelers are also built in a similar fashion.

An attacking defense, with help from Calvin Pace, and a pounding ground attack will be the ingrediants to beat a stout Pittsburgh Steelers team. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“We’ve called [this game] before a triple chinstrap game, a straight-ahead, no fair dodging game,” Ryan said. “Both teams are built the same. It’s going to be one heck of a game to way. All I want to do is find a way to win, by one point, whatever.”

In the regular season, the Jets ranked third in the NFL in total defense giving up 291.5 yards per game. The Steelers ranked second, giving up 276.8 per. The Jets came in third in rushing yards allowed per game, with 90.9. The Steelers led the league, giving up an anemic 62.8 per game.

It are these similarities that makes praising the opposing team a lot easier, than, say, speaking the praises of a certain division rival that has often been referred to “That Team Up North”.

“I look at [the Steelers] as the way football’s meant to be played. This two hard-hitting, hard-nosed teams, getting ready to go at it. Just roll the clock back about 30 years or so, that’s the kind of game it’s going to be. That’s who we are, and that’s who Pittsburgh is. And that’s who Pittsburgh has always been, so I respect that. I respect the way they play.”

So how do the Jets go about beating a similar foe, in their home building–a place that has haunted the organization their whole career? Well, after exorcising the quarterback demons that are Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, anything is possible.

To beat the Steelers the Jets simply have to continue to play the way they have on the road since Ryan has taken over the team. Play ball-control football.

“Did we turn the ball over versus the Colts? Did we turn the ball over against the Patriots,” Santonio Holmes, who was drafted by the Steelers before being traded the to Jets this past off-season, questioned. “That is the key. That is the key to winning any game on the road. Not giving those guys opportunites. Runna four-minute offense with four minutes on the clock to end the game and not turn the ball over.”

Sounds like the Jets are looking to give Pittsburgh a taste of the their own medicine. Despite their 22-17 Week 15 loss, the Steelers and Rashad Mendenhall ran over the Jets for 99 yards and a touchdown, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. While the Shonn Greene and LaDanian Tomlinson combined for 90 yards, that was without the Steeler’s defensive cog, Troy Polamalu.

“I honestly think Troy Polamalu is probably the greatest player I’ve ever played with or ever seen play in person. He’s jumping over the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. He’s talking running backs in the backfield. He’s jumping up, intercepting balls one-handed. He’s returning it for touchdowns,” Holmes said.

Coming up with a scout player to do what Polamalu can do may be troublesome, as there is no one even comparable to his skill set. But come Sunday, the Jets will look themselves in the mirror and know they have what it takes to bring home the Lamar Hunt trophy.

Byrd is the word after Jets soaring victory

Tuesday, January 18th, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – A master of motivation, Rex Ryan may have saved his most motivating ploy for a time that couldn’t have been better. Leading up to the eventual 28-21 victory over the New England Patriots, Ryan came out and publically stated that this match-up would be personal. He took jabs at the Patriots, while giving endless praise to his players and team. But on the eve of their divisional round match-up, in their Providence hotel, Ryan brought in Dennis Byrd to give for a last-second speech to re-focus his team with their pre-season goal.

What he said wasn’t your traditional rah-rah speech. Forget Gene Hackman in Hoosiers. That’s not Byrd’s style. Instead Byrd told the Jets players about his life. He spoke to the magnitude of this game and making the most off an opportunity when it presents itself. Because, he of all people know that nothing is ever guaranteed.

Braylon Edwards spoke the most passionately about the speech given by Dennis Byrd. (JetsInsider.com Photo)

Drafted in the second round in 1989 by the Jets, Byrd recorded 20 sacks and 110 tackles in his first two seasons with the team as a defensive end and tackle. In a game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Byrd attempted to sack quarterback Dave Krieg, but Krieg stepped up to aboid the tackle, and Byrd collided with Jets teammate Scott Mersereau. Byrd ducked his head at the last moment before he collided with Mersereau’s chest. The head-first collision resulted in a broken C-5 vertebra that left him unable to walk for a period of time. That would be his final play.

“It was one of the most special of those priceless moments, a convergence of events. I wanted them to know these moments don’t come around very often. I wanted them to know this is it. It’s now,” Byrd said.

There wasn’t a soul in the room who didn’t get his message.

“You could hear a pin drop,” owner Woody Johnson said. “He let everyone know what it meant to be a Jet. Santonio Holmes stood up first and game him a standing ovation. He was inspirational.”

Holmes’ receiving mate, Braylon Edwards (2 receptions for 57 yards, 1 TD), took his words to heart and was just one of the many players who felt truly inspired by the words from the former Jet.

