AFC East: Buddy Ryan
The Jets have allowed 18 pass plays of more than 30 yards, and Rex Ryan is fed up. This week, it will be a major point of emphasis in practice.
"We're pulling in the old Buddy Ryan drills this week," said Ryan, referring to his father and some of his coaching tricks.
That means they will devote a day (i.e. Deep Ball Friday) to defending the long ball. Ryan said they will have competitive drills on downfield passes. In Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills, not known as a vertical passing team, the Jets allowed four long completions, including two touchdowns. The presence of future Hall-of-Fame safety Ed Reed had little impact, as rookie EJ Manuel passes for 245 yards (mostly into the wind) even though he didn't have his top two receivers.
Ryan said he may make schematic changes, even hinting that he will play more Cover-2 if necessary. That would be radical, all right, because the Jets usually don't play a two-deep look at safety.
"It's frustrating to me," Ryan said, adding: "I'm confident we'll fix it. I don't think there's any doubt, when it comes to defense."
Surprisingly, Reed played almost the entire game in his Jets debut despite having practiced for only two days. He played 59 of 67 defensive snaps, replacing Antonio Allen, who got on the field for only three plays. Ryan said they had planned to use different packages, but they didn't vary it much because the Bills used more two tight-end sets than they had anticipated. Ryan called Reed a "Hall-of-Fame communicator," claiming he can galvanize the secondary even though he just arrived on the scene.
Right now, the Jets could use a Hall-of-Fame playmaker more than the communicator.
ICYMI: Geno Smith will start "this game," according to Ryan, but he hinted that Matt Simms could start to get work in the bullpen. ... Get ready to take a seat, Stephen Hill. Your scholarship is about to expire. ... Kellen Winslow said he's not upset with his lack of playing time. Do we believe him? Not really.
"Quite honestly ..." Ryan said before stopping himself and then asking a Jets media relations official, "Can I be harsh?"
As long as he kept it clean, Ryan was instructed.
"As long as it's clean, yeah," Ryan muttered. "I thought it was ridiculous."
In a different setting, Ryan probably would have chosen an angrier adjective or two. But in a ballroom at the opulent Roosevent Hotel and surrounded by reporters and his peers Tuesday morning at a coaches' media breakfast, Ryan restrained himself.
"There isn't a prejudiced bone in our bodies or my dad's body," Ryan said, including twin brother and Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. "That's why I know it's crazy."
The incendiary accusation came to light after Duerson's death. He committed suicide Feb. 17 at his Florida home. Duerson gave an interview to author Rob Trucks in November. Excerpts appeared on Deadspin.com.
"In the NFL, I was ostracized from Day 1 -- not by my teammates, but by my defensive coordinator. I was drafted by the Bears in 1983. My first day walking into Halas Hall, I met Buddy Ryan. He knew I'd gone to Notre Dame and asked me if I was one of those doctors or lawyers. I said, 'Yes, sir.' He said, 'Well, you won't be here too long because I don't like smart n------.'
"I worked for Buddy for three years, and there was not a day that he did not remind me that I was not his draft pick, that he did not want me there. It was not motivational at all. The guy simply hated my guts, without question."[+] EnlargeMike Powell/Getty ImagesBuddy Ryan of the Bears gets carried off the field by defensive lineman Richard Dent, 95, and linebacker Otis Wilson, 55, after their Super Bowl win in 1985.
Duerson was among the stars of Buddy Ryan's famed 46 defense. When the clock hit 0:00 on their Super Bowl XX victory here in New Orleans, defensive end Richard Dent and linebacker Otis Wilson -- both black -- hoisted Buddy Ryan on their shoulders.
Many of Buddy Ryan's former players also have publicly defended him against the Duerson accusation.
"I've been around my dad a long time," Rex Ryan said, "and I never heard every conversation he ever had in his life, but I never heard him ever use language like that, a word like that. My dad loves his players, respected his players.
"I thought it was absurd. And there's no way in hell that happened. That's my opinion. No way in hell that happened. For someone to make a comment like that ... and I don't know if Dave made them or somebody else made them or whatever. [Duerson] might have made them, but my dad never did."
