FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- As New York’s Shonn Greene zipped around the right end and headed toward the end zone for a game-deciding 16-yard touchdown run with 1:41 left in the divisional playoff game against the Patriots on Sunday, the Jets’ beefy head coach Rex Ryan was jubilantly racing down along the sideline, showing some unexpected speed in almost catching up with his running back.
That Ryan didn’t pull a hamstring on his celebratory mad dash was one of the night’s major surprises in New York’s 28-21 triumph.
The fact that Ryan’s team will not run from anyone, not even the top-seeded Patriots, who had crushed New York, 45-3, roughly six weeks earlier in a Monday night showdown for first place in the AFC East, was not a shock to anyone who would listen, and the loquacious Jets made sure everyone in the football world heard their boasts during the past week.
Even after his team got thumped in December, giving each team a home win against the other during the regular season, Ryan gave the Patriots credit for that night’s performance but said he was confident his team would prevail in a third game, in the playoffs, should the teams meet.
They did meet, and Ryan’s Jets emerged victorious, thanks in no small measure to a defensive scheme that seemingly baffled Tom Brady, the NFL’s likely MVP this season, and the Patriots’ heralded coach, Bill Belichick. The Jets trash-talked during the week and backed up the talk on Sunday.
“You know, that’s a great football team we just got through playing. We talked because we believed in ourselves,” said Ryan, whose Jets upset Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs the previous week on a last-play field goal, earning the trip to Foxborough.
“I think that is where the talk came from. There is a huge amount of respect that our team has for New England . . . They’ve got a great franchise, but you know, we aren’t afraid of anybody. Maybe people take it the wrong way. But we don’t try to bad-mouth an opponent. We respect every opponent. We respect these guys. But we came in here on a mission and we’re trying to win a Super Bowl,” he said.
“We said, you know, maybe everybody else didn’t believe us or whatever, but we believed. We worked too hard to get back here and we came here for a reason. We thought we were the better team. Now, clearly in the Monday night game we weren’t. They were clearly head and shoulders better than we were. But I knew if we applied ourselves and we played the way we were capable of, then we would beat them. And that’s exactly what happened,” he said.
The defensive game plan, in particular, stymied the Patriots.
“We thought we had a good plan, but the plans are useless without great play from your players and our guys bought in and they did a great job,” said Ryan. “It was a total effort there on defense, from pass rush, to the second level and obviously to the deep guys. Just a great effort. We knew we had a good plan. Again, I tip my hat to the players and the assistant coaches.”
But Ryan couldn’t leave the podium without delivering one more zinger to the Pats, notably Brady, echoing a theme he expressed prior to the game against the Colts in a comment that was treated as if he were not showing any respect to the Patriots’ quarterback.
“This team had a zillion points and all that this season -- it’s Tom Brady back there at quarterback,” said Ryan. “He may not study like Peyton Manning but he is pretty good.”