With odds stacked, Jets look to restore pride
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Mike Pettine read the quotes, word for word, and was bothered.
So, the New York Jets defensive coordinator printed out what San Francisco's Carlos Rogers said about the defense -- that it appeared to quit last Sunday -- and put it up on a PowerPoint presentation for all of his players to see.
No gasps. No yells. No cusses.
"When it comes from a peer," Pettine said, "you have to kind of stop yourself."
It's Week 5 of the regular season and the Jets (2-2) are being tested in a major way. They're still in first place in the AFC East, but injuries are stacking up. So are the criticisms, and the odds, especially with undefeated Houston coming to town to play Monday night.
Pettine says there was nothing on film to indicate the defense quit in a 34-0 loss, but it was clear that something's a little off that needs fixing.
After all, their pride is at stake.
"I don't think you can say anybody quit. I think we got worn down," Pettine said. "The guys in the room know what it's supposed to look like."
And, it's not just the defense that failed last Sunday. Far from it. The offense has hit the skids the past few weeks with quarterback Mark Sanchez playing so poorly that many believe it might be time for Tim Tebow to save the day -- and the season.
"It could be one of the best things to happen to us all season," Tebow said after the blowout loss last Sunday.
He wasn't brushing it off or trying to be just a team-first guy. Tebow believes that maybe this adversity -- including losing cornerback Darrelle Revis and wide receiver Santonio Holmes to season-ending injuries -- can be turned into a positive.
"When you have defeats like this where you get beat up and you get beaten in every phase, it really is something you can rally behind and motivate you," Tebow said. "Different teams I have been on with losses like this, I feel like we've rallied behind because you don't want to feel like that again. It kind of puts you on edge a little bit."
The Jets are a franchise that has lost a laundry list of locker room leaders over the last few years, veterans who kept things cohesive in the face of adversity: Thomas Jones, Alan Faneca, Damien Woody, Shaun Ellis, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Leonhard and Jerricho Cotchery, to name just a few.
Ryan stripped the captains' "C's" from the jerseys after last season, but insists there are still a number of players others lean on. Bart Scott, Brandon Moore, Nick Mangold, Yeremiah Bell and Eric Smith are among them. And, despite his increasingly tenuous job security, Sanchez also is someone the team looks to.
"All the work and effort I've put in, they know how bad I want it," Sanchez said. "When it doesn't go right, I'm the first to step up and say, `Hey man, that wasn't my best and it wasn't right. I'll get it right.' They understand that and it's my job to keep pushing and leading."
Most of the talk all week has centered on how complete a team Houston is with its smothering defense and balanced offense, while the Jets are in trouble. They opened as 7-point underdogs, but it might as well have been 37 in the minds of some fans and media.
It's really sort of like the scene from the movie "Rocky IV," when Adrian yells at Rocky: "You can't win!"
Well, he defied the odds and went out and did, and now the Jets, even this early in the season, face a critical point to change their story line. They can still lose on Monday night and turn their season around. But another blowout, and things will start getting dicey.
"I think, without question, our pride was hurt a little bit," Ryan said. "Our football team, that's not a typical New York Jets game. Now, we've lost in the past, but we haven't been beat like that."
Actually, as Ryan later pointed out, they have. Back in 2010, when the Jets went to New England in a battle for first place in the division -- and the Patriots romped 45-3. New York got back up and rebounded all the way to their second straight AFC championship game appearance.
"That was probably the only game that I can remember that was worse than that game," Ryan said. "We're going to come back the way we know how. We're not covering up. We're going to be throwing punches."
The feistiness Ryan has always been known for still comes out, but in smaller spurts now than they used to. He thrives in the role of the underdog, and his teams have generally done the same.
But, he knows his team is up against the wall right now with key players out and both sides of the ball having trouble establishing themselves. So, Ryan and his coaching staff huddled for two days and gave the players off so they could come up with some ways to fix the mess. When offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo suggested the offense and defense have a "nosebleed Wednesday" -- an extra 8-minute period of practice in which the base units go up against each other -- Ryan jumped at the chance.
"I challenged our guys to really compete against each other and the only way to get better is when you go full-speed on each other," Ryan said. "That's what we got back to, and that's what we did."
The Jets talked about tackling after Ryan said during a radio interview that his team missed 17 of them against the 49ers. There were basic concepts discussed, such as players getting their bodies in better position to actually take down an opposing runner and also getting off blocks.
Fundamentals. Back to basics. Whatever you want to call it -- Ryan knew it needed to get done.
"I certainly don't have all the answers," he said. "I'm just trying to do what's in the best interest of our football team. We need to improve and I'm reaching out for ways to do that."
NOTES: The Jets will honor former DE Mark Gastineau and WR Wesley Walker by inducting them into their Ring of Honor on Monday night. "I'll probably start crying," said Gastineau, who made headlines for his popular sack dances and high-profile romance with actress Brigitte Nielsen during his playing days. Walker said he supports Sanchez as the Jets' quarterback, but wants to see more from him. "To become a premier quarterback, he has got to step up," Walker said. "A big issue with leadership is can he perform with the weapons he does have? I like Mark Sanchez, but he hasn't been that guy, as far as I'm concerned." ... ST coordinator Mike Westhoff said newly signed CB Aaron Berry and FB Lex Hilliard will have key roles on his unit.
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Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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