Rex Ryan pointed out that his father, in his first head coaching job with the Philadelphia Eagles, didn't hesitate to start Randall Cunningham. Rob Ryan coached five years at historically black Tennessee State. Both Rex and Rob Ryan were college assistants under black head coaches.
As he rattled off each of those facts, he jabbed his finger on the table for emphasis.
"It was absolutely ridiculous. For my dad, my twin brother, myself ... I mean, give me a break," Rex Ryan said.
"There's no way in hell it's a stain on his career because anybody that knows my dad knows the kind of person he is. My dad is a great person. Maybe there's a different agenda there."
ESPN analyst Tedy Bruschi remembers.
Keller hasn't caught a touchdown pass since Week 4, but Bruschi considers him a priority for the New England Patriots' defense to shut down in Sunday's playoff game at Gillette Stadium.
Keller got off to a scalding start. A quarter of the way into the season, he was on pace for 76 catches, 1,016 yards and 20 touchdowns.
In the Jets' 28-14 victory over the Patriots, Keller had seven catches for 115 yards and two touchdowns.
"The second time they played, that 42-point [Patriots] victory, Keller was targeted four times, only three receptions, 27 yards," Bruschi said. "You can talk about Santonio Holmes all you want, but Mark Sanchez's favorite guy, his go-to guy is Keller over the middle of the field. Make Sanchez throw outside of the numbers."
As for the Jets' defense, Bruschi doesn't believe Rex Ryan's no-blitz approach to Saturday's first-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts will carry over to Sunday.
"He's a Ryan," Bruschi said. "Rob Ryan, Buddy Ryan, Rex Ryan ... they all bring the house. They will have that at times during the game."
The most prominent moment for me was sitting ringside in Las Vegas when Mike Tyson bit of a chunk of Evander Holyfield's ear.
Watching a New York Jets staffer stick out his knee to trip Miami Dolphins gunner Nolan Carroll on the sideline would rank up there. To find out it was strength and conditioning coach Sal Alosi, a man whose job is to help players stay healthy, only added to everyone's bewilderment.
Had anybody ever seen something like that before?
If you're old enough to remember the 1954 Cotton Bowl, then you would've.
Alosi's takedown brought to mind an infamous play in which Rice running back Dicky Maegle swept right up the Alabama sideline for what looked like a 95-yard touchdown run. Alabama running back Tommy Lewis, without a helmet, jumped onto the field and shoulder blocked Maegle at the Alabama 42-yard line.
Lewis immediately returned to the bench, quickly sat down and covered his face in hopes of not being spotted. But the referee saw what happened and awarded Maegle a touchdown.
Inspired by Alosi's gaffe, ESPN Page 2 writer Patrick Hruby took a look at the most memorable sideline coaching meltdowns, including shots delivered by Woody Hayes and Buddy Ryan, father of Alosi's boss.
Ryan caught his player's attention Wednesday, when he buried a game ball from Monday night's 45-3 fiasco against the New England Patriots. Ryan led his players out to the practice fields and held a football funeral.
Belichick pulled a similar stunt in 2001 after a bad loss to the Miami Dolphins dropped them to 1-4. The Patriots went on to win the Super Bowl. Ryan's twin brother, Rob Ryan, was the Patriots' linebackers coach at the time.
But the Ryan boys' father, Buddy Ryan, claimed Belichick didn't come up with the idea.
As a 25-year-old head coach for Gainesville High in Texas, Buddy Ryan buried a football in 1959 to help his team get over a 49-0 loss.
"It ain't nothing new," Buddy Ryan told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com.
Those are fitting conditions for a smashmouth football game, which is expected when the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns kick off here at 1 p.m.
The storylines have been established throughout the week.
- Jets head coach Rex Ryan is looking forward to nailing down family bragging rights against his equally gregarious twin brother, Browns defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. Their father, Buddy Ryan, is in attendance.
- Browns head coach Eric Mangini will face his former team for the first time.
- Browns fans will get a first-hand look at the player they could have drafted fifth overall. The Browns traded the pick that allowed the Jets to take Mark Sanchez.
- Jets receiver Braylon Edwards can resume his "personal war" with the Browns, their fans and their reporters.
