- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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Rex Ryan blamed himself for last month's Boston Massacre, a transparent attempt to deflect the heat away from his players as they prepare for New York Jets-New England Patriots, Part III. Or does he honestly think he was the root of the loss?
Let's take a look back to Dec. 6.
Clearly, the Jets weren't mentally into the game after 10 full days of preparation. Some of that goes on the coaching staff. Ryan also made a couple of tactical errors early in the game. Facing a four-and-1 from his own 46, he threw his red flag and challenged the spot, looking for the first down. It was too early to risk a challenge. Plus, as everybody knows, the percentage of winning "spot" challenges is low.
Ryan lost the challenge, and proceeded to go for it anyway. The Jets made the first down, but that led to the second questionable decision. He let the then-slumping Nick Folk try a 53-yard field goal attempt into swirling winds on a frigid night. He missed, of course, setting up Tom (Broadway) Brady with nice field position.
Ryan coached with too much emotion, acting like he wanted to win the game on the first possession. The Jets would've lost anyway -- you can't pin a 42-point loss on a couple of bad choices -- but it definitely set a bad tone.
Other memorable trends from that game:
GROUND AND POUND: It got lost in the debacle, but the Jets ran the ball very effectively -- a positive they can apply to Sunday's game. LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene combined for 111 yards on 23 carries, a 4.8 average. You're going to snicker and say it was accumulated in garbage time, but that's not true. The Jets rushed for 84 of their 153 yards in the first half.
THIRD-DOWN WOES: So, if the running game was clicking, what was the problem? Third downs. The Jets converted only three of 12 on third down, limiting their ability to sustain drives.
EARLY SPARK: Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who had been talking about it for weeks, actually used some hurry-up in the first quarter. It was an attempt to snap the offense out of its first-quarter funk. Good idea, bad execution.
OFF THE MARK: Mark Sanchez's performance will be remembered by his three second-half interceptions, the last two of which came when the game was out of reach. Truth is, Sanchez struggled in the first half as well, completing only eight of 18 passes for 77 yards. Like he did Saturday night in Indianapolis, he struggled with his accuracy. He had a tough time getting the ball to Braylon Edwards, who finished the game with only two catches out of seven targets. Since then, Sanchez has developed a better rapport with Edwards.
THE LEONHARD FACTOR: Three days before the game, S Jim Leonhard suffered a freak, season-ending injury in practice, a major disruption to the defensive preparation. Leonhard was the "QB" of the secondary, making sure his teammates were lined up correctly and knew what to expect. He was replaced by Eric Smith, who was picked on immediately by Brady. This time, the secondary will be more settled.
BAD CRO: CB Antonio Cromartie has been boom or bust against the Patriots. In Week 2, he covered Randy Moss for the entire second half and shut him down. In Foxborough, he suffered he worst game of the year, getting burned by Deion Branch (25-yard TD) and Brandon Tate (4-yard TD). Cromartie also had two key missed tackles. He covered Branch for a good part of the game, perhaps not the best matchup for him. Branch is small and quick while Cromartie is a long strider who can have trouble sticking to his guy on sharp cuts.
REVIS ISLAND: CB Darrelle Revis covered Wes Welker most of the time, depending on the down-and-distance and formation. He also covered Tate at times. This will be one of the key strategic issues in the rematch: How do they use Revis? Welker ended up with seven catches for 80 yards, including an 18-yard TD, but the TD came on Drew Coleman.
CASE OF THE SHANKS: Steve Weatherford had a very good season, but this might have been his worst game. He averaged 30.7 yards on three punts, including a 12-yarder -- all field-position killers.
4hField Yates and Rich Cimini