The Jets' coach changed tactics from the last two weeks, when he made the playoff games against Indianapolis and New England "personal," with vendettas against Peyton Manning and Bill Belichick, respectively.
Ryan indicated there's a reason he is taking a different tack, at least publicly, considering the Jets (13-5) will visit Pittsburgh (13-4) on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. with the AFC title and a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.
"That game was different," Ryan said of the 28-21 victory over New England on Sunday. "Every game is different and I don't have a plan on what to say or whatever. ... If you can't get motivated to win an AFC Championship Game, I don't know what else you need."
Perhaps Ryan is wary of trying to tap too hard on the Jets' emotional well, after last week hyping the New England game to be the second-most important game in Jets history. (He clarified that Monday by indicating he meant to say it would be the franchise's second-biggest win.)
And it's also a fact that Ryan's personal confrontations with Pittsburgh, for the most part, haven't been as frustrating as his games against Manning and Belichick prior to this month. Ryan became Baltimore's defensive coordinator in 2005, and held that position for four years. The Ravens were 4-5 against the Steelers in that span, and in his first game against them as Jets' head coach, the Jets won 22-17 in Pittsburgh last month.
He also credited coach Mike Tomlin for taking mercy on him and the Ravens when the Steelers routed Baltimore, 38-7, on Nov. 5, 2007.
"We couldn't stop a nosebleed," Ryan recalled. "They were up 30-something to nothing at halftime (actually 35-7), and they ran the ball every snap in the second half. And the one thing is, we could stop the run. They got like a yard a carry. ... He wasn't trying to rub our nose in it. ... He's a man's man and his team plays like that."
Ryan did allude to one thing of a personal nature, noting that he now has been involved in three consecutive AFC Championship Games. Tomlin's Steelers beat the Ravens two years ago, and Indianapolis beat the Jets last season.
Ryan said, "I've been here three years in a row. I don't know if I can handle not winning it" again.
And maybe the Patriots should have paid more attention to him on one fourth-quarter play.
Cotchery turned a short pass from Mark Sanchez into a 58-yard gain, which led to Sanchez's third touchdown pass three plays later and a 21-11 lead. Cotchery's big play swung the momentum back to the Jets after New England had trimmed their lead to three points.
"We knew we had to answer," Cotchery said. "We had to answer on that drive. On that play, Mark and I were on the same page and it just blew open. I stayed on the move. He expected me to stay on the move and after that I was just trying to make a play and the guys did a great job of (blocking) to try and get me to the end zone."
The humble Cotchery, who led the Jets with five catches for 96 yards, left out the fact that he hurdled one defender for additional yardage.
"It ended up setting us up with seven points," he said, "and that was what we were looking for."
--Facing a fourth-and-4 at its own 38 late in the second quarter, New England tried a fake punt. Upback Patrick Chung, however, fumbled the direct snap, and once he recovered it, was engulfed by the Jets' Eric Smith. The Jets took over at the New England 37 and scored four plays later on Sanchez's 15-yard pass to Edwards for a 14-3 lead.
Jets coach Rex Ryan said the Jets weren't surprised by the play, and New England coach Bill Belichick wasn't in the mood to discuss it.
"We just made a bad mistake on the play," he said. A bad mistake in execution or call? "I'm not even going into it. ... It was a bad mistake. I just said that."
"I take full responsibility," Chung said Monday after not talking Sunday night. "That's my mistake."
Smith said after the game, "I wouldn't say it was panic, but it felt like they needed to get something going."