“After he spoke, I really couldn’t sleep last night. I was chomping at the bit to play [on Sunday],” Edwards said. “All I can hear in the back of my mind is [Byrd saying], ‘I would trade anything for one play’. He didn’t say another season. He didn’t say one game. He said ‘I would trade anything in this world for one play.’ You know what one play is? That lasts maybe six seconds. He’d trade his whole life in for six seconds. That’s all it took for every guy in that locker room [Saturday].”

Edwards would go on to say that he felt Byrd’s presence and the power of his words on the field.

“[My touchdown reception] was one of those plays where Mark put the ball on me, I caught it and I just felt Dennis Byrd and I was going into the endzone. I’m not trying to get cheesy or anything like that, but it’s honest. I felt his spirit and the things he talked about [Saturday night], the really showed up on that play.”

Ryan then invited the former Jet on the sidelines for the game, giving Byrd an opportunity to send one more message. After holding on to the jersey that was cut from body on that frightful day in 1992, Byrd gave it back to the Jets as it accompanied the team captains to the center of the field for the coin flip.

“It’s been on my heart for a long time to send the jersey back. They had honored me by not re-issuing that number and it’s a great honor. I wanted to return it and let it be what it is. [The Jets] have been in my heart for a long time. [Green and white] are the only colors I’ve ever worn,” Byrd said, who kept the jersey in his Tulsa, Oklahoma home.

As much of an inspiration Byrd was for his former team, something tells me the Jets returned the favor with last night’s victory over the Patriots.

Jets walk their talk, Beat Patriots 28-21

Monday, January 17th, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, MA- Not only can these Jets talk, but they also can play a little football as well. After a week full of trash talking, the Jets (13-5) were able to get the Patriots (14-3) monkey off their back on Sunday evening.

“[I'm] proud of the way the team played. It was an outstanding effort by our guys. We came here for a reason. Maybe everybody else didn’t believe us, but we did. We worked too hard to get back here and we came for a reason. We thought we were the better team,” Rex Ryan said.

With a decisive 28-21 victory over the New England Patriots on the road, the Jets now move on to face the Pittsburgh Steelers (14-3) in the AFC Championship game. For Rex Ryan’s rambunctious bunch, this marks the second time in as many seasons the Jets have reached the AFC Championship game despite playing all their playoff games on the road.

“This is a win but this isn’t our goal,” Bart Scott said. “Our goal is still ahead of us and we got a lot of work to do. Pittsburgh is a tremendous team, with a Super Bowl pennant and a quarterback that has won two of them. It is going to take everything we have, but I think we will be up to the challenge.”

Santonio Holmes came up with a catch that may just be better than his Super Bowl-clincher for the Steelers. After the 28-21 win over the Patriots, Holmes and the Jets will play his former team next Sunday. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Mark Sanchez threw three touchdowns in a stadium that has been his personal Hell on Earth, while Tom Brady struggled to find any sort of rhythm against a Jets defense that continually switched up their looks and earned five sacks on the All-Pro quarterback.

The outcome is quite the opposite of what occurred back in Week 13, where the Jets fell behind early and were routed 45-3. After gaining a 14-3 advantage on their home opponent, the Patriots came back with a 2-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Alge Crumpler that was followed by a successful 2-point conversion run by Sammy Morris, making the score 14-11.

Sanchez answered back by marching his team to the endzone, highlighted by a 57-yard catch-and-run by Jerricho Cotchery (5 receptions, 96 yards) and capped off by a beautiful 7-yard pass to Santonio Holmes in the back left portion of the endzone, in which Holmes narrowly tapped his toes on the turf before falling out of bounds. That score put the Jets back up by 10 points, 21-11.

“Mark lined up and saw the guy come up and press me and he just got the ball out of his hands and gave me the opportunity to make a play. I was talking to him all game about giving me a shot to make a play and he did just that. It was a beautiful pass by Mark, I just made it look easy in the back of the end zone,” Holmes said after the game.

Brady (29-45, 299 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT) looked to be in a rare form that has been unfamiliar than what we’ve seen over the regular season. Usually standing tall and confident in the pocket, Brady looked be to very uncomfortable as he was seeing plenty of green and white jerseys coming at him. In addition to the five sacks, Brady also threw his first interception since Week 6 against Baltimore and had one fumble.

“[Brady looked] a little confused. We have seen him before. We saw it in the first game when we played him. This game he was a little confused out there,” Darrelle Revis said.

Credit the Jets longest-tenured player, Shaun Ellis, for a lot of the pocket disruption. His two sacks in the game came right up the gut, as he was playing over the center for the majority of the game.

After getting the ball to start the game off, a well-orchestrated first drive ended solemnly with last week’s hero, Nick Folk, missing a 30-yard field goal. The Patriots then embarked on an 11-play drive that ended with a Shayne Graham 34-yard field goal, making the score 3-0 Patriots after the first quarter.