Should be a fun one.
If the Jets win, then they'll put some added pressure on the New England Patriots, who will play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night at Heinz Field.
Jim "Mouse" McNally, one of the NFL's most respected assistant coaches, did not completely retire when he left the Bills in 2008. McNally surreptitiously has been helping to coach the Jets' offensive line from 300 miles away.
"Cat's out of the bag now, huh?" Jets offensive line coach Bill Callahan said with a chuckle. "God dang it."
Callahan mixed his metaphor, but there's no mistaking his respect for McNally, who coached NFL offensive lines for 28 years.
Callahan, a respected O-line coach himself, described McNally as being "like a golf pro" in his ability to scrutinize technique subtleties, labeled him "an encyclopedia of line play" and said McNally is "certainly one of the best coaches in modern football."
McNally, 66, technically is considered a Jets consultant. But the players call him "Coach." He breaks down Jets game and practice footage on his computer with Hudl software, which allows him to download video and playbook information through a secure Internet connection.
He's helping the Jets prepare for Sunday afternoon against the Bills in his backyard. The game will give McNally rare personal contact with the team he has been monitoring from afar since last summer.
"I look at practice every day," McNally said. "I look at the games. Then I talk to Coach Callahan about what I saw and the game plan and stuff like that."
McNally is in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. He grew up in suburban Kenmore, where he first was tagged "Mouse" in neighborhood pickup games. The nickname stuck when he stopped growing at 5-foot-8.
McNally's tenacity was evident by his compulsion to walk on as an offensive lineman for the University at Buffalo. He eventually played both offense and defense. On the coaching staff was a young Buddy Ryan, father of Jets head coach Rex Ryan. That link and a long relationship with Callahan are why McNally is helping a hometown rival.
McNally attended training camp at SUNY-Cortland last year as a guest. Callahan asked McNally to speak to his linemen. Eventually, McNally was breaking down film.
"I didn't purposely try to work for the Jets," McNally said. "Just my relationship with Callahan -- he's such a great friend of mine. It's something that keeps me busy. I don't do it full time.
"I'm kind of under the radar here in Buffalo. It was a convenient way to stay involved in pro football."
McNally rose to coaching prominence for his innovative methods. He spent 15 seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, mentoring future Hall of Fame left tackle Anthony Munoz and four-time Pro Bowl guard Max Montoya. McNally also established his annual coaching clinic there, turning Cincinnati into what Callahan called "the Mecca" for O-line instruction.
McNally worked with the Carolina Panthers for four years, the New York Giants for five years and the Bills for four years.
"Technique was his greatest strength," said Ross Tucker, who started at left guard for McNally with the Bills in 2006. Tucker spent six seasons in the NFL and now is an ESPN analyst. "He had some technique things I never heard of that were effective and helpful."
One of McNally's inventive concepts was the "lazy forearm," an effective way to fend off a double team while keeping separation. Tucker explained it as a violent upward motion that pries a defender's shoulder back.
McNally's prized pupil in Buffalo was undrafted tight end Jason Peters. The Bills converted him to tackle, and McNally turned the raw specimen into a star. Although Peters became a contractual headache and forced the Bills to trade him, he has been selected to the past three Pro Bowls.
McNally was supposed to be on scene for "Hard Knocks" training camp this summer at SUNY-Cortland, but health issues prevented it. He underwent an emergency appendectomy and a serious follow-up surgery and myriad tests that sent him in and out of the hospital in June and July.
He has been getting out a little more now. He has been working with local high school teams such as St. Francis, Canisius and Kenmore West. He works as a fundraiser for his alma mater. He also has a website, where you can locate one of his upcoming clinics, learn about his annual camp and find instructional DVDs at CoachMcNally.com.
"I went from doing things all day long to sitting around the house and maybe taking a walk around the neighborhood," McNally said. "I've learned how to calm down a little bit. I don't have to leave the house at 6:30 in the morning. It's given me a perspective of that football life I had of 43 years of 'Go! Go! Go! Go! Go! Go!' "
The Jets are thrilled he hasn't stopped completely. He doesn't need to zoom around the practice field like he did when he wore a whistle around his neck.
