FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rex Ryan was so miffed by the circus-atmosphere perception of the New York Jets that he gathered his players last week and delivered a strong message: Let's go out and show 'em we're not a bunch of bozos.
"It seems like that's how people look at us," Ryan said Monday, commenting for the first time on his fiery speech. "I was like, 'You can think that all you want, but we see something totally different.' I do -- and I know this football team does. Our opponents will take us seriously, I promise you that."
The Jets backed their coach on Sunday, responding to his motivational ploy with a convincing 48-28 victory over the Buffalo Bills. It was a resounding statement for the Jets, who needed to change the headline after dropping their final three games last season and enduring a preseason of heavy criticism for scoring only one touchdown.
The breaking point for Ryan was a front-page cartoon last week in the New York Post, which depicted him, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow as circus clowns. No doubt, the Jets are a football soap opera, with their big personalities and ever-present drama. But a circus? That was too much for Ryan.
"It made it a bigger deal for us to go out there and prove to each other that we had each other's back," linebacker Aaron Maybin said of Ryan's speech to the team.
Curiously, the never-shy Jets refrained after the game from crowing about their "I-told-you-so" moment. That feeling carried into Monday. The locker room was unusually quiet during the media period, with only a half-dozen or so starters showing up. There was no sign of linebacker Bart Scott, who snapped at reporters after the game because "you treat us like a f------ joke."
On Monday, the silence spoke loudly.
"The big thing Rex was hammering last week was, he didn't want us in the mode of proving outsiders wrong," Maybin said. "He said it has to be about the people in this locker room."
So the Jets handled the season-opening win the way they respond to questions about the Wildcat offense: They didn't say a whole lot. But they played a terrific game in all three phases, scoring the most points for a Ryan-coached team.
Sanchez passed for 266 yards and three touchdowns, the pass protection was nearly flawless, the defense forced four turnovers and several newcomers made big contributions, including rookie wide receiver Stephen Hill (two touchdowns), right tackle Austin Howard and safety LaRon Landry.
Was Ryan's galvanizing speech a factor or could it be that the Jets simply own the Bills? They've won nine of the last 10 in the rivalry, and Sanchez always plays his best against them.
"[The circus talk] was definitely a big chip on our shoulder," Jeremy Kerley, who scored two touchdowns, told ESPN New York 98.7. "We definitely had a bull's-eye on our back. It definitely helped us out, throughout the game, motivated us to stay on track and stay on focus and everything paid off."
Ryan didn't do much gloating -- the usual defiance was gone -- but he did rave about his quarterback, who played one of the best games of his career.
"I think when he has time to throw the football," Ryan said of Sanchez, "he can be as good as anybody."
Sanchez wasn't sacked and he was hit only once, as Howard -- a former practice-squad player making $540,000 -- shut down Bills defensive end Mario Williams, who scored a $100 million deal in free agency. Ryan said the pass protection was "as good as I can remember."
When that compliment was passed along to veteran guard Brandon Moore, he didn't sound too impressed.
"I wouldn't say it was perfect," he sniffed. "We did our job at a high percentage and that's all you could ask for."