The Jets would be the first to get into the endzone, however, after Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards (2 receptions, 52 yards, 1 TD) for a 37-yard backyard play in which Sanchez rolled out and directed Edwards towards an opening in the coverage.

The drive ended with a 7-yard swing pass to LaDanian Tomlinson, giving them the 7-3 lead.

Late in the first half, with the Patriots struggling to move the ball offensively, the team attempted a direct snap, fake punt to Patrick Chung on a 4th&1 play where he fumbled the snap. The Jets took advantage capping a four play drive with a 15-yard strike to Edwards, who easily walked into the endzone. Jets 14, Patriots 3.

After making the game 21-14 with just under two minutes to go in game thanks to a 35-yard field goal by Graham, the Patriots failed at an attempted onside kick. All the Jets had to do was get one, maybe two, first downs and the game was set. But Shonn Greene (17 rushes, 76 yards, 1 TD) broke through the line and had nothing but green pastures in front of him. The only person close enough to tackle him was his own coach, who nearly pulled a hamstring running down the field in excitement.

The Patriots, who were losing the battle against time, scored a meaningless 13-yard touchdown from Brady to Branch, giving us the final score of 28-21.

Perhaps no one believed the Jets could have pulled off the victory, but, like Rex said, he and his players did. And maybe that’s all the talk the needed to hear.

Brad Smith out, Turner in for Divisional Game

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass.- As the Jets were wrapping up practice on the Friday before they faced off against the New England Patriots on Week 13, they had a freak injury to their defensive play caller and locker room leader, Jim Leonhard.

After colliding with Patrick Turner in practice, Leonhard broke his tibia and in the process would end up breaking the backs of the Jets before they even took the field at Gillette Stadium. Clearly, the loss of Leonhard was too much too soon as the Jets were never able to get their feet under them before falling behind 17-0 in the eventual 45-3 loss.

KR/WR/Wildcat QB Brad Smith (groin) will be inactive for today's divisional round match-up against the New England Patriots. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

In an ironic twist of events, while Patrick Turner was the player involved in the injury to Leonhard, it will be Turner who will replace the injured Brad Smith (groin) as the Jets yet again face the Patriots in Gillette. This time, the game will decide who goes to the AFC Championship game to face the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Smith had injured his groin in last week’s 17-16 victory over the Indianapolis Colts. A versatile player for the Jets as a kick returner, receiver and wild cat option, the loss of Smith is a huge blow for the Jets. Smith has two kick returns for touchdowns this season.

Antonio Cromartie, who had the key 47-yard return at the end of the game that set-up Nick Folk’s game-winning field goal, is set to return kicks. Rookie fullback John Conner (non-injury related) is also inactive, probably due to utilize the return abilities of fellow rookie running back, Joe McKnight.

The other Jets inactives are as follows: QB Kellen Clemens, LB Vernon Gholston, DT Jarron Gilbert, TEs Matthew Mulligan and Jeff Cumberland, and DT Marcus Dixon.

The inactive players for the Patriots are WR Taylor Price, RB Fred Taylor, CB Tony Carter, RB Thomas Clayton, LB Marques Murrell, OL Rich Ohrnberger, T Mark LeVoir, and DL Myron Pryor.

Is The Talk Really Cheap?

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – It’s certainly what has put gas on this suddenly blazing rivalry between the New York Jets and the New England Patriots. The art of talking trash in professional sports is as much apart of a player’s skill set as, say, the swim move or the mid-range jumper.

Trash talk is how an inferior team can overcome a superior foe. Winning the mental game is just as important as the physical one. After all, isn’t 90 percent of the game half mental?

Winning the mental game can re-focus a player on executing to his fullest. Losing it, however, can spell your doom before ever stepping foot on the field. New Yorkers remember one of sports’ greatest trash-talkers, Reggie Miller, and his mental battles with Knicks guard John Starks in the mid-90’s. Miller’s dominance of the mental game spilled over to the physical game as successfully lifted a less-talented Pacers team over a physically-dominant Knicks team. Starks mental meltdown certainly his team a game, and perhaps the series.

Rex Ryan has always been a general in the War of Words, but does his words have any effect on the game? (JetsInsider.com Photo).

In the case of the Jets and Patriots, both of the team’s figureheads–Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick–present mirror opposites on the topic of trash talk.

On the one side, there is Ryan: a jovial, braggadocios, almost caricature of himself who believes that by talking trash in the media it will take the pressures off his players and, in the process, motivate them to play harder. Clearly, the players have taken on a similar stance as their coach, alas Antonio Cromartie yesterday.

And on the other, there Belichick: a stoic, tight-lipped, drill sergeant who orders his players to be nearly as bland about off-the-field drama as he is in efforts to keep his players focused and keep the opposing players from having any “bulletin board material”. Clearly, the players have taken on a similar stance as their coach, alas Tom Brady’s reaction to Cromartie.

