By Peter Schwartz
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“It just feels different to me. The significance of it I think is stronger than any game I’ve eve felt. I feel more pressure on this game, for whatever reason, than any game that I’ve ever coached.”
Rex Ryan – Monday, September 5, 2011
The Jets’ head coach has been no stranger to brash quotes since being named to replace Eric Mangini in 2009. But his words this past Monday clearly outline how the organization feels about Sunday night’s regular season opener against the Cowboys at MetLife Stadium.
On the tenth anniversary of 9/11, the Jets clearly want to cap off an emotional day with a victory.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to really show our stuff and show our respect for our country for this 10-year anniversary, and respect the firefighters and rescue workers and police officers,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. (We will) pay tribute to the lives that were lost, and give the respect and honor and attention to those families who lost loved ones. Remember them and what they meant to us and remember how strong our country is from a tragedy like that, how we’ve rallied, and play our best football, and have fun.”
The entire team is eager to experience the emotions of the ceremonies and the opportunity to face America’s Team. During the week, I caught up with Jets guard Brandon Moore about the game and the significance of the day…
While there will be ceremonies and tributes throughout the night that will certainly touch everybody, the Jets do have a job at hand and that is to open up the season strong against a Cowboys team that is expected to challenge for not only the NFC East title, but to also represent the NFC in the Super Bowl.
The Jets defense, which brings back ten out of eleven starters, will have their hands full with quarterback Tony Romo and company.
“He can make any throw,” said cornerback Darrelle Revis. “He’s a gunslinger. The guy makes plays with his feet while he scrambles a little bit. He looks for his guys. He looks for (Jason) Witten, he looks for Dez (Bryant), and he looks for Miles Austin.”
On the flip side, the Jets offense will try to navigate their way through a Cowboys defense that can certainly bring the heat. Defensive end DeMarcus Ware notched 15.5 sacks last season and has 80 career sacks.
The Cowboys clearly have the makings of a pretty good all-around team.
“You start with the best pass rusher in the league (Spears), and you have a Pro-Bowl nose tackle (Jay Ratliff),” said Ryan. “Their punter (Mat McBriar) is even a Pro Bowler, so this is no pushover by any stretch of the imagination.”
Sunday night’s game also marks the return of Plaxico Burress to the NFL. The Jets signed the former Giants wide receiver on the eve of training camp after serving a 20-month prison sentence for shooting himself in a New York City nightclub.
“I’m excited along with everybody else,” said Burress of starting the season. “I know that my emotions will be high come Sunday.”
Burress was on top of the mountain a few years ago catching the game-winning touchdown against the Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Now, he’s out to prove that he can return to his old form as one of the best wide receivers in the league. More importantly, he’s out to show a very special person that he’s back in business.
“My son is through the roof right now,” said Burress. “He’s running around in his Jets hat, his Jets jersey. When I come home he has his mouthpiece in, running across the hallway. He’s fired up and he’s ready to go. Every day he wakes up, he wants to know, ‘Is it Sunday yet?’ He’s going to be in the building, trust me. He’s going to be there. So, I’m excited for him because he’s four now, he understands everything. Daddy is going back to playing football.”
Burress is part of a “Big Three” wide receiver group that includes Santonio Holmes and Derrick Mason. The former Raven signed on early in camp after being jettisoned by Baltimore. Holmes signed a new five-year deal with the Jets when the lockout came to an end.
“I’m super excited about the season starting,” said Holmes. “Everything is behind us now, the preseason is over. There’s no more playing around. Everything is serious. Going from here we have to be ready to come out firing on all cylinders. Starting fast, we have a lot of great communication amongst us players on offense.”
So we have the emotional atmosphere of 9/11 ceremonies, a team that has gone to back-to-back AFC Championship Games, and we have “America’s Team.”
We have the return of Plaxico Burress and the infusion of other new talent throughout the team.
Am I missing any storylines?
Oh yeah…almost forgot…
RYAN BOWL IX
It’s another battle between twin brothers Rex and Cowboys defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who will begin his first season in Dallas on Sunday night.
Last year, Rex and the Jets knocked off Rob and the Browns 26-20 in overtime. Including college meetings, Rex leads Rob 5-3 and the Jets head coach has won all three NFL meetings against his brother.
A lot has been made about the similarities between the two and not just because they are twins. They have both created successful defenses but it’s not like their philosophies are identical.
“I think we’re fraternal that way, just like we’re fraternal anyway,” said Rex. “There are some differences, a lot. He’ll bring a lot of corner pressures, he’ll do a lot of stuff (that he learned) under (Patriots head coach Bill) Belichick’s tutelage. So we’re definitely different. He has probably his own trademark of defense, and so do we here.”
