Blustery chapter in Jets, Patriots rivalry ends with a whimper
The Jets are expected to send Rex Ryan packing after the season ends, but not before he was able to give Bill Belichick and Patriots one last scare. Sunday’s game highlighted the different courses both coaches and teams have charted.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Rex Ryan in his post game news conference said he could not remember what Bill Belichick chirped to him at midfield after another climax that was all New England, all Patriots, all Belichick and all Brady.
But afterward, I was standing alone with Tom Brady, interviewing him deep inside the MetLife stadium hallways. Ryan approached, reached out to shake Brady’s hand and congratulated him. Ryan was contrite. His face looked ashen, eyes looking pitiful. He looked broken.
Even Brady looked sorry for him.
What a stunning reversal. If you are around this game long enough and if you play it long enough like Brady, you see these moments. You are confronted early-on by the brash talkers and big timers who with bluster thump you a time or two. But a winner like Brady just keeps chopping wood — while sometimes playing his position as well as it has ever been played. He keeps doing this to turn things in his favor.
To live to see moments like the one with Ryan, where they crawl to you while eating crow.
The Patriots beat the New York Jets, 17-16, Sunday afternoon at MetLife Stadium. The teams entered as opposites — the Jets a sorry 3-11, the Patriots a beaming 11-3. They left that way, a 3-12 bunch of hard workers who too frequently play disjointed compared with the 12-3 Patriots, tops thus far in the AFC.
The Patriots remain in the Super Bowl conversation. This was the Jets’ Super Bowl. This was Ryan’s championship game. Knock off New England one more time, let Belichick and Brady know one more time how he never came to the Jets in 2009 with intention of kissing anybody’s rings. But in the last game in this stadium with the Jets that Ryan will coach, he ultimately failed. He will be fired after the Jets’ regular-season finale next Sunday at Miami.
He was 4-9 in his six Jets seasons against the Patriots, Belichick and Brady.
“I don’t look back,” Ryan said after this numbing finish.
Of course he does. And he should. He has plenty of inventory to consider. And to never repeat.
His season was a disaster from the start with too little chemistry between him and general manager John Idzik. His friction in philosophy and game management with offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg was a gaping wound all season long. His quarterbacks’ varied performance issues sapped the season. His lack of NFL-caliber cornerbacks ruined the way Ryan wanted to play his attacking, multiple defense — though he did anyway, often at big expense.
Ryan loves these cat-and-mouse games with Brady and Peyton Manning, and is like a mad scientist sketching schemes and plots for each. He lives for it. It is also part of his imbalance as a head coach, an inability to approach all opposing quarterbacks with the same passion. His hands-off approach on his own offense until it is too late is one of the key things he must correct if he gets another head coaching job, maybe with the Atlanta Falcons. That is where he would love to run and plant and do it again.
But it’s over for Ryan on the Jets sideline in this place, on these same grounds where Belichick built the foundation of his NFL success as a New York Giants defensive whiz.
Belichick does not say a lot publicly about the rise and crash of Ryan in New York.
But just listen to Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner talk about this game: “We knew the Jets would be tough. We prepared for what we got. Coach Belichick told us pretty much how the game would go, how they would start fast. We prepared for situations just like they wound up in the fourth quarter. When Geno Smith threw his pick, he threw it into coverage. We had his receiver covered with one man in front and two behind him. I was one of them. We were hoping for that. We were expecting that.”
Listen to Belichick talk about his fourth-quarter Patriots: “That’s the kind of team this is … You never know when it is or how it’s going to turn out, but when we need them, we need them. They continue to step up. Different guys in different situations in different phases of the game.”
And how about this gem from Belichick on linebacker Donta’ Hightower’s late sack of Smith that pushed the Jets away from a makeable field goal to a missed 52-yard field attempt from Nick Folk: “It was a real big play. That was a look we hadn’t run all game.”
Something hidden in the pocket. Something extra. The Patriots find it and give it.
Belichick credited defensive coordinator Matt Patricia for the call. That’s the thing about winning football teams. Credit spreads across the room.
That’s the thing about losing football teams — blame spreads there, too, but the head coach gets the brunt, and eventually the axe.
Some general managers in this league do not give the Patriots overflowing credit. Those general managers would love for their teams to play the AFC East — the Jets, Dolphins and Bills — for six games on their schedule every year. They see the Patriots’ last decade of success, because of that fact, as inflated. They say that of this Patriots edition this season.
We are going to see how the Patriots fare in the AFC in the postseason against all comers.
Their road in the playoffs, even if it is all at home, is not a stroll. This is not a dominant team. This team on a bad day and a great one for the opponent can certainly be tamed.
But the Patriots usually give themselves a great chance to win. And in the end, they can finish the deal with a penchant for playmaking. They have done everything this season that the Jets could not.
All this left the Jets and especially Ryan one final task — crawl and eat crow.