Jets’ defense cannot rest
FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - The best answer Jets coach Rex Ryan can come up with for the Patriots offense is to drown himself in sarcasm - lots and lots of sarcasm.
Wes Welker eating up yards like a riding mower?
“Welker only has 40 catches,’’ Ryan said. “Not like he’s done anything yet.’’
The 135 points the Patriots have put up this season?
“Everybody talks about us struggling offensively, but they’re struggling offensively,’’ he said. “They’re second in the league in scoring. So their numbers are way down from where they normally are.’’
But Ryan knows that in order to avoid a three-game losing streak, the Jets will have to stop a freight train that is averaging 507.5 yards of total offense. Otherwise, they will be flattened by it today at Gillette Stadium.
“This one is going to be the ultimate chess match,’’ Ryan said. “We don’t know exactly what we’re going to get from them. They don’t know exactly what we’re going to give them.’’
“You have to slow down their offense, that’s for sure. Nobody’s stopped them completely. They’re averaging over 500 yards a game, a ton of points.
“You’d better hope for a hurricane or something. That might be your only chance.’’
In two regular-season games against the Jets last season, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady threw six touchdown passes. Ryan is still trying to block out the four Brady piled up in a 45-3 win. This season, Brady is up to 13 already, with two four-touchdown games.
“Quite honestly,’’ Ryan said, “I’ve been on the sideline wishing there was a hurricane, because he’s that kind of guy.’’
No quarterback/wide receiver combination has been more explosive than Brady to Welker. Last year, coming back from an ACL tear, Welker caught 86 passes for 848 yards. This season, he is already up to 40 catches and 616 yards.
More than a third of Brady’s 109 completions have gone to Welker, who is averaging 13.3 yards a catch even when you take out the 99-yarder he had in the season opener.
Jets shutdown cornerback Darrelle Revis was mum on how much he’d cover Welker, but he said he hadn’t see a pass-catch combo so potent since Brady was throwing to Randy Moss.
“Those two guys are having an unbelievable year,’’ Revis said. “This is - what? - only the fifth game? So to have over 600 yards, it’s impressive.
“I think since Randy’s been gone, the focal point has been more on Wes Welker, to get him the ball so he can make plays.
“They’re very smart with how they work together and how they break Cover-1s and man coverage.’’
Even with Welker as his go-to, Brady has completed passes to 10 different receivers this season and thrown touchdowns to four of them.
“They have a lot of weapons,’’ Revis said. “Tom can throw it to anybody. You see it on film, Tom’s always dinking it and dunking it to this person, that person. So you’ve really got to focus on everybody that’s out there.’’
Jets defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said that although some things the Jets used in their playoff win over the Patriots last season might pop up today, he is sure New England spent time picking apart that game plan.
“I have a feeling that there were more than a few days in Foxborough spent preparing,’’ Pettine said. “Whether it was over the lockout or whether it was when the season started.’’
A large part of the challenge for the Jets is simply getting the Patriots offense off the field. The Patriots, Ryan pointed out, have punted only 12 times this season. Last year, they kicked it away 58 times.
“This team is going up and down the field on people on a consistent basis now for three years that I’ve been here,’’ Ryan said. “Can anybody stop them? We’re going to play to our strength. We’re going to give them everything we have. If they beat us there, move the ball like they’ve been moving it on people, it’s a huge challenge.’’
In the Patriots’ only loss this season, the Bills picked Brady off four times. The play in the season opener against the Dolphins that ended Brady’s run of passes without a pick at 358 was a tipped screen pass.
“Everybody’s human, and we’ve studied well in critiquing Tom and trying to see his strengths and his weaknesses,’’ Revis said. “We tried to rattle him in the playoff game, and we did. We got him uncomfortable and that’s what people say about Tom - try to rattle him and get him moving in the pocket.’’
But if the only hope of forcing a turnover is praying for a tipped ball, Ryan said, then there’s no hope at all. The plan will be to show Brady multiple looks and take him out of his comfort zone.
“If you play standard coverage, forget about it,’’ Ryan said. “You’ve got no chance. I mean zero. You’re hoping for a tipped ball or something. That’s no way to play defense, no way we’re going to play defense.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.