Last year’s match-up in Cleveland drew plenty of attention around the country and it’s been the same so far this week. The brothers are very close and their relationship alone would normally be the big storyline.
But not this week.
“It’s always special when you play against Rex,” said Rob. “You know his team is going to be well coached and they’ve got great players over there and it’s going to be an exciting time. It’s hard to talk about my brother and me when it’s 9/11, so everybody’s got emotions on that one. But we look forward for the Cowboys to get after it and we’re going to do great.”
The Ryan brothers are also feeling an emotion that hits closer to home. Their father Buddy, the architect of the Chicago Bears’ “46 Defense,” is battling cancer but has postponed surgery until after Sunday’s game.
“Anytime you have cancer again, it’s a huge concern,” said Rex.
But Buddy was at last year’s game in Cleveland and wouldn’t miss this week for the world. So, he’s decided to postpone surgery until after the game so that he could be at the Meadowlands on Sunday night.
“It’s going to be great to have him here,” said Rex. “This is huge for him. He’s been looking forward to it for a long time.”
Buddy’s latest diagnosis with cancer was only discovered recently.
“He’s constantly fighting that and that just happened last week,” said Rob. “This game is important to him and he’s going to get operated on after the game. He wants to see these two rams bat heads and we’re going to get after it.”
Now that’s something that Buddy just can’t miss.
THE JETS/COWBOYS SERIES
Sunday night marks the 10th meeting between the Jets and Cowboys. Dallas leads the all-time series 7-2. The Cowboys have won two in a row and three of the last four. The last meeting was on Thanksgiving Day, November 22nd, 2007 when the Cowboys crushed the Jets 34-3 at Texas Stadium. That day, a guy by the name of Nick Folk kicked a couple of field goals for the Cowboys.
The last Jets win over the Cowboys took place on December 19th, 1999 when Ray Lucas led Gang Green to a 22-21 victory over the Cowboys in Irving. They also beat the Cowboys 24-9 at Giants Stadium back on November 4th, 1990.
Cowboys fans usually travel well as has been the case each year when they visit the Meadowlands to face the Giants. It would not be a surprise to see plenty of Cowboys fans at the game on Sunday night, but you know who suggests that they stay at home.
“I don’t know why they’d be here,” said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. “They’re coming into our stadium, it’s probably not recommended that you wear Cowboys stuff, I would think. “
Even the high priced tickets in the new stadium might not be enough to keep the Dallas faithful away.
It took a while for the Cowboys and the Jets to meet for the first time. The Jets were born as the Titans in 1960. The Cowboys joined the NFL the same year and eleven years later, the two teams met for the first time, a 52-10 Cowboys victory at Texas Stadium.
Under the NFL’s current scheduling format, the Jets and Cowboys meet every four years.
THE JETS AND THE NFL REMEMBER 9/11
Those of you who are fortunate to have tickets for Sunday night’s game should plan on leaving a little earlier so that you are in your seats in time for special pre-game ceremonies to honor the 10th anniversary of 9/11.
Upon entrance into MetLife Stadium, all fans will be given small American flags. Taps will be streamed live into the stadium with the backdrop of the World Trade Center site. Then, bagpipers from the FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD will perform “Amazing Grace” from the field.
Members of the military, FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD will unfurl and hold a full-field American flag alongside both the Jets and Cowboys. Grammy Award-winning trio Lady Antebellum will perform the National Anthem replacing Mary J. Blige who had a conflict. Children of first responders will serve as honorary captains.
At halftime, the Jets are asking that fans remain in their seats for an emotional tribute, as the stadium will transition into concert mode with all lights turned off. The program will commence with New York native and Academy Award-winning actor Robert De Niro narrating a powerful moment created by family members of 9/11 victims represented by “Tuesday’s Children.”
Then Five For Fighting will perform an acoustic, version of “Superman (It’s Not Easy).” The song became an anthem for many people after the 9/11 attacks.
Throughout the night, Jets coaches and players will wear FDNY, NYPD, and PAPD hats.
“(All) the proceeds will go to the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, so that ought to be a great thing,” said Ryan.
The hats will be available at the game and online at jetsshop.com for $15.
MetLife Stadium will be oozing with emotion on Sunday night. Whether it’s the 9/11 ceremonies or just the simple fact that it’s two quality teams opening the season on a national stage, this could very well be a very special night.
I think the Jets are better and I think they will dot the I’s and cross the T’s on a special day in New York with a special performance. Gang Green won’t be a thing of beauty in the early weeks but they will win this one. I think the Jets will take advantage of the Cowboys’ new offensive line and a banged up secondary.
Jets 27 Cowboys 13
That’s all for now! Check back after the game for more!
What’s your prediction for Jets-Cowboys? Let Schwartz know in the comments below…