The J-e-t-s Jets Jets Jets were left for dead late Sunday as Jags RB Maurice Jones-Drew jokingly apologized at the podium to fantasy owners for taking a knee to help run out the clock. Now 4-5 and somehow trailing in the AFC wildcard hunt after a 3-0 start, even coach Rex Ryan admitted after the last second 24-22 loss to Jones-Drew’s Jacksonville Jaguars that a playoff berth now looked bleak. Then suddenly that night hope arrived when Bill Belichick of all people, helped breathe life into a Gang Green season that was beginning to appear hopeless.
The controversial decision by Belichick to ice the game against the undefeated Peyton Manning led Colts from his own 28 with a six point lead and just 2:08 left, backfired. The stunning 35-34 win, capped by Manning’s game winning TD throw to WR Reggie Wayne with 0:15 left after the Pats failed 4th and 2, leaves the Jets only two games back of the hated Pats. The Jets could find themselves just one off the AFC East division lead while owning the head to head tiebreaker with a win in Foxboro Sunday.
Make no bones about it though, Sunday will be a monumental challenge. Maybe the clubs toughest they will face all year. The 6-3 Pats want revenge for their week two loss at the Meadowlands while QB Tom Brady was shaking off the rust from season ending knee surgery in 2008. They’ll also look to erase the bad taste in their mouth from having the Colts on the ropes, then letting them off the hook. Nonetheless, it’s as good of a position that a Jet team who has lost five of six could’ve hoped for.
The Pats are not the same team the Jets saw in September. The biggest reason is that Tom Brady is back. The Pats most important player is second in the NFL in passing yards with 2,739, trailing only Manning with 2,872. Brady is tied for second with Drew Brees for TD passes with 19 (again trailing only Manning who has 20). The Brady to Randy Moss combo has also woken up. After the slow start , Moss is now second in the league in both yards with 891 and TDs with seven. Pesky WR Wes Welker, out early in the year with hamstring issues, is healthy again and once again a threat to eat up yardage if too much attention is focused on Moss.
The Jets are at this point, a shell of their early season selves. They own the NFL’s top rushing attack averaging 170 yards per game despite losing Leon Washington for the year out in Oakland. The swagger of the team is gone though. Or missing at least. Mounting losses will do that to a team. By week four as the Jets were headed to New Orleans in what was at the time, a battle of the undefeated, many were calling the Jets defense the top unit in the NFL. The 27-17 loss in the Big Easy gave Jet fans the first look at the types of mistakes rookieQB Mark Sanchez could make. A key ill advised interception in the end zone to FS Darren Sharper gave the Saints a 10-0 lead and they never looked back. The loss was followed by the defense then getting humbled for the first time as well, as they got torched for 416 yards by the Wildcat in Miami in week 5. Things got worse the following week as the glue of the defense NG Kris Jenkins was lost for the season to a torn ACL during a week six OT loss to putrid Buffalo. Run stopping has suffered since. Jones-Drew burned the Jets for 123 yards last Sunday. Sanchez threw an astounding 5 interceptions during the Bills loss, raising the questions of how much responsibility the Jets should entrust the rookie with the rest of the way.
The second meeting between the clubs will renew a rivalry that contains a decade of seething hatred. Bill Parcells left New England for the Jets in 1997 then Bill Belichick returned the favor. Slated to be announced as the new Jet coach in 2000, Belichick pulled a trick play out of his book and resigned as “HC” of the Jets at the press conference announcing him. In doing this he avoided the shadow that Parcells as a front office man would’ve cast over his star pupil. Belichick then went on to return to New England where he was Parcells defensive coordinator in the mid nineties, to win four Super Bowls in New England. Doing it with the help of a coaching staff that consisted of many former Jet assistants under Parcells.
The rivalry took another odd turn when top Pats assistant Eric Mangini then usurped Belichick’s wishes to go anywhere but the Jets and signed on to become of course, the Jets head coach in 2006. Mangini was immediately locked out of the Foxboro facility. In 2007 after a blowout loss in the opener, “Mangenius” then complained that the Pats were using cameras to spy on the Jet sidelines. This brought about the controversial “Spygate” incident which threatened to ruin Belichick’s credibility and hall of fame resume as new charges against “Belicheat” seemed to come out of the woodwork every day.
In the Spring of 2009, new Jet head coach Rex Ryan injected some new blood into the storyline by proclaiming that he didn’t come to New York “to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.” Given the result in week two, a 16-9 win over Belicheck’s crew, Ryan looked like the leader of team that could talk the talk AND walk the walk. In fact, after the game, outspoken Jet LB Bart Scott defended teammate CB Darelle Revis, who did a great job on perennial All Pro WR Randy Moss, on a day that included a key interception by the Jets top corner on a pass intended for Moss.
“I hear the easy copout by Randy Moss, saying that anybody can guard … that ‘I can play cornerback if I had safety help,'” Scott said. “That was a one-on-one jump ball. I think sometimes you’ve just got to give the man his credit, understand that [Revis] was the better man that day..[Revis] shut him down. He intimidated him. Randy was coming across that middle real slow. Tell him to man up next time and come across the middle like a man if he wants to be a complete receiver.”
Rest assured Moss and the Patriots haven’t forgotten their performance that day or the words exchanged by both clubs after the game. When it comes to the Jets- Patriots there is no such thing as a short memory, only a long history of bad blood. This brings us now to the latest chapter in the saga.
While Belichick spent Monday trying to justify why he had no faith in his defense down the stretch at Indy, Ryan spent part of Monday according to locker room reports, giving a passionate plea to his team that drove the rookie head coach to tears.
Offensive lineman Damien Woody reported “He was talking about the situation — this upcoming game with New England and how we’re still there, how we still have a pulse. He said It’s all about us, that nobody believes in us and that we are the only ones who believe we can get things done..He said, ‘I believe in you; I believe you get can get this thing done,’ and that’s when he really got emotional.” Revis added” I haven’t been a part of a meeting where a coach cried like that.”
Emotions. That’s what the Jets need. They played so well early on when they were driven by them. The Jets have to stick together and begin to believe like winners again, because as Woody noted regarding Ryan’s speech, few believe in the Jets right now. Only the players themselves can help change the perception that the Jets season is for all intensive purposes, over. The chance to reinvent themselves and not waste what was a promising start to 2009, presents itself Sunday. Albeit, it’s the first place Pats they are dealing with. The hated Pats. The Tom Brady and Bill Belichick Pats. Drama and daunting task aside, with a win the Jets will be back in business again in the AFC East.
THREE KEYS TO THE GAME:
JET PRESSURE ON BRADY. That how the Jets beat the Pats in week two. Brady was rushed, off his timing, and inaccurate. Much of it due to rust, the other, the Jet pressure. Without pressure, you can forget about it.
REVIS MOSS ROUND TWO: The winner of this battle will give his team the edge. “Revis Island” won the first one but Moss has been on fire since and surely remembers the bravado the Jets spoke with in shutting him down.
EMOTION: The Jets have to play with emotion Sunday. There has to be a “back against the wall” and “us against the world mentality.” This rivalry seems to bring it out naturally, but the Jets shouldn’t wait to get kicked in the face before they decide to get themselves going. If they do that in Foxboro, it may be too late.