A steady bit rate from his telecomm provider will do just fine.
"He's been tremendous for me," Callahan said. "He's a wealth of information and knowledge and experience. That's invaluable in so many ways. You're talking about one of the greatest line coaches of all-time.
"He easily could have faded away, but it's great he's still a part of the game. He has so much to give. He's unselfish that way in terms of sharing information and trying to get players better and coaches better, whether it's working with his youth leagues or the New York Jets."
He's cocky. He doesn't back down even when his team isn't playing well. He's in your face. And he immediately made the AFC East more competitive.
In so many ways, he's just a fanboy who happens to run an NFL club. Even Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder, who got into a verbal joust with Ryan last summer, has confessed an affection for the way Ryan goes about his business.
ESPNNewYork.com brings us another example of Ryan's childlike giddiness with sports. Turns out, Ryan owns an extensive throwback jersey collection he was proud enough to share with reporter Rich Cimini.
Ryan wears a throwback -- size 60 or 64 -- almost every day he's not working.
"I want to be comfortable, and I don't take myself too seriously," Ryan told Cimini. "I have a true love and a true passion for sports. That's who I am. I'm more comfortable at a ballgame than I would be at an opera or watching a show. I love watching games."
Ryan started collecting old-school jerseys of the big four sports when he was on the Baltimore Ravens' staff. He has a white Joe Namath jersey, a replica of the one worn in Super Bowl III, when Ryan's father, Buddy, won a ring as a Jets assistant.
When Rex Ryan threw out the first pitch at a recent New York Mets game, he wore his own Nolan Ryan jersey on the mound. Remember that infamous clip of Ryan showing off his prodigious gut at a Carolina Hurricanes game when the home club asked him to put on one of their jerseys? He'd been wearing a Dave Schultz Philadelphia Flyers sweater.
Ryan goes outside of the wardrobe box when it comes to his cache.
He owns a few famous movie jerseys, including Chico's Bail Bonds ("Bad News Bears"), the Mean Machine ("The Longest Yard") and a Chicago Blackhawks sweater with Griswold stitched on the back ("National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation").
A transition to 2010 already has begun. The club on Monday parted ways with four assistant coaches and a consultant.
The changes won't impact the infrastructure of Rex Ryan's staff and mostly eliminates overkill. All of the aides answered to a primary position coach.
Gone are special teams coach Kevin O'Dea, assistant secondary coach Doug Plank, assistant quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo and defensive quality control assistant Brian Smith.
Plank, the most recognizable name and the inspiration for Buddy Ryan's 46 defense, was fired. The other three assistants didn't have their expired contracts renewed.
Plank helped secondary coach Dennis Thurman. DeFilippo, who coached the Oakland Raiders' quarterbacks for two seasons before joining the Jets, was an underling to quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh. Jets offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer also is an accomplished QB guru.
O'Dea became redundant last year, when venerable special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff returned from a brief retirement driven by medical issues. The Jets also have special-teams assistant Ben Kotwica.
Quality control coaches are tantamount to entry-level assistants. Smith had been with the Jets three seasons in that capacity.
Also leaving is pass-rushing consultant Chuck Smith, whom outside linebacker Clavin Pace credited with his big season. The former Atlanta Falcons defensive end helped out in training camp and was asked to stick around. He's leaving to become the University of Tennessee's defensive line coach.
Ryan predicted a shutout victory for the New York Jets.
Buddy Ryan's son, Rex, is trying to get the Jets into their first Super Bowl since they defeated the Baltimore Colts 41 years ago. Buddy Ryan was a Jets assistant coach. A guy named Joe Namath made a bold proclamation before that game.
Paolantonio, who as a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter rode shotgun with Buddy Ryan when the Eagles' team bus circled Soldier Field the night before the infamous Fog Bowl in 1988, jotted down the dialogue so I could share it on the blog.
Sal Paolantonio: "What do you think of the Jets' chances?"
Buddy Ryan: "Well, we were 16-point underdogs in '68. What are the Jets, seven-point underdogs? So we got a good chance."
SP: "How will you know it's going well in the first half?"
BR: "Nobody scores."
SP: "What's your prediction for the game?"