There is that phrase again, “bulletin board material”.

It’s funny how Belichick can quickly dismiss Cromartie’s public lashing on his star player with a simple “we don’t pay attention to that stuff”, yet he is adamant on his players not talking through the media. And isn’t it strange that in one breath Ryan can be taking shots at Brady, but in the very next say he doesn’t think the trash talk effects the Patriots?

To say that the media lashings laid out by teams have zero effect on the opposing team’s players is false. If that were the case, where would the phrase “bulletin board material” have come from? How would the evolution of the term “haters” become popularized by young adults if they didn’t use the “hate” as motivation? (Maybe LeBron James knows the answer to that one.)

For decades, athletes have taken negatively driven headlines and turned it in to personal and team success. It’s the reason why certain athletes love playing the role of the bad guy. Certainly Ryan does, no example more glaring than publicly announcing his 2010 Jets as the team to beat after only having one head coaching season under his belt.

Belichick knows all to well about winning the mental game. As a defensive coordinator for the 1990 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, he and the rest of the Giants had to have paid close attention (although he would never admit it) to headlines as they told stories of Buffalo Bills players getting fitted for Super Bowl rings before the game. Perhaps that is why he urges his players to be so tight-lipped in front of the cameras. The weight of games, this one especially, is enough motivation for any player, but why make an already motivated player feel slighted?

To say that the pre-game talk is cheap would slighting some of the world’s inspirational people. Under that notion, LaDanian Tomlinson (the Jets’ Most Inspirational Player recipient) never motivated his teammates with heartfelt speeches. Tony Robbins, acclaimed motivational speaker, would have spent his life living a lie. Notre Dame really didn’t win one for the Gipper.

The Exorcism of Mark Sanchez

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Mark Sanchez has been haunted, no, terrorized by the New England Patriots’ demons in his two visits to Gillette Stadium. Sanchez has played like he’s been possessed. Usually a statement reserved for an out-of-body, amazing performance for athletes, Sanchez’s possession has been quite the opposite.

In two games at Foxborough, he has thrown one touchdown to seven interceptions while fumbling the ball twice. Don’t surprised if next to Sanchez’s iPad and gameplan notebook will be some holy water and a copy of the Bible in his duffel bag as he prepares to exorcise the demons that have tormented the second-year quarterback.

Outside of hiring Father Merrin to keep the Patriots’ demon-defenders away from Sanchez, what can the Jets do to make this fad fade away? The answer is keep doing what they’re doing.

With the help from the high priest Rex Ryan and Father Brian Schottenheimer, Sanchez has all the tools around him to dismantle his demons. After a year of on-the-job learning, he has stopped worrying about the dark forces swirling around him and just plays the game.

After all, the aura of the Patriots can be rather possessive. The lore of Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, not even the actual persons, may have stolen many hours of sleep from opposing teams.

“My first year, I thought about [matching Brady's performance],” Sanchez said, about how the other quarterback is doing and trying to match him and have better stats and a better rating.”

Ryan, in his opening address as the newest Jets head coach, felt the recent dominance of the Patriots wore on New Yorkers so much that he proclaimed that he wasn’t here to kiss Belichick’s rings.

And with a 60-minute effort from the every Jet, in particular Sanchez and Ryan, they can exorcise their Patriot demons, by playing their own game.

Mark Sanchez will look to the powers above to help exercise his demons that occupy Gillette Stadium. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Though he wasn’t at his best against the Colts, when the Jets needed Sanchez’s fifth game-winning drive he became The Sanchize. Stepping up when his team needs it most is something Ryan has seen more of out of his second-year signal caller.

“His confidence is really huge. I think that comes with his knowledge of the system, how feels about his teammates and being able to recognize defenses. He’s way ahead of where he was last year.”

Belichick has even noticed a better sense of poise from Sanchez. “He’s done an excellent job in some tough situations and brought his team back and won for them. I think anytime a quarterback does that, that’s what you want on your resume.” Flattering words from the man who has haunted his career.

His confidence will be essential to how the offensive game spells out for the Jets. The sooner Sanchez can turn into The Sanchize the better. As we saw in their last meeting, playing from behind in Foxborough doesn’t usually work out for the opponents.

“[Last game] we started off slow. They started off fast and they kept rolling. And we were never able to bounce back. When you get down like that, then you start forcing balls, throwing interceptions and you just end up buried,” Sanchez said.

Since the performance at Foxborough coupled with an ugly home loss the following week against Miami, Sanchez has vowed to play a more mistake-free game. He also feels that himself, as well as his teammates, have faced and overcome the mistakes that took place against the Patriots in Week 13.

“We just realized the importance of the ball, time of possession, taking care of the ball, completing pass early and getting into a rhythm. In our biggest wins, that’s the way we’ve played on offense and the way I played. It’s going to be imperative for us to start fast, to be able to bounce back from adversity and winning the turnover battle,” Sanchez said.

