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Rex Ryan keeps focus on football

Posted by Matt Pepin, Boston.com Staff  January 13, 2011 07:29 PM

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On the type of year Antonio Cromartie has had…
I thought he had a tremendous year, especially when he had to replace Darrelle. We had to match him up on some big‑time guys. He matched up on (Randy) Moss a bunch (and) did a great job. I think he's had an outstanding season, I really do. The thing that you really love about Cro (Cromartie) is he'll do whatever it takes to help the team, as far as going back there and being a kick returner. He even told Westy (Mike Westhoff) if he needed him to long snap, he's ready to fill in as a long snapper. He's just a great athlete and wants to help the team out.

On how Eric Smith has evolved…
That's long past. We know the kind of talent he has. Both those safeties, they did a great job for us. Brodney Pool and Eric Smith I thought played great last week. He’s a big, physical guy back there and he's also a tremendous special teams player.

On Eric Smith’s intellectual capacity…
He's right there with anybody in this league. He’s probably too smart to play the game. He really does a great job out there and he does have a great handle for the field and the entire defense. He's really a special player (and a) special person.

On the Jet players selected to the Pro Bowl…
We had three (Darrelle Revis, D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold). I think New England has four on defense alone, so I guess it looks like a mismatch on paper. We have a lot of excellent football players, and hopefully, our guys can't play in the game anyway.

On if they are showing players film of the 45-3 loss…
We are definitely showing our guys the game every day, because you learn from it. That's the last time you played them. These two teams know each other, so you want to make sure you know how they attacked you (and) what their plans were. Are they going to tweak their plan? Maybe, but they did score 45 points, so it's probably going to be similar. It’s just a common opponent. You know what they do. That's the best tape there will be to watch.

On how close to perfect they have to be to win this game…
I think what you've got to do, when we won the game here, we forced three turnovers and they never got any. They forced none. That was the exact opposite of that when we went to New England, so I think it's going to be said that you have to protect the football and you need to try to get takeaways. The thing that blows you away is the plus 28 that they have in turnover ratio, and the fact that they have only turned the ball over ten times. That really speaks volumes of how good they have been at protecting the ball, but we have got to take it away from them and we obviously have to protect the ball ourselves.

On how important it is to establish the running game early…
That's what you want to do. You want to establish that running game as fast as you can. The opponent plays into that. There are ways of stopping the run. If you want to put nine guys down there, obviously it's going to be tough sledding. We still have to go in there with the mentality that, ‘Hey, we are going to run the football.’ We are committed to running the football, but we also can make you pay on the outside. I think that's the team that Mike Tannenbaum (built) when we set out. We wanted to have that kind of team that if you want to sell out on the run, we can beat you through the air, and I think we have that team now.

On if Brad Smith will play on Sunday…
I think we need to see more from him. I feel pretty good about Cromartie. If Brad is not 100 percent or close to it, we will put Cromartie back there to return kickoffs, but clearly we want to use Brad. I think you talk about Pro Bowl snub‑type guys, I think that's the guy that would head the list. (Cromartie) and Brandon Moore.

On what he saw in LT against the Colts…
I saw that he's fresh and ready to go. You saw the desire that he has, the passion he's running with and that's what I expect again this week.

On what Braylon Edwards has done to improve…
I don't know how many drops he's had, but very few. I'm sure somebody will have the stats. I know it isn't that many. He's done a great job focusing, concentrating, bringing the ball down and has made some huge catches for us. This past week, he made two of them. (One of them was) that deep-dig route that he can tell you (about). I'm glad we threw it to him because I don't think anybody else was going to get up that high to catch it. He made a great catch on the sideline. The thing that is not noticed about Braylon is, I think he is the best blocker in football at the receiver position. Each week you watch (him), he's knocking DBs down. (We mark him on) the bracket guy and (the bracket guy) is like, “What are you doing blocking me?” We take advantage of him. (Edwards) and Hines Ward are the two guys that really get after it probably better than anybody.

On comparing Vince Wilfork to Haloti Ngata and Kris Jenkins…
He's probably closer to Kris, but he's a great football player. There's no question. He surprised us on the run. He’s a huge man, but gives you some pass rush and plays hard. I think Haloti Ngata is in a class by himself.

On what is so challenging about facing Bill Belichick...
Well, he's the best in the business. He prepares great. It seems like you never out‑prepare him or out‑work him. He's always got some wrinkles for you. (He’s) just a great coach (and) great competitor. He's seen it all. Again, I'm working to be better than him on Sunday.

On if he is friendly with Belichick…
Yes.

On how long he has known Belichick…
I knew him when with my brother was coaching with him. My brother was there for two Super Bowls under Belichick. That's when I first got to meet him. I think you recognize guys, that I certainly appreciate, like Dick LeBeau (or) Belichick. If I'm going to steal from (a coach), I generally only steal from the best, and I've stolen from him in the past, so I respect him that way. Again, I've got no love for him this week.

On if Edwards and Holmes have fed off of each other…
Yes, and you combine Jerricho Cotchery. Those three guys right there, they are as happy for the other guy catching the ball as they are for themselves. They are excited about that. They pull for each other. It's a neat thing. I don't know if (there is a) competition (between them) that (makes them say,) “I want to catch it instead of (the other guys).” I just think they look at it as a unit, and they think they are a special group, and I do, too.

On how important it is that most of their roster has been to the playoffs before…
I think it helps, I really do. It's funny because when you look at both rosters, since 2005, the Patriots have played in 101 playoff games, that roster has. I think this roster has played in 196 playoff games. We know what it's all about, as well as New England. We know what it's about and we know how there's another level. We can say that, you've got to play at 100% in the regular season, but I'm telling you, there's another level and guys reach it, and that's what this postseason is all about.

On who will start at nickel if Coleman can’t play…
We would go to Kyle Wilson.

On how tough it would be to make that switch at this late stage…
Kyle is smart. He studies (and) prepares all the time. We use Kyle all the time anyway in different spots. We have him, we have (Isaiah) Trufant, and then we have got some of the other guys.

On if all the talk is getting to be enough…
No question. We are excited about this opportunity. You have to earn your right to get here and we have earned our right to go back there. We thought we would. We knew before the game, we were going to have to play another one and here we are. There's two great teams playing (in the other game). Pittsburgh and Baltimore. I think there's two great teams getting ready to play in Foxborough. I said all along that I thought the best two teams in football were us and New England, so we are going to find out.

On Mark Sanchez playing big in the last drives of the game...
Only special guys have that kind of characteristic. I think he's got that competitiveness. You never think you're out of a game with Mark as your quarterback. You would say the same thing about (Tom) Brady, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and some of these great quarterbacks. I think Mark has that characteristic. I'm not putting him in that class right now, but time will tell. I think eventually he'll belong in that group.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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