SAN DIEGO -- Twenty-eight teams wish they were the New York Jets.
Imagine that. The Jets have reached the final four. They're in the conference championship game, one victory away from the Super Bowl.
The Jets silenced Qualcomm Stadium on Sunday. They scored all of their points in the second half to stun the San Diego Chargers, 17-14.
The Jets -- the Jets! -- will play the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday in Lucas Oil Stadium for the AFC title.
How did this happen?
It's preposterous, really. The Jets looked mediocre for most of the season. Their rookie head coach appeared flummoxed at times. Their rookie quarterback was disastrous some games. The Colts and Cincinnati Bengals needed to form a coalition of the willing to escort the Jets into the playoffs at all.
"People want to say it, go ahead and say it," Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace said. "We've heard it all. We're pretenders. We're chokers. We can't finish games. We can't do this, can't do that. You know what? A lot of that might've been true. But we are what we are right now for a reason."
The Jets have pulverized the tournament bracket. They've gone on the road to eliminate a pair of division champions. The Jets have won four straight games and seven of their past eight. Five of their past six victories have been on the road.
"We had a lot of stuff go our way in order for us just to get into the playoffs, but you can't question the way we've been beating these teams," said Jets tight end Dustin Keller, who caught Mark Sanchez's touchdown pass Sunday. "It's just our destiny to go further."
Ryan has been the NFL's court jester all year, and fans were having a good laugh two weeks ago, when he declared the Jets should be favorites to win the Super Bowl as opposed to the long shots Las Vegas installed them as.
"And you thought he was out of his mind, right?" linebacker Bart Scott asked a reporter.
Oh, you betcha.
A victory over the Bengals wasn't inconceivable, but the thought of the Jets winning at Cincinnati and San Diego and Indianapolis sounded farcical.
Not inside the Jets' locker room. When Ryan handed out the practice schedule for the first-round playoff game against the Bengals it wasn't for that week only. He planned out the next week, too. And the AFC Championship Game. And the Super Bowl, right down to the date of the victory parade through the Canyon of Heroes -- Feb. 9 if you want to make plans.
Word of Ryan's audacious itinerary went public the morning of the Bengals game. Hilarious, everybody thought. The Jets still were a joke to most, expected to enjoy their gift-wrapped playoff berth and quickly get the hell off the field so the legitimate clubs could compete for glory.
"They're idiots," Jets receiver Braylon Edwards said. "They need to watch us play football. Us lucking up or this and that, they're going to keep going against us. They're going to keep picking the opposition.
"Eventually, it's going to come down to us winning the Super Bowl. That's what it's going to take for us to get respect."
The road to validation the Jets have in front of them is shaping up symbolically. They humbled the Bengals, who didn't put up much of a fight in the regular-season finale the Jets needed to clinch their playoff berth. Then the Jets knocked off the Chargers for a crack at the Colts, the other team that laid down for them in Week 16.
"If they just gave us that win, this gives us a chance to make it more legitimate," Keller said. "I don't see them pulling starters out of this game. All of the doubters, saying that game was given to us, we definitely want to put those things to rest."
The underdog Jets, with their defiant proclamations, going up against the classic horseshoe helmets will conjure memories of Super Bowl III, when Ryan's father was an assistant coach on Weeb Ewbank's staff.
"It's us against the world, and for whatever reason, we've been thriving on that," Pace said. "It's going to be that same way in Indianapolis.
"The pressure ain't on us. It really isn't. When you're not supposed to be there, you can let it all hang out. When you're the No. 1 seed, and you got a first-round bye and you go 14-2, they got the pressure. We're just riding the wave. We got great momentum."
Maybe if the Jets get past the Colts they can play old friend Brett Favre for the Lombardi Trophy.
And those who rolled their eyes at that sentiment maybe haven't learned enough about these Jets yet.
"They don't understand the resolve of this football team," Scott said. "This team has been through a lot, but this team still stays the course. Throughout the year, our fans and the media, they can be up and down.
"We have to believe. That's the only way you have a shot. If you start questioning the system and start not believing, then you have no shot."
Perhaps it stands for Did Not Advance.
