FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The New England Patriots defense has been vulnerable to the big play this season, with opponents totaling 30 passing plays of 20 yards or more. The plan has been straightforward: The best way to attack the Patriots and their much-maligned secondary is through the air.
So the first question posed to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan on Wednesday, in advance of the teams squaring off Sunday at Gillette Stadium, was whether there was any reason he wouldn't have a pass-first approach against such a porous unit.
Ryan, taking a page out of the Patriots' praise-the-opposition-at-all-turns approach, took the opportunity to laud New England's D.
"I think their defense doesn't necessarily get the credit they deserve," he said. "Every year they get criticized for their pass defense, what they rank, and all that. But it's not about that.
"The Patriots play complementary football. Obviously, you have the No. 1 offense in all of football -- scoring offense, total offense, everything-else offense -- so what you try to do is win the turnover battle. Their record when they win the turnover battle is phenomenal. That's something they do and I think it goes overlooked."
Indeed, the Patriots are tied for first in the NFL with a plus-10 turnover differential (16 takeaways, 6 giveaways).
"The offense, deservedly so, gets a ton of credit, but since 2008 for instance, when New England wins the turnover battle they are 39-4. That, to me, is a team thing. When they lose it, they're 8-10," said Ryan, who is 3-4 against the Patriots as Jets head coach. "I think the defense plays a part in that, obviously."
Ryan also opined that the way Patriots games sometimes unfold creates situations in which the defense is willing to concede yards.
"When you get up [by] that many points a lot of times, you're willing to give up some things underneath and hoping that, 'Hey, I'll get a tipped ball,' or come up and force a tackle and maybe force a fumble."
As for the AFC East, in which all four teams are tied with 3-3 records, Ryan put the bull's-eye on the Patriots.
"One of your objectives every year is to win your division, and obviously New England has had a stranglehold on this division for several years. The three years I've been the head coach, obviously they've won our division, and, to be quite honest, pretty handily," he said. "So they're the ones to beat. It goes through New England, without question."
Ryan and the Jets will take their best shot Sunday -- and it won't necessarily be primarily through the air. After all, their reputation is to play a "ground and pound" style of football.
"We know who we are," Ryan said. "We're a team and we believe in what we do, and sometimes you're going to be able to run the ball a little better than other times, but we're committed to running the football. We might not have great success, but we're going to keep running it, and we think that opens up our passing game for us.
"We don't play offense the same way New England does. We don't have the same players. We're built differently. I think it's the job of any coach to maximize the talent that you have and put them in position to be successful. I think both our team and New England do that -- both teams just do it a little bit differently."
One area the Patriots hold a distinct advantage over the Jets, according to Ryan, is in coaching.
"If it was just between (Bill) Belichick and me, he's going to win that battle," Ryan said Wednesday. "... I don't think I'm the best head coach in the league right now, I think he is."
Information from ESPNNewYork.com's Rich Cimini was used in this report.