With the biggest game of his career to date just a mere three days away, Sanchez, cross in hand, seems primed to rid himself of the demons that have been the Patriots and his personal Hell on Earth, Gillette Stadium.

And he wouldn’t want it any other way. “All we could ask for is to play them one more time.”

Will Cromartie’s Words Help or Hurt?

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The Jets have been here before. Take a short look back to Week 13, where the Jets, 9-2, were ready to supplant the New England Patriots as the AFC East’s dominant team. They featured a top-10 offense with a budding star at quarterback and a top-5 defense that has a tough-guy reputation.

However there is no need to reiterate the display the Jets put on in that 45-3 loss, as everyone in the Jets locker room will tell you they were the worse team that day.

But here we are, Week 19—the divisional round in the playoffs, and the Jets are yet again traveling up to Foxborough, Massachusetts to complete the Jets-Patriots trilogy. The Jets are winners in three of their last four games, including victories at Pittsburgh and at Indianapolis. Experts may say the Jets have hit their stride at the perfect time.

The running game seems to have been rejuvenated, while a re-focused Mark Sanchez vowed to cut back on his miscues. The defense is fresh off a dominating performance over a Peyton Manning offense, something that rarely happens for a Rex Ryan defense. In fact, Ryan was so pleased with his teams’ performance against the Colts that he couldn’t stop glowing, particularly the play of his star defensive player.

Antonio Cromartie has been relatively quiet throughout the season, but his rather choice words for Tom Brady has the whole nation abuzz. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

“Quite honestly, he’s the best player in football. The play of Darrelle Revis [was great]. That is what you saw out there. Holding Reggie Wayne, who led the league in catches, to one catch for one yard. That tells you how good [Revis] is. We were able to do some coverages during the game where we actually played man-coverage strictly on his side regardless of who the receiver was and roll their coverage away from it,” Ryan said.

When healthy, Revis is certainly among the game’s top defenders, if not at the top. He has clearly made it a point to shut down the team’s opposing  top receiving threat week-in and week-out. After Wayne’s 111-catch season (second only to Roddy White’s 116 receptions), Revis held the former Miami standout to one catch for one yard.

“The [game] this week will be the same deal because when people see [Revis] over there, they don’t even throw to him.  They realize that that guy isn’t open.  I don’t care who the receiver is, he is not going to be open.  We know that and we’ll try to take advantage of it again this week,” Ryan continued.

However, in facing a Moss-less Patriots team, one will be hard-pressed to say who is the Patriots clear-cut number one receiver. The truth is, with this Patriot team, the open man is Brady’s number one receiver. On one drive it may be Wes Welker or Deion Branch and on the next drive it may be Danny Woodhead or Rob Gronkowski. Revis may very well shut down Branch of Welker for four quarters, but against a team that has so many threats on the field, it will be up to Revis’ teammates to stop Brady and the Patriots.

That means Revis’ counter-part, Antonio Cromartie, will have to back up his rather choice words when referring to this week’s opponent.  “[He’s an] ass****. F*** him. That’s what I think about him. I don’t really give a damn about him. If I beat the s*** out of his receivers, he can’t throw the ball,” Cromartie told reporters yesterday. While the Jets have been anything but shy about jarring the Patriots through the media, they should do so with caution.

Look back to the December 6, 2007 match-up between the Patriots, then 12-0 on their way to the number one seed if the AFC, and the Steelers, 9-3, boasted one of the league’s top scoring defenses. Second year player Anthony Smith said this: “We’re going to win. Yeah I can guarantee a win. As long as we come out and do what we got to do. Both sides of the ball are rolling, and if our special teams come through for us, we’ve got a good chance to win.”

The Steelers lost that game, 31-13. And Brady attacked the jabbering Smith on two different touchdown plays. Three years later, no one has even heard of Anthony Smith.

Before the 2005 Super Bowl, Philadelphia Eagles big-mouthed receiver Freddie “Fred-Ex” Mitchell said he didn’t even know the players on the Patriots names. After a 24-21 loss, Mitchell didn’t even record a catch in the game. Five years later, people barely remember Freddie Mitchell.

While Cromartie is far more talented than either Smith or Mitchell, he must remain wary of getting picked on by Brady. In their Week 13 meeting, Cromartie was torched by Deion Branch for a 25-yard touchdown, on third down no less. And Wayne may have been shut down by Revis, but Pierre Garcon, covered by Cromartie, gained over 100 yards and scored a touchdown as well.

The Patriots don’t strike back through the media, the make notes of what is said, and take their shots on the field. The Jets have put together a great season in spite being laced with trash-talk. Let’s hope for their sake, their season isn’t derailed because of the trash talk.

