In Week 7, the Jets defense didn’t exactly stop the Patriots offense — Tom Brady threw for three touchdown passes in a 27-25 New England victory — but it slowed it down enough that a late rally was required to defeat a supposedly demoralized New York team that entered on a six-game losing streak.
The Jets defense — or Rex Ryan’s defense, as I’m contractually obligated to call it as a member of his admiring media — acquitted itself well, frustrating Brady at times, certainly more than any defense could in the following weeks.
In a stretch of games — known as The Gauntlet — against presumably high-quality teams, the Patriots put up the following point totals after facing the Jets: 51 (vs. Bears), 43 (Broncos), 42 (Colts), 34 (Lions