In the aftermath of the Boston Massacre, a defiant Rex Ryan vowed, "Trust me, we will remember this. There is no question about that."
The New York Jets remember, all right. How do you forget about a 45-3 loss to your nemesis? As they celebrated their dramatic wild-card victory Saturday night over the Indianapolis Colts, the Jets started to look ahead to the New England Patriots, recalling the humiliation of Dec. 6.
"The way they beat us and the way they were acting throughout the game, it's in a lot of guys' heads right now," wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said in a quiet moment by his locker at Lucas Oil Stadium. "[The Patriots] had something on their mind and they wanted to get that point across. We play next week, so we'll see."
The two AFC East rivals meet Sunday in the divisional playoffs in Foxborough, Mass., and if the understated Cotchery is in a payback mood, you have to figure the temperature of the entire team is a few degrees above normal.
Not only were the Jets embarrassed in what was hyped as the biggest regular-season game in recent memory, but they felt the Patriots acted like sore winners. Cotchery said the Patriots taunted them whenever they made a big play.
"After they scored touchdowns, they were looking to our sideline," Cotchery said. "There was a lot of talking going into the game because we were talking, but, we know what happened. We know we're a lot better than how we played that night. That's the reality of it."
The Jets entered the game with a 9-2 record, riding a four-game winning streak.
They could've put a stranglehold on the division, but they were outclassed in every way imaginable. Afterward, a humbled Ryan called it "the biggest butt-whipping I've ever taken as a coach in my career."
At the same time, Ryan was irked because the Patriots still were trying to score points late in the game, with Tom Brady still at quarterback. After taking a 38-3 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter, Bill Belichick gathered his players and got fired up, imploring them to not let up.
Those images still burn the Jets.
"They ran the score up on us a bit, so we'll see how it goes," safety Dwight Lowery said.
Said tight end Dustin Keller: "Whenever a team beats you like that, you're thinking about payback."
The Jets prefer to remember that performance as an anomaly. The defense let Brady (326 yards, four touchdowns) have his way. They couldn't tackle former teammate Danny Woodhead, who produced 104 receiving yards. Mark Sanchez threw three interceptions and finished with a 27.8 passer rating. Ryan made bad tactical decisions.
They took a humble pie in the face. It tied for the second-most lopsided defeat in Jets history, and that covers a lot of bad losses.
"That team, when we played that game, that wasn't us," Keller said. "We didn't establish the running game. The passing game didn't do much. The defense, they don't give up 45 points. That's not our defense."
Since then, the Jets unwittingly provided the Patriots with motivational fodder.
After the Sal Alosi tripping incident against the Miami Dolphins, special-teams coordinator Mike Westhoff dragged the Patriots into the mess, accusing them of employing the sideline wall that got the Jets into hot water with the league. That practice, coupled with Westhoff's comments, resulted in a $100,000 fine.
Just last week, Ryan took a verbal swipe at Brady, saying he doesn't study as hard as Peyton Manning because he gets help from Belichick. It added another subplot to the always simmering Border War.
"It's a whole new season and a whole new opportunity," right tackle Damien Woody said. "Prime example: Look at Seattle. Who expected them to beat New Orleans? It doesn't matter what happened in the regular season."