One if by Land, Two by Air

Wednesday, January 12th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – The war has resumed. The on-going rivalry between the New England Patriots and the New York Jets has reached it’s boiling point. After two regular season games that played more like battles than sports, the final stand-off between the two will undoubtedly be the biggest to date.

Rex Ryan has already gotten the sports world abuzz, pinning the game as a match-up of coaches. Patriots head coach Bill Belichick fired back with a playful response of his own, while ordering his players to not play the Jets media games.

“I don’t think you’ll see either of us out there making any blocks, or tackles, or runs, throws or catches. At least you won’t see me doing that. It’s probably a good thing for our team,” Belichick said.

As the two generals prepare their team for battle in New England on Sunday, somewhere Fireman Ed is assembling a band of Gang Green faithful to cross the Mason Dixon line that is Route 84 in Connecticut to enemy borders.

The Green Coats are coming! The Green Coats are coming! The Green Coats are coming!

Okay, maybe “green coat” doesn’t have that good of a ring to it, but the Jets (as well as their fans) are preparing themselves for yet another match-up of epic proportions with the arch-rivaled Patriots.

Unlike our fore-fathers, the Battle of Foxborough will be nationally televised and highly-anticipated. In their previous two battles, both defended their home ground with a vicious sense of pride.

4:15 PM EST, September 19, 2010- The late afternoon sun shined bright through the clouds in East Rutherford, N.J. It couldn’t have been a better day for an upset. The Jets, dressed in their home whites, were awaiting the arrival of the Patriots and the beginning of a Battle for New Jersey.

Bart Scott, 57, and his New York Jets are preparing themselves for the third and final battle, the Battle of Foxborough, with the New England Patriots Sunday. (JetsInsider.com Photo.)

The Patriots entered the Meadowlands a confident, battle-tested group, who were looking to continue their dominance over their New York rival. The Jets, were an upstart group coming off a disappointing start and hungry for a victory under a coach who kept his troops motivated.

New England struck first, their field general Tom Brady leading the way per usual. But the second-year starter, Mark Sanchez, would have the answer with a score of his own. As the battle would unfold, the Patriots had some spectacular moves (ala Randy Moss’ catch of catches on Darrelle Revis), but not enough to leave victorious. The Jets dismantled what would become the best team in the league, forcing their leader to turn the ball over three times and score 31 points on their defense.

For Sanchez, it marked a pivotal victory over a foe that bullied New York in recent years. It proved to his teammates that, when all the pieces fall together, he can be an excellent quarterback and leader.

For Ryan, it was just another instance of not kissing Belichick’s rings. It was another notch on his bravado belt and it nailed one more nail into the naysayer’s coffin.

As a team, the Jets showed that they can live up to their label of a Super Bowl caliber team. After an off-season of talking, they finally got their walk on. Hindsight would later show that this would be one of the few days this team put together a “60-minute game”.

8:30 PM EST, December 6, 2010- This time around there was no sun and certainly no love lost between these two teams. In what was dubbed the “Game of the Year”, the 9-2 Jets traveled up north to visit the 9-2 Patriots in what later would be referred to as The Massacre in Massachusetts.

No longer an upstart team, Ryan and his Jets came to Foxborough with their chests puffed out ready to stake their claim on the Patriots’ home turf. The Patriots, however, had other ideas. Brady exacted his revenge, as did the defense in a 45-3 route.

For the Jets, the pain came early, fast and often. Perhaps the biggest pain was seeing Danny Woodhead play the role of Benedict Arnold, as he torched his former team for over 100 yards receiving.

With the victory, the Patriots also won the inside track to the top seed in the playoffs. With the loss, the Jets traveled back to East Rutherford with questions to be answered.

Are we battle-tested? Can we perform in the big game? Will we be able to beat New England on the road?

After a decisive victory over Peyton Manning and his Indianapolis Colts in their Wildcard match-up, the Jets have answered two of those questions. The final question will be answered on Sunday. Until then we all will be awaiting the Battle of Foxborough to commence.

Jets stun the Colts, Win 17-16; Meet Patriots in Divisonal Round

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

INDIANAPOLIS – They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Luckily for Rex Ryan, Nick Folk had ice running through his veins when he kicked a 32-yard game-winning field goal as time expired. The Jets won in the final seconds, 17-16, against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Field Saturday night.

On a personal note, Ryan finally beat Peyton Manning and the Colts, sending them packing in their own home in Must-See-TV fashion. The only way Ryan knows how.

“We’ve been in some close ones this year, but to come out and pull this game out against a great football team, against a great quarterback, it was a Herculean effort,” a relieved Ryan said. “I mean really, I’m just thankful for the men I coach. Thankful for the two backs we got, that pounded it in there. Thankful for that coaching staff. Thankful for Nick Folk, and I’m thankful that I finally got to beat Peyton Manning.”

