In a stunning statement to the rest of the league, the Jets chased and knocked around Tom Brady in a 16-9 win over the rival Patriots before an insatiable Meadowlands crowd. You could almost hear fans exclaiming, "Now that's how ya play defense!" And LB Calvin Pace, the team's best edge rusher, won't be back for another two weeks.
For three years under head coach Eric Mangini, fans publicly and defensive players privately complained they were being held back in more ways than one. After Mangini was fired Kerry Rhodes made it clear that his former coach's sterilization of their personalities sapped them on the field, too. Rhodes said he tried to convince Mangini last season to unleash him to no avail.
It looks like the players were right, at least for two weeks. The Jets talked trash all week long and then actually backed it up by never letting up. Even on the Patriots last possession, when Brady started all the way back at his own 10 with 1:48 to go and no timeouts, Ryan kept sending them. The Jets sent a seven-man blitz on the Patriots' final play!
Ryan said the Jets recorded 23 hits and pressures on Brady. That's unheard of in Jets Nation! They never sacked him, but Sunday's win demonstrated why sacks can be overrated. Consistent pressure—forcing the quarterback to throw when he doesn't want to—is more disruptive than a few sacks.
Two plays on that last-gasp Patriots drive demonstrated why Ryan and his staff are more than bravado and blitzes. They are coaching smarts, too. On 1st-and-10 from his 28, Brady got blasted by NT Kris Jenkins. Did you notice how Jenkins eased off and didn't drive the QB into the turf, a move that would have immediately provoked a 15-yard penalty?
Two plays later when Brady tried to hit TE Benjamin Watson over the deep middle, did you notice how S Eric Smith turned his head around at the last moment to avoid what could have been a pass interference call?
The Jets tackling has also been superb. To blitz as much as Ryan wishes, defensive backs have to tackle well. Cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Lito Sheppard, and the rest of the secondary, get A+ so far.
Since I began writing for Jets Confidential during the lousy 2007 season, I've lamented the Jets have lacked an identity. Well, now they have one. They are the Mean Green Blitzing Machine. For two weeks, that is.
Opposing teams will start adjusting to Ryan's confusing schemes. Again, two weeks does not a season make.
Here are some more observations: 1) On the subject of establishing an identity, the offense is getting there. Rarely does offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer call running plays on multiple successive downs. One reason may be the rushing attack's mediocrity so far. It might help to call running plays on third down-and-three yards or less. Instead, the Jets usually put Mark Sanchez in the shotgun and send four or five receivers into the pattern. So far, it looks like the Jets offensive identity will be new personnel, new formations, new looks on almost every down.
But the Jets don't abandon the run, either. RBs Leon Washington and Thomas Jones each had 14 carries Sunday. "Schotty" sticks with it, even if he just picks at it. The Jets apparently don't want to be a smash-mouth team, but they won't approach a game like the Patriots did, which leads us…
2)The Patriots offensive approach was mind-boggling, especially considering Wes Welker's absence. The Patriots are putting too much pressure on their offensive line to protect Brady, who is obviously not his sharpest yet. Fifty pass attempts per game? That's not a balanced offense; that's a run-n-shoot. Or as Rex's father called it, "chuck-n-duck."
3) The debate over whether Darrelle Revis "shuts down" receivers continues. On NBC's Sunday night pregame show, Tony Dungy, when analyzing the Jets' blitzes, called Revis the "MVP" of the defense for his tight coverage on Randy Moss. While Revis may not be invincible yet, Andre Johnson and Randy Moss sound like sour grapes.
4) Like the Jets after the game, I won't gloat either. Just a soft reminder that I picked them to beat the banged-up Patriots. No prediction this week, though. The Titans game will be another test of Ryan's mid-week motivational skills. After investing so much emotion and effort to beat New England, he has to avoid a let down against a Tennessee club desperate for a win.