FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan believes he's coaching a Super Bowl-caliber team. Just ask him; he'll tell you. He'll make such a convincing case that you'll want to fly to Vegas to put some money down on the New York Jets.
What Ryan needs to do now is coach like he talks -- fearlessly. He didn't do that against the Baltimore Ravens, and if there's a carryover Sunday against the New England Patriots, the Jets will be 0-2, staring into the darkness.
Ordinarily, Ryan is a sideline swashbuckler, making bold decisions that inspire confidence. But in the season opener, he underestimated his own team and overestimated his former team, and it was apparent with some of his moves.
Mark Sanchez was handcuffed, Darrelle Revis was confined to a small island and the vaunted ground-and-pound rushing attack was sent to the bench on a fourth-and-1 from the Ravens' 10 in the second quarter -- a lack of faith that left some players grumbling.
The Jets played not to lose, an acceptable approach last season with a rookie quarterback, but it's not the kind of mentality you'd expect from a team that is absolutely convinced it has the stuff to win a championship. If you think you've got it, flaunt it. The Jets played and coached like an uptight team, as if they felt the pressure of enormous expectations.
"We've got to calm down, relax, get into a seasonal flow and ride it from there," wide receiver Braylon Edwards said.
The Jets need to find their mojo quickly. Since 1990, only 13 percent of the teams that started 0-2 rebounded to make the playoffs. After the Patriots, they hit the road for two straight weeks, facing the Miami Dolphins (in their home opener) and the Buffalo Bills.
There's no such thing as a must-win game in September. But there are "you better win" games, and Sunday is one of them for the Jets. They'd better win or else their Super Bowl mission could be submerged in turmoil.
"Is it a must-win where you absolutely have to have it? No, but it kind of feels like it," Ryan said.
It starts with the quarterback position.
Against the Ravens, Sanchez attempted only three passes that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. It's difficult to win on a 10-yard field. Some of that is Sanchez's fault because, according to Ryan, he went to his check-down receivers too quickly, passing up some downfield opportunities. But the coaches have to take a hit, too, because they've brainwashed him to play it safe.
The Jets should -- and will -- be more aggressive against the Patriots. Bill Belichick has a young secondary, with a second-year and rookie cornerbacks in the starting lineup -- Darius Butler and Devin McCourty, respectively. Edwards, virtually ignored on Monday night, will get the ball early. He's the type of player that feeds off emotion, and it's important to make him feel involved from the outset.
You're not going to see the second coming of "The Greatest Show on Turf" -- the Jets never will be that kind of team under the defensive-minded Ryan -- but there's too much talent on the perimeter to be three yards and a cloud of conservative dust. That's old school. You can't win that way anymore in the NFL.
"We have all the talent in the world," Sanchez said.
Coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, who calls the plays, said he trusts his second-year quarterback to make smart decisions. Well, prove it. Let him throw. Move the pocket so he can throw on the run, one of his strengths. Why not an occasional no-huddle, to spark a faster tempo?
If there's a fourth-and-1 deep in New England territory, go for it. A year ago, Ryan faced five fourth-and-1 situations inside the opponents' 16. Four times he went for it -- all successful. The fifth time, against the Atlanta Falcons, he took the chip-shot field goal -- and they botched it. He should've learned a lesson right there.
Ryan got three points out of his decision Monday night, but it didn't send the right message. They can't play that way against Tom Brady & Co. The magic number is 17. The Patriots have gone 15 straight regular-season games without being held under 17 points, so that should be the Jets' target.
If Revis is less than 100 percent because of his tight left hamstring, preventing him from matching up with Randy Moss in single coverage, the Jets probably will need more than 17. Ryan admittedly babied Revis in the opener, limiting him to the left side because of conditioning concerns, and that figures to be a storyline again.
Prediction: The Jets will respond favorably after being slapped in the face Monday night. They were too full of themselves coming out of training camp, and they took a humble pie to the face.
"We'll play a lot better this week. I know that," Sanchez said. "I know that for a fact."
They just need to coach and play like the team they think they are.