Jet K Nick Folk celebrates with holder Steve Weatherford after hitting game winning 32 yd FG against the Colts (JetsInsider.com Photo)

The Jets (12-5) may have gotten one monkey off their back in defeating the Colts, but the silverback gorilla lies ahead. They will face the top-seeded New England Patriots on the road in the divisional round on Sunday.

The Colts (10-7) lose in the first round of the playoffs despite winning their last four games to win the AFC South. For Manning, who has orchestrated 35 fourth-quarter comebacks and 46 game-winning drives, his final drive of the 2010 season would be neither.

“It’s certainly disappointing tonight and that’s really all you think about tonight,” Manning said. “It’s disappointing with the way we lost tonight. Any time you lose on a last-second field goal, it certainly stings.”

Despite getting his team in place for Adam Vinatieri’s 50-yard go-ahead field goal with 53 seconds remaining, Manning was forced to watch Mark Sanchez do his best Manning impersonation.

“We’ve got to tip our hat to our offense,” Ryan said after the game. “I mean, we totally dominated the second half offensively. On defense, we had to hold serve. Against Peyton, you’re not going to stop him completely, but our guys played well enough to get it done and keep him out of the end zone. Our offense was just spectacular.”

Sanchez’s comeback drive was made possible by the fleet-footed Antonio Cromartie. Following Vinatieri’s kick, Cromartie took the ensuing kick-off 45 yards at their own 46-yard line. From there Sanchez would only need five plays to get the Jets within Folk’s range.

Manning had a solid performance, despite the loss, throwing for 225 yards and touchdown while getting his team in position for the win. His only mistake may have been giving the Jets too much time to return the favor.

“We were certainly trying to pick up that first down at the end, we thought that would make them use some of their timeouts and we could run the clock down,” Manning said. “But we didn’t pick up the first down and had to settle for the field goal.”

Braylon Edwards (4 rec, 62 yards) showed up in a big way on the final drive, catching two first-down balls, one being an 18-yard completion to the right side that brought the ball down the Colts 14-yard line.

That allowed Folk to attempt the game-winning kick. Folk has had his ups-and-downs during the season, but has never shied away from a kick.

Manning hit Pierre Garcon, who burned the Jets in the AFC Championship game last year, for a 57-yard touchdown pass that accounted for the only score of the first half. Garcon had a big day, pulling down five receptions for 112 yards and one score.

Tomlinson, the team’s inspirational leader, said “it was emotional, exciting and all those things at once. We knew it was going to be a dogfight against a great team.”

For the Jet’s sake, be hopefully the didn’t drain themselves of all those things before they face the Patriots next Sunday.

GAME NOTES:

  • Rex Ryan has earned his third postseason victory. His .750 (3-1) winning percentage in the playoffs is the best among all Jets coaches.
  • With today’s 17-16 win, the Jets are now 6-5 in Wild Card games, winning four of the last five contests.
  • QB Mark Sanchez has won three postseason games in his first two seasons in the NFL. The three wins are the most by a Jets QB in the postseason.
  • The Jets opened the second half with a 10-play, 63-yard touchdown drive. On the drive, the Jets rushed eight times for 43 yards and a touchdown. The drive was capped by a one-yard touchdown run by RB LaDanian Tomlinson.
  • The Jets recorded their longest scoring drive of the season in both plays (17) and time (9:54) on their second scoring drive. The drive traveled 87 yards and was capped by another Tomlinson one-yard score. The touchdown is the sixth postseason score of his career.
  • The Jets running game, led by Tomlinson (16-82-2), recorded 157 yards on 33 carries and two touchdowns.  Tomlinson collected his second most rushing yards and tied his record for touchdowns in a playoff game. 
  • Tomlinson’s 23-yard run on the first Jets offensive series is the longest postseason run of his career.
  • In four postseason games under Rex Ryan, the Jets have averaged 149 rushing yards and 37 carries. The Jets have also gone for two scores in three of the clubs four postseason games under Ryan.
  • The Jets defense held the Colts to 93 rushing yards.
  • S Eric Smith led the team with 10 tackles, the most he has had in the postseason, and two passes defensed.
  • LB Jason Taylor recorded the first postseason sack of his career when he tagged down Colts QB Peyton Manning for a six-yard loss. It is the Jets 11th consecutive postseason game with a sack. The streak started in the club’s 1998 AFC Championship Game when they recorded three.
  • During the second half, the Jets possessed the ball for 18:00 minutes and 33:07 for the game.
  • K Nick Folk connected on the game-winning 32-yard field goal with no time remaining.  His game-winning kick was the first by a Jets kicker in the last two minutes of regulation or overtime since Doug Brian connected on a 28-yard field goal in San Diego (1/8/05).

