Print and Go Back ESPN.com: BlogsColumns [Print without images]

Friday, October 19, 2012
Jets not built to beat these Patriots

By Rich Cimini
ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- The New York Jets built their team -- specifically, the secondary -- with the New England Patriots in mind, according to Rex Ryan. Spoken like a true defensive coach.

What they should've done was put more into the offense, because they don't have enough playmakers to exploit the Patriots, who have an Arena League pass defense.

The Jets will show up for Sunday's big game at Gillette Stadium with their revived Ground & Pound offense, looking to run the football. That's who they are. They will keep Mark Sanchez on a short leash and try to play clock ball.

Doug Baldwin and Kyle Arrington
The Seahawks exploited the Patriots' deficient pass defense. Can the Jets? Will they even try?

And on the opposite sideline, Bill Belichick will have to restrain himself from letting out a Dr. Evil laugh: Mwahahahaha!

The large brain inside the hoodie knows his secondary is a mess, and he'll take it as a win every time the Jets decide not to attack the back end of the Patriots' defense. The Jets aren't built that way, not with this quarterback and not with this cast of receivers.

Despite encouraging signs of improvement over the last six quarters, the Jets (3-3) are walking into a bad matchup. They don't have the guns on offense, their Revis-less defense will be stretched thin and the essence of Ryan's defensive expertise -- confusing the quarterback with pre-snap movement and adjustments -- will be neutralized by the Patriots' hurry-up offense.

So yes, the Patriots (3-3) look vulnerable, but it's all about timing and matchups in football. In this case, the timing and matchups don't help the Jets, who haven't beaten Tom Brady in 644 days.

"We're one of the teams that can beat him. We've proved that," said Ryan, who is 3-4 against Brady & Co. "We'll see if we're the better team on Sunday. We're going to find that out. To be the man, you have to beat the man.

Rookie Russell Wilson beat the man last week, picking apart the Patriots' secondary in a 24-23 Seattle Seahawks victory. He looked like Warren Moon, throwing for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Let's face it, Warren Beatty could complete passes against the Patriots, who have allowed 30 receptions of at least 20 yards.

That makes Belichick want to snap the pencil that rests behind his ear.

The Patriots finished up in Seattle with three rookies starting in the secondary -- safeties Tavon Wilson and Nate Ebner (replacing injured starters Steve Gregory and Patrick Chung) and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who replaced an ineffective Kyle Arrington after two series. Chung could return this week, but that won't solve all the problems.

The Patriots haven't allowed a passer rating below 81.1. Want to beat them? Just throw up a long ball and wait for something good to happen, either a completion or defensive pass interference. They've been flagged seven times for 103 yards, the fourth-highest total in the league.

So the Jets should come out throwing, right?

"We have to be balanced," Sanchez said. "I've always thought that. Again, I'll defer to Coach [Tony] Sparano, but the way we rushed it last week was nice. It always makes my job easy, but if we need to throw it, we'll throw it. Whatever we do, we need to be efficient and take care of that ball."

The Jets ran for 252 yards last week, making Sanchez a game manager -- only 18 pass attempts. It was something out of his rookie season, when he rode the coattails of a dominant running game. The coaches gave him some leeway last season but pulled it back after a horrible start.

Despite all the preseason talk about Sanchez being ready to make a big jump in Year 4 (how's that Eli Manning comparison looking now?), he has done little to earn the trust of his coaches and teammates. Unless Sparano morphs into Mike Martz overnight, the Jets will try to run it against New England, which plays to the Patriots' strength. Their run defense is terrific, yielding only 3.4 yards per carry.

Defensively, the Jets are willing to take chances -- that has never been an issue -- but the season-ending injury to Darrelle Revis puts a strain on the coverage. They've done a nice job of masking his absence, but the dynamic changes this week because the Patriots have so many weapons.

The Patriots use the empty backfield more than any other team in the league, which will put stress on the Jets' secondary. Revis was able to handle Wes Welker, but who draws that assignment now? It probably goes to Kyle Wilson, who will have problems with the red-hot Welker.

We haven't even mentioned the tight ends or the dramatically improved running game, which gives the Patriots a semblance of balance. They're killing nickel and dime defenses with the ground game, averaging 4.8 yards per carry -- two yards better than their average against base defenses, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Patriots have it down to an art form. They throw against your nickel or dime defense, shift to their hurry-up so you can't substitute and start running the ball against your small people.

"The way they're running the ball, it's hard to play small ball against them," Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said. "We'd always concede rushing yards. As long as Brady was handing it off and not throwing it, we liked our chances. Now, that'll get you beat just as easily as him throwing the ball."

Basically, the Patriots present a lot of problems -- too many for the Jets to solve.