The Jets have maneuvered into the unlikely position of controlling their own destiny Sunday night against the Cincinnati Bengals at the Meadowlands.
It's essentially a postseason play-in game for the Jets. If they win, then they're in. If they don't, their season is over.
Jets fans are predisposed to heartbreak. The Jets have done little since Joe Namath wagged his index finger as he trotted off the Orange Bowl field after winning Super Bowl III.
In a feature story that ran this week, ESPN.com senior writer Greg Garber ventured to explain the miserable existence Jets fans have endured over the past four decades.
"Realistically, the glass is half full," legendary Jets defensive lineman Joe Klecko said of Sunday night's game. "But I can understand the [fans'] fatalism with all the bad cards they were dealt through this thing."
But I have some encouraging news for Jets fans.
When it comes to do-or-die games, they actually have won more than they've lost.
ESPN Stats & Information researchers Mark Simon and Mark Kelly compiled the list of finales the Jets had to win to get into the playoffs. The Jets have gone 5-3.
Dec. 20, 1981: Jets 28, Packers 3
Not only did the Jets put themselves into the playoffs by routing the Packers in the season's final game (the defense sacked Packers quarterback Lynn Dickey nine times), but they also helped the Giants clinch a playoff berth by eliminating the Packers.
The final game of the season was do or die for a wild-card spot. The Dolphins took the lead late in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down touchdown pass from Dan Marino to Ferrell Edmunds, but the Jets tied the game on a Raul Allegre 44-yard field goal as regulation time expired. The Jets won in sudden death. Allegre, in his first game with the Jets, made a 30-yard field goal.
Jan. 2, 1993: Oilers 24, Jets 0
The Jets were 8-5 but lost their last three games of the season, including an embarrassing defeat against the Oilers in the regular-season finale. A win in this Sunday night game (best known for Buddy Ryan punching Kevin Gilbride) would've put the Jets in the playoffs, but the loss knocked them out. This was Bruce Coslet's last game as Jets head coach.
Dec. 21, 1997: Lions 13, Jets 10
Jets fans remember this game well for a gamble by Bill Parcells, who asked Leon Johnson to throw a halfback option. Johnson's pass was intercepted in the end zone by Bryant Westbrook midway through the fourth quarter. The Lions held on for the win, keeping the Jets from a playoff spot. Barry Sanders cleared 2,000 yards rushing for the season earlier in a victory that clinched a playoff spot for the Lions.
Dec. 24, 2000: Ravens 34, Jets 20
The Jets were 9-4 and needed one victory to make the playoffs, but they lost three straight, including a deplorable loss to the Lions in Week 15. The Jets blew an early 14-0 lead to the eventual Super Bowl champs in the season finale and lost 34-20. Jermaine Lewis, returning after the tragic death of his son, led the way with two punt returns for touchdowns. Chris McAlister returned a Vinny Testaverde interception 98 yards for a score to put the Ravens ahead for good. Al Groh left the Jets after one season.
Jan. 6, 2002: Jets 24, Raiders 22
One week after John Hall missed a kick to cost the Jets a game, he nailed a 53-yard field goal with 59 seconds remaining to win at Oakland and put the Jets into the postseason. A loss would've eliminated them. The Raiders would beat the Jets in the playoffs a week later.
Dec. 29, 2002: Jets 42, Packers 17
The Jets needed some help in the 1 p.m. games and got it when the Patriots rallied late to beat the Dolphins in overtime. That put the Jets in a win-and-in scenario at 4 p.m. The game was a Jets romp. Chad Pennington threw four touchdown passes, and the defense shut down Packers quarterback Brett Favre. The win made the Jets AFC East champs.
Dec. 31, 2006: Jets 23, Raiders 3
To make the playoffs, the Jets had to win at Miami in Week 16, then beat the Raiders in the season finale. The Jets managed both under rookie head coach Eric Mangini. With the loss, the Raiders clinched the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft. Pennington was 22 for 30 for 157 yards and a touchdown in the win.
The Jets are allowing an average of 276.4 yards per game, fewest in the NFL.
The Jets also rank first in pass defense at 167.0 yards a game.
Last year's club ranked 16th in total defense, yielding 329.4 yards a game, and 29th in pass defense, allowing 234.5 yards a game through the air.