Much Ado About Nothing

Friday, January 7th, 2011

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – Too often lately when I’ve been writing for the Jets Insider, I forget that the site is predominantly blogging-based. A big advantage to the blogging style compared to the classic “AP” style is the acceptance of the first-person in the story. In fact the blogosphere thrives off personalities that can transcend the laptop or iPad and slap the reader right in the face.

With the season’s end filled with uncertainty, I think I will take this time to address an issue that has dominated the blogs, message boards, airwaves and flat-screen sets across the country.

This issue has been the pink elephant in the room throughout the 2010 Jets season. A confident, jovial, trash-talking, foot-loving, pink elephant. Of course I’m talking about head coach Rex Ryan, the unquestioned faced of the New York Jets.

He has not only been a great head coach, but also the team’s best cheerleader and publicist. From day 1 he had the respect of everyone who worked for him, and it was easy to see how willing the player’s were to go to war for him.

He’s the first to blame himself for mistakes and steal criticism from his players. A leader in every way, Rex even leads by displaying what not to do (remember the two birds he showed off to the fans of Miami?).

Rex seems to enjoy his foot-in-mouth moments. Today in a press conference took an inadvertant shot at Tom Brady. (JetsInsider.com Photo).

Ryan’s bravado and way with words, in two years, has turned a once-pessimistic, down-on-their-luck franchise into one that has something to be proud of. Like it or not, New York is packed to the brim with passionate, confident people who are not afraid to express themselves. Need I make yet another tired Jersey Shore joke?

The attitude that Ryan has breathed in to the organization has resuscitated a culture that has been waiting for someone to replace Broadway Joe. Someone who can talk the talk, and walk the walk. Ryan is that two-fold. He has most certainly talked the talk, and to a certain degree, has walked the walk. He took a revamped team with a first-year quarterback within 30 minutes of a Super Bowl and then turned around and added a 11-5 season for his sequel.

Having said this, the New York media (who should be thanking their lucky stars they have a character like Ryan to supply endless quotes and stories) continues to harp on the big-mouth backtalk.

Unfortunately, his gift of gab is also his biggest curse.

Personally, I see it as a double-edge sword. The media loves it when Rex comes out in a blond wig or waving pull-out spreads of his wife in front of the podium. Everyone drools over it. But he makes a few missteps with a microphone in front of him and, suddenly, the same ones who were drooling over Ryan and spitting on him.

Take today for example. During his daily press conference with the New York media, Ryan was asked to speak on being a great defensive coach going up against a great offensive quarterback. You’ve already heard it by now, but here’s the entire answer to that question.

It’s not just a coach on the field. You give the coaching community too much credit. This guys one of the best quarterbacks in the history of the game. He is one of the smartest guys. It’s not just a coach dialing up plays, he dials his own plays up. Each play has three options. He comes up and takes option one. Whatever it is. Forget those options, I’m going to go to option four. This is who he is. The guy is tremendous. There no one else like this guy in the league. Nobody studies like him. I know [Tom] Brady thinks he does. I think there’s probably a little more help from [Bill] Belichick with Brady than there is with Peyton Manning. Tom Moore has done a great job with him for forever [as well as Jim] Caldwell and Tony Dungy. It’s Peyton Manning. That’s who it is.

A perfect example of Rex being Rex: giving the media way too much information. Here he is trying to answer some poor reporter’s question about facing Peyton Manning and somehow manages to take a shot at Tom Brady. I’m sure Ryan didn’t realize it at the time but he just made the entire New York media’s day with that little nugget.

And sure enough on my way home ESPN 1050’s Michael Kay and WFAN’s Mike Francesa spent their afternoon segment breaking down how detrimental Ryan’s verbal antics are to his team, as they fielded calls from New Yorkers, who, for the most part, were in agreement on the issue. It’s not enough that that very same bravado has single-handedly turned around a culture’s demeanor to their team, it also has to be the reason the team will falter.

But that’s who he is, that’s always been: more than what you bargained for. He always gives full disclosure on player injuries and is very upfront from that. What does he have to hide? He has a good football team, and a good life. I can understand why he doesn’t want to shut up. He’s happy about where he is in life.

It’s sad, but too true to ignore, media is negatively slanted — even in the sports world. It’s the reason Tom Cable can go 6-0 in his division and be fired. It’s the reason Marty Schottenheimer can be fired for going 14-2 and bringing his team to an AFC Championship game. It’s why Joe Girardi, who just a year ago was the toast of the town, can be so quickly ridiculed as an “over-thinker”.

William Shakespeare had the right idea when he wrote Much Ado About Nothing. Ryan’s jovial persona and the media will forever be engaged in a merry war as the media proclaim their love, scorn and need for each other.

But may the audiences be wary not to be deceived by the veils of the media’s off-the-field happenings. It may be nothing at all.