By Peter Schwartz
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“We know it’s going to be tough sledding, but we’ll see. I know one thing, the last time we played them at their place, we did beat them.”
– Rex Ryan, October 5, 2011
Imagine, just for a second, the taste the Jets had in their mouths when they exited M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore after their 34-17 loss to the Ravens this past Sunday night.
Disgusting. Kind of like how I feel when I accidentally eat broccoli.
Now rewind to the taste that the Jets had when they left Gillette Stadium this past January after their 28-21 win over the Patriots in the AFC divisional round.
Just to keep things personal, kind of like when I’m enjoying a pizza burger.
This Sunday, the Jets are hoping to enjoy the taste of victory against the Pats once again as they face their AFC East rivals in Foxboro. After two straight losses, perhaps facing the Patriots is the tonic the Jets need.
“In this league, you realize that winning and losing is kind of contagious, so we want to get back on our winning track (and) get back to our winning ways,” said quarterback Mark Sanchez. “We just need to win the game, whatever it takes.”
It will take a major improvement on the offensive line for that to have a chance of happening. Sanchez took a huge beating against the Ravens and has been taking plenty of hits all season long.
Granted, Nick Mangold has missed two games with a high ankle sprain, but the line has been terrible. Especially right tackle Wayne Hunter.
This was once considered to be one of the top offensive lines in the NFL, so is there reason to worry?
“Concerned? Not at all,” said left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. “We’ve been playing together for a while and we’re the type of group that sticks together. We have tough skin, so we’ll look at the plays and say, ‘Hey, you didn’t do what you were supposed to do on that. Hey, let’s work together, let’s make the improvements,’ and then we’ll just fix it and proceed.”
For the moment, the Jets are proceeding with caution.
How the offensive line comes together is one of many intriguing storylines for this Sunday to say the least.
The Jets offense is coming off of a dreadful performance against the Ravens and they look to get on track against a Patriots defense ranked 32nd — dead last — in the NFL in total defense.
“A little bit, but some of those numbers get skewed,” said Sanchez. “They’ve given up a few yards in between the 20s, but once you get in the red zone, they’ve been pretty stout.”
The Patriots are giving up 24.5 points and 477.5 yards per game but they are 3-1 and tied with the Bills atop the AFC East.
A big reason why is the number ranked offense in the league.
The Patriots are averaging 507.5 yards per game and they are ranked 2nd scoring almost 34 points per contest. So, needless to say, this presents quite a challenge for the Jets defense.
“It’s always a tough game when we play those guys, especially up there,” said cornerback Darrelle Revis. We know what type of player Tom (Brady) is. He’s a great quarterback. We just have to do the best in the secondary of covering those guys the best we can. I think we did a great job last year in the playoffs covering them very well, just playing close coverage. That’s what we’re going to try and do again when we go out there on Sunday.”
Easier said than done against an offensive machine. Brady has a ton of weapons, including the always-dangerous Wes Welker, who has 40 catches for 616 yards and 5 touchdowns.
“He’s very fast,” said Revis. “Usually there’s nickelback on him or a dimeback on him. He reads them very well. He breaks away from your leverage. If you’re inside, he’s breaking outside. If you’re outside, he’s breaking inside. He does a great job of that.”
Any way you slice it, this game is of great importance for the Jets. While they want to get things back on track, they also still have aspirations of winning the AFC East. If that is going to happen, the Jets need to do what Rex Ryan has asked other teams in the league to do this year.
Somehow, knock off the Pats.
“This is a team that we have to beat,” said Ryan. “We need to knock them off. We’ve said that.”
And now they have to do it. Ryan has yet to put his money where his mouth is in terms of the Jets winning a Super Bowl. But you can’t dispute the fact that he’s had some success against Patriots head coach Bill Belichick. Including the divisional playoff win, Ryan actually has a 3-2 edge over Belichick.
So, will this game be decided by the coaches?
“No, but I will say this, part of it is,” said Ryan. “Part of it is your coaching staff versus their coaching staff. (Belichick) is the best coach in football. If it comes down to us, he’s going to win it. And I don’t have a problem saying it. I’m not in that class.”
But, if Ryan is better than Belichick for just one day, the Jets could improve to 3-2 and the bleeding will have stopped.
But another loss could send the Jets’ season spiraling out of control.
THE JETS/PATRIOTS SERIES
The Jets lead the all-time series against the Patriots 51-49 with one tie. In Foxboro, the Pat hold 27-21-1 edge over Gang Green.
Overall, the Jets are 4-7 against the Pats at Gillette Stadium.
In their last regular season trip to Foxboro in December 2010, the Jets were crushed 45-3. The Jets are 2-6 in their last 8 regular season visits to New England.
However, the Jets did enjoy their most recent trip to Foxboro, a 28-21 victory in the AFC Divisional Playoff in January.
OTHER GAME NOTES
Longtime Jets defensive end Shaun Ellis will be facing his former team for the first time. Ellis didn’t care for the Jets’ contract offer after the lockout and signed with the rival Patriots.
Ellis played a huge role in the playoff win over the Patriots last season so it wouldn’t be shocking for him to be on top of his game against the Jets on Sunday.
“I hope not,”said Ryan. “I know one thing, the way Shaun is, he’s a competitive guy. Obviously, you’re going against your former team, you’re going to try and put everything you’ve got into it. We expect that from Shaun. There’s no doubt about it. He’s been a great player for a number of years, so I absolutely expect Shaun to give us everything he’s got.”
Ryan wore New York Titans gear during his Thursday press conference this week. But the Jets will not be donning the blue and gold this week. Ryan would probably love to try and sneak the Jets onto the field with the throwbacks on considering the success they have had with them.
The Patriots will be wearing their throwback uniforms on Sunday. When I see those jerseys, all I can think of is Steve Grogan and the Pats torching the Jets 56-3 back in 1979.
The Patriots are 7-3 wearing their throwbacks.
Former Jets assistant coach Doug Plank will be at Gillette Stadium on Sunday. He will be doing color commentary for Sports USA Radio’s national broadcast of the game. Plank was recently named head coach of the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul.
Once again, this is a tough spot for the Jets. I think they will be able to score some points against the Pats, but they will have all sorts of trouble keeping Brady, Welker, and the Pats offense off the scoreboard.
Patriots 31 Jets 21
CRITICISM WITH CLASS
Earlier this week, I caught up with former Jets wide receiver Wesley Walker.
By the way, I think Walker should have been picked for the Ring of Honor before Al Toon, but that’s a story for another day.
In the aftermath of Joe Namath’s weekly critical remarks about Gang Green, I asked Walker for his thoughts on the current Jets.
“I love Rex Ryan. I think he creates some problems for himself because he did produce and he’s gotten them to the playoffs twice. Now, people have high expectations.”
Walker knows what its like to get close to playing in a Super Bowl. He was part of the 1982 Jets that lost to the Dolphins in the ’83 AFC Title game, commonly known as “The Mud Bowl” in Miami.
The current day Jets have been to that point two years in a row, but they certainly face some challenges in getting back to that point this season.
After two straight losses, Walker is looking for his former team to right the ship.
“Hopefully they can win this week and turn everything around,” said Walker. “I do like what Rex has done. I think he’s funny and he’s put them on the map because he’s got that confidence. He would be a guy that I can play for.”
Ryan has been consistent in staying that the goal is to get to the Super Bowl. If they continue to fall short, Ryan will only sound like the boy who cried wolf.
But, there’s no reason to open up a can of you know what on him.
“Hopefully they’ll get there, but I think they’re going to have some problems this year,” said Walker.
Fair enough. I think we can all agree on that.
So maybe Broadway Joe needs to take a chill pill.
That’s all for now. Check back after the game for more!
What’s your prediction for Jets-Pats? Let Schwartz know below…