"It's something to be proud of, hang our hats on and build off of," Jets linebacker Bart Scott said. "I know in trying to establish a tradition, it's important to get the first one so we can see what it looks like. This can be our measuring stick. ... We can try to establish this as the norm and not a trend and something that's not expected."
The Jets, however, might no longer lead the NFL in total defense when they wake up Tuesday morning.
The Green Bay Packers, who play the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night, rank second in total defense. The Packers are allowing only 5.1 more yards a game, and if they can stuff the Ravens, they'll regain the top spot they had when they entered Week 13.
Either way, the Jets being rated first or second after 12 games is impressive. They've done it under a rookie head coach who made significant changes to Eric Mangini's crew and have been carrying on without star nose tackle Kris Jenkins.
"This is humbling to me, knowing the great work of the coaches and all the players having to come in and learn an entirely new system on defense," Ryan said. "It’s hard to achieve this kind of ranking. You’re doing something right. There’s no question."
In Thursday night's victory, the Jets limited the Buffalo Bills to 36 yards in the second half.
"It's a tribute to the system that Rex brought in," Jets outside linebacker Calvin Pace said. "To be honest with you, it would be better for the team to have more wins and to be better at this point in time in the season. I think it goes to show that it is definitely a team effort. Week-in and week-out, a different guy steps up and everybody's [working hard]."
The Jets are 6-6, which would seem like an underachieving record for a team that leads the NFL in total defense and rushing offense. The Jets are the only team to have eclipsed the 2,000-yard rushing mark so far this year and are averaging 168.6 yards a game on the ground.
"I think having those two things shows you how close our football team is to really doing some amazing things," Ryan said. "We found a lot of ways to lose games, close games. We've really been completely outplayed in the one game against New England. Other than that, we've been right in every game this year. This team is close."
The Jets and Bills will play Thursday night in Toronto, a homecoming for Jets rookie head coach Rex Ryan.
Ryan and his twin brother, Rob, the Cleveland Browns defensive coordinator, were born in Ardmore, Okla. But after Doris and Buddy Ryan divorced, the boys moved to Toronto, where she pursued a career in higher education and eventually became vice president of the University of New Brunswick.
The twins lived there from the age of 3 to 15, when Doris decided her football-mad sons would benefit more from Buddy's oversight.
At his Monday news conference, Rex Ryan reminisced about his youth in Toronto:
"It was kind of neat. First, when we moved out there, I never knew how to skate. Some would argue I still can't skate. You have to play hockey, or you weren't going to play any sport really. So I learned how to play hockey.
"I always wanted to be out there on the ice. That's what was so weird about hockey; you kept shifting in and out. I was like 'No, I'm going to play goalie because he's out there all the time. Plus he had the coolest equipment.' So that's what I did. I was the catcher in baseball. So I'm just used to having things thrown at me, obviously, as a coach. I was a natural, but it was a lot of fun.
"Toronto is a great town. I never thought I'd see the day where the NFL would be playing a game in Toronto. I certainly never envisioned myself coaching a team that would be playing in Toronto. It's a great opportunity for us. It's a great town, and, hopefully, we can convert some of those hockey fans to become New York Jets fans."Ryan also expressed excitement about taking the NFL to an unusual locale.
The Bills last year sold eight games to a Toronto promoter for $78 million. The Bills will play one regular-season game there for the next five years and three preseason games over the term.
The Miami Dolphins caught a break last December. They played the Bills in the Rogers Centre (formerly the SkyDome) with the outside weather brutally cold and windy. In the spirit of the setting, I can tell you it was minus-7 Celsius. The Dolphins easily won what was a critical game in determining the playoffs.
"I think it will be great. I think they'll be wanting us to punt on third down. The fact that there's no 55-yard line I think will be a new wrinkle for them, but you'd be surprised. There are a lot of NFL fans right there in that Toronto area.
"Obviously, you've got Buffalo right up the road. I think it's going to be great. I'm glad we're doing it. We just want to win. We don't care if it's in Toronto, in Buffalo or right here. Makes no difference to us. We're going to do whatever it takes to get a win."