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Drafting a blueprint to unplug the Chargers

By Jane McManus Feature Columnist
January 13th, 2010
Can Rex Ryan devise a plan to defuse the powerful Philip Rivers and Chargers who have won 11 in a row?
Can Rex Ryan devise a plan to defuse the powerful Philip Rivers and Chargers who have won 11 in a row?
FLORHAM PARK, NJ - The Jets will not be the favorites when they match up against San Diego this Sunday. The Chargers are the higher seed, have home field advantage and have won 11 straight games. But if the Jets want to look for reason they can advance to the third week of the playoffs, they can look back to Week 2 of the regular season.

That was when the Ravens managed a 31-26 win over San Diego in Baltimore.

It wasn’t exactly a shutout, but the defense coached until last season by Rex Ryan was able to maintain enough of a hold on the effective passing game of Philip Rivers and company to win the game.

Now under their first-year head coach, the Jets’ offense averages 21.8 points per game, and the Jets defense has held teams to 14.8 points. If the Jets are to win this game, the Jets will have to defend the pass, something that Kerry Rhodes and Darrelle Revis are very well aware of.

“It’s hard to stop them,” Rhodes said. “The challenge is on us in the back end and we know that and we’re approaching it this week as if we win it’s going to be on us.”

The secondary, which includes a cornerback in Darrelle Revis who finished second this week in voting for defensive player of the year, knows the stakes.

“This is the over the hump game for the New York Jets to get a lot of respect from the NFL,” Revis said. “A lot of people don’t respect us, we’re the underdogs and we’ve got to prove ourselves. We lose this game they’re going to say we’re the ‘same old Jets’ so we have a lot to prove this game to get over that hump so people believe we belong here in the playoffs.”

Rhodes watched tape of the Baltimore game, and looked for comparisons between the Jets and Baltimore defense.

“We definitely watched to see how they attacked them,” Rhodes said. “I watched the game to see how they were attacking Ed (Reed) back there in their secondary. They did some things to try to get vertical on those guys too so you can take some of that because they know that we’ve got some of the same principles, you can look at that a little bit but we have different players on our team. I think we can do more than Baltimore as far as personnel-wise.”

They may have to, simply because the Jets’ offense hasn’t been reliably productive under rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez, even though he seemed to reach his stride in last Saturday’s win over the Bengals. Still, wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery knows the offense will need to be at its best.

“It’s pretty much Rex’s defense down there but (The Chargers) put up a lot of yards in that game,” Cotchery said.

As several players put it, the Jets are coming together at the right time this season. The depths of the 4-6 record, of Ryan’s declaration that the Jets were out of the postseason, are well behind them.

“You don’t have to find reason to convince us that we can play with them or that we can beat them,” Kicker (and sometimes punter) Jay Feely said. “It’ll be interesting because it’s two different styles of football going up against each other. They want to throw the ball we want to run the ball; they’re a finesse team we’re a power team. The turnover battle will be huge. They’re 8-0 when they haven’t turned the ball over we’re 9-0 when we haven’t turned the ball over.”

The Chargers (13-3) have turned the ball over 17 times, which is second best in the NFL, and Rivers threw nine interceptions while passing for 4.254 yards.

Last season the West Coast was a nightmare for the Jets. The team lost all four games in 2008 starting with an embarrassing Monday night loss to the Chargers and ending with a snowy meltdown in Seattle.

Former coach Eric Mangini had them try to adjust their internal clocks ahead of the flight, while this season, Ryan hasn’t changed the schedule leading up to those trips.

“Technically for us it’s like a 1 o’clock game,” backup quarterback Kellen Clemens said. “That’s fine, that’s something that we’re used to.”

What it boils down to is the No. 1 defense taking on the No. 4 passing team, strength versus strength.

“This is the playoffs guys, they’re not going to shy away,” Revis said.

“We know it’s a big challenge for us,” Ryan said. “There’s no question about it. I’m sure they know it’s going to be a huge challenge for them also.”

Following Feely: Jay Feely said he hadn’t had butterflies like he did last weekend, when he was told he’d punt in addition to kicking for the Jets when Steve Weatherford was forced to sit with an irregular heartbeat.

“Probably the most nervous I’ve been in an NFL game,” Feely said. “You’re out of your comfort zone its something you’ve never done before. You don’t expect for your first time to be in a playoff game. My whole thought process was I don’t want to make a mistake that could be a game-changing mistake.”

Weatherford will be good to go Sunday against the Chargers, his condition is being managed with medicine. On Wednesday, Feely worked out in the same group with Weatherford, and tweaked the punter by playing Beethoven instead of the usual Mettalica, for a little less stimulation. “Just to mess with him,” laughed Feely.

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