Deep down, Rex Ryan must be terrified of Tom Brady, must be laying awake at night wondering if he can stop Brady at all. Brady shredded New York last month when the Jets came to Foxborough. And so what Ryan and the Jets are doing now should be looked at as nothing more than an all-out, verbal blitz.
Brady doesn’t study as much as Peyton Manning, Ryan said. And I don’t appreciate his antics. Now defensive back Antonio Cromartie is piling on, telling the New York Daily News that Brady is "an (epicenter of the posterior)" and delivering the world’s oldest message: (Bleep) him. All of it should make you laugh. And it should tell you that the Jets fear Brady more than they did Manning, whom Ryan tried to kill with kindness before the Jets went in and upended the Colts last week, 17-16.
Don’t you see now? It was always part of the plan. Asked about Manning prior to last week’s wild-card game with the Colts, Ryan seemed to unnecessarily suck Brady into the conversation, taking a needless jab at the highly decorated quarterback of the Patriots. Peyton got the bull and Brady got the horns. What Ryan knew then, perhaps what he believed, is that the Jets would beat Manning and the Colts and that they would subsequently face the Patriots and Brady, who present a far more daunting challenge.
The Jets were better than the Colts. Ryan knew it. The Patriots are a different story. Ryan has no answers for the Patriots the way he did the Colts, and what he must rely on now is some good old-fashioned trash-talking that he hopes will get Brady off his game.
With all that blather over the last week or so, what the Jets have been telling you is that they cannot beat Tom Brady.
And that their only chance on Sunday is for Brady to beat himself.
That certainly could happen, of course, if for no other reason than the fact that it has been some time since Brady played a postseason game to his capability. In his last six playoff starts, Brady has posted ratings including the unsightly numbers of 57.6, 79.5, 66.4, 82.5 and 49.1. The only exception was a firing-range workout against Jacksonville (in 2007) during which Brady hit the target on 26 of 28 tries for three touchdowns, no picks and an otherworldly rating of 141.4. Excluding that performance, Brady’s last five postseason games have produced a 2-3 record, eight touchdown passes, 10 interceptions and a cumulative rating of 66.6, the last a number that would be highly understandable were we talking about, say, Mark Sanchez.
Or, perhaps, Brady’s completion percentage.
So, what does that Tom Brady have to do with this one, a man who had arguably the best season of his career by throwing 36 touchdowns against just four interceptions? Maybe nothing. In December, in Week 13, Brady ripped apart the Jets like no other quarterback during the brief Rex Ryan era. Brady completed 21 of 29 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns. His rating of 148.9 was the highest allowed by the Jets in any single game since Ryan took over the New York operation at the start of last season.
Following that game, a humbled Ryan took full responsibility for the loss, saying he was outcoached and embarrassed. He isn’t likely to let that happen again this time. If he does, the coach of the Jets will have some serious 'splaining to do after having incessantly flapped his gums, though one of Ryan’s great attributes is that he’s not afraid to put himself out there, to risk his credibility and reputation with more than a little braggadocio.
If the Jets lose, Ryan’s talking might make you feel a little better. But it won’t make him feel any worse. Buddy Ryan undoubtedly deprived his children of some things during his life as a football coach, but self-esteem wasn’t one of them.
The Ryans talk a lot. As Bill Parcells might have said, it’s just what they do. Don’t take it personally.
More than anyone, of course, Brady would be advised to heed that advice, this week more than any. After the beating the Jets took here in December, it’s no wonder that the coach of the Jets would be looking to pump up his team by tearing down the quarterback of the Patriots, a man who doubles as the indisputable Most Valuable Player of the league and one of the great quarterbacks of all-time. In December, Brady carved up the Jets as if they were a pork tenderloin. Ryan is now trying to put his team back together. And it should surprise no one that reverberations are now coming from Cromartie, a player who isn’t nearly as good as he thinks he is and whom the Patriots will likely attempt to exploit anytime he is matched against Wes Welker or Deion Branch.
Maybe Cromartie is right about Brady. Maybe Ryan is, too. The Jets certainly are entitled to their opinions. But it’s one thing for the Jets to believe it and another thing entirely for Brady to perpetuate the discussion, at least off the field, where the Jets have been hammering the Patriots to no end over the last several days.
The question, naturally, is whether the Jets can sustain that level on Sunday.
And the guess is that they, too, are wondering the same thing.
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