The challenge now for Ryan is to keep the 11 players on the field from looking like the pawns that got run out of Foxboro in early December.
"I was outcoached in that game," Ryan said. "I said that then, I'll say that now."
The Jets were dominated in nearly every aspect of that game, looking nothing like Super Bowl contenders let alone even pretenders. They were outgained on offense by a healthy margin, lost the time of possession and turnover battle, had decidedly more penalties and the usually steady special teams looked unbalanced. All the hype and buildup of a Monday night game on national television and with the Jets holding top place in the AFC East, it was supposed to be a statement game for the Jets against their hated rivals.
Instead, it was a knockout punch for the Patriots who controlled the game early, with Belichick masterminding a 17-0 lead before the first quarter ended.
"It was checkmate," Ryan said. "He definitely outcoached me."
But can Sunday be different for the Jets? Ryan likes to point to the fact that the Jets have split the regular season record with New England in his two years on the sideline with New York, but he also has never won at Foxboro. He also has never beaten Belichick in a game held after Week 2 of the regular season.
Perhaps, though, it will be a playoff of firsts for the Jets.
On Saturday night, Ryan got his first win ever against Colts quarterback Peyton Manning in the postseason, avenging last year's loss in the AFC Championship Game. Now on Sunday in the divisional round, Ryan has a chance to win against Tom Brady and Belichick in a game that will determine who advances to within one game of the Super Bowl. Ryan took any of the pressure off his team following their late season meltdown in Foxboro.
"I recognize that this week is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan," the Jets coach said. "It's personal."
He used the same "personal" line just seven days ago when describing his passion for beating Manning and the psychological impact of his words lifts the burden off his players and places it squarely on Ryan's rotund shoulders. For a coach known for turning heads and grabbing headlines with his panache for fighting words, Ryan is playing mind games ahead of Sunday's game. But unlike his nemesis Belichick, who is notorious for his less than forthcoming remarks to the press, Ryan isn't worried about his opposition in the upcoming game with his version of mind games.
He is, in fact, trying to rebuild the ego of a team that was embarrassed six weeks ago before a national audience.
"It's a level playing field," Ryan said. "Now, it's coming down to me raising my level."