EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ – Rex Ryan found it hard to keep a straight face in the post-game press conference following the Jets’ 16-9 win at home versus the New England Patriots. With so much hype heading into the game because of trash talking that started with the new head coach’s “I’m not here to kiss Bill Belechick’s rings” remark back in June, his team did what it had to do to back up his – and their – words.
Besides all of the verbal barbs being traded during the week leading up to the game, Ryan made a plea to the fan base to step it up a notch, too. A recorded telephone message went out to all of the Jets season ticket holders telling them to make some noise and the 78,312 in attendance didn’t disappoint. The Patriots had four delay of game penalties called on them and the crowd was a major factor in the Jets snapping a home eight-game losing streak to their division rivals.
“The fans were huge in this victory,” said Ryan. “We’re giving them a game ball and putting it in our trophy case. This was a great win.”
The Jets offense put up just enough points to earn the victory while their staunch defense pitched a shutout as far as giving up touchdowns for the second consecutive game. “We’ve been preaching the whole time that if you do your job good things are going to happen to everybody,” safety Jim Leonhard, who finished the day with four tackles. “In the first two games, there have been guys all over the place making plays…different guys. No one is trying to do extra right now. Everyone is just doing their job.”
The mentality going into the game was to get New England quarterback Tom Brady off of his. Giving the perennial All-Pro different looks up until the last drive accomplished that. “If he knows what kind of defense you’re in, chances are he’s going to find the right spot to throw it to. You have to try to confuse him as much as you can. It doesn’t happen very often.
“On that last drive, we weren’t going to just sit back,” added Leonhard. “We were coming after him.”
Brady finished 23 for 47 for 216 yards, one interception and – most importantly – zero touchdowns. He led the Pats (1-1) to three field goals on drives that never seemed to get going. “We just didn’t do a good enough job,” Belechick said of his team’s struggles in the red zone. “They did a better job than we did.”
A game of field goals resulted in a 9-3 halftime lead for the Pats. The Jets came out throwing in the second half when quarterback Mark Sanchez (14 for 22, 163 yards, one touchdown) found wideout Jerricho Cotchery open for a 45-yard gain to the New England 11-yard line. Two plays later, the rookie out of Southern Cal hit tight end Dustin Keller in the end zone and the Jets found themselves ahead, 10-9.
The Jets extended their lead to four points with 8:26 left in the third quarter but were close to making it more with an apparent six-yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to wide receiver Chancey Stuckey. The Patriots challenged the play and it was reversed after instant replays showed that he only had one foot in bounds. Although they had to settle for a short field goal, Sanchez did not see that as a negative.
“Those two drives coming out of halftime were great,” he said. “We really responded.”
Feeley hit his fourth field goal of the game, a 39-yarder, with 9:48 to go to extend the lead to 16-9. That is when the Jets had to bear down and hold on in a one-score game. Perhaps the biggest play of the day came on the ensuing drive. New England was facing a third-and-one situation at their own 37-yard line with 7:51 left in the game. Running back Fred Taylor tried to go left but was swarmed by linebackers Bryan Thomas and Bart Scott for a one-yard loss, forcing them to punt the ball away.
“That was a big momentum changer,” Thomas said. “They tried to load our defense to the right side so we knew at that time that they were going to try to do something to get that quick first down.”
The Jets improved to 2-0 on the young season and will face Tennessee next Sunday at the Meadowlands. The Titans are surprisingly winless so far after going 13-3 a year ago. As Ryan put it, “I get to enjoy (this win) for about a half an hour.”
Although the Jets did win in Tennessee in 2008 to snap the Titans 10-game winning streak, there isn’t the same intense rivalry like the match-ups with the Patriots. So don’t expect a lot of bulletin board material this week.
“The big deal is, we’re a football team that should be respected,” said Ryan. “Sometimes we talk a little bit, but only because we have confidence in our football team.”
With two impressive wins to begin the campaign, as well they should.