NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Call the New York Jets whatever you want. Rex Ryan doesn’t care.
Some say lucky.
Or, maybe, it’s a little of both.
One thing Ryan insists is this: The Jets were the better team Sunday — whether or not they benefited from a newly instituted penalty call in a 30-27 overtime win over the New England Patriots.
“I think the focus, it’s going to be wherever you guys want it to be,” Ryan said during a conference call Monday, “but I think we outplayed New England. I think that’s why we won the game.”
Ryan wouldn’t discuss what he told his players going into the game, but he never doubted that the Jets could pull off the stunning win.
“I will say this, and I’ve said it before: We fear nobody,” Ryan said. “I mean nobody. What that means win-loss, I don’t know.
“But we literally fear nobody.”
That was clear when the Jets stormed back from a 21-10 halftime deficit to take a 27-21 lead in the third quarter.
It was also evident when Ryan took a big gamble by going for a 56-yard field goal in overtime that, if missed, would have given Tom Brady and the Patriots excellent field position.
Turns out, it was missed by Nick Folk, but it was negated by a rare and controversial 15-yard pushing penalty on the Patriots that gave the Jets new life.
A few plays later, Folk kicked a winning 42-yarder — and this one counted.
“Usually it takes more skill than luck, but I do think you need a little bit of luck on your side,” quarterback Geno Smith said. “I don’t know if we were or were not lucky, but it’s good to be 4-3 right now with an opportunity to put together some wins.
“That’s all that matters around here. Not the way the games are won, but the fact that they are won.”
The topic of the day, however, was the penalty, which had been called for the first time in an NFL game after New England’s Chris Jones appeared to push teammate Will Svitek into the Jets’ Damon Harrison.
“Was it an appropriate call?” Ryan said. “Yes.”
It was a violation of a little-known rule change for this season that states an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty will be called for pushing a teammate “into the opponents’ formation.”
“I saw that the guy directly to my right was giving a teammate a push,” Harrison said. “At the time, it didn’t register to me that it was a penalty, but going back to training camp, there was an emphasis made that you can’t push anyone on a field goal. I overheard the referees talking and I was just praying that it was going in our favor.”
Patriots coach Bill Belichick acknowledged Monday that he had made a mistake in interpreting it after insisting after the game his team had done nothing wrong.
Meanwhile, Ryan wouldn’t say whether he had talked to his players during the week about the specific penalty or had told officials to look for the penalty.
But, the Jets coach did hint that his team was aware of the Patriots’ possible tendency to push teammates to try to block field goals.
“Let’s just put it this way: We watch every single play,” Ryan said. “I don’t care if it’s Week 16 or whatever. We’re going to watch every play of the opponent. That’s what we do as coaches. … Certainly, the coaches, the coordinators watch every single play of every single game.
“We’re aware of opponents’ tendencies and everything else.”
It was special teams coach Ben Kotwica who “tipped off the officials” to watch for the push, according to the New York Post.
Former Jets special teams coach Mike Westhoff told the Post that it was “the exact right call.”
“But you don’t like to see a game decided on a call,” Westhoff said. “You don’t want to see that. You want to see the game decided on the merits of what took place in the play.”
Linebacker Demario Davis said he was “very aware of that rule” even before the game Sunday.
Adding to the intrigue: Ryan’s brother Rob, the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator, faced the Patriots last weekend. But, Rex denied during a radio interview that Rob tipped him off to what the Patriots were doing.
“That’s not factual,” Ryan said during a radio interview. “It sounds like a good story, but that is not factual.”
The penalty aside, the Jets did, as Ryan contended, outplay the Patriots with a look at the numbers: They doubled their time of possession (46 minutes, 13 seconds to 23:40), outgained them 383-295 and held them to 1 for 12 on third downs.
New York also ran the ball with lots of success, gaining 177 yards on 52 carries, led by Chris Ivory’s 104 yards rushing.
But, next up for the Jets is the Cincinnati Bengals, who are atop the AFC North at 5-2 and will be looking to keep New York from winning consecutive games for the first time this season.
“They’re a very solid football team and we have to come with our ‘A’ game,” right guard Willie Colon said. “Cincinnati beat New England. It’s important for us to really put this game in the rearview (mirror) and really get going on a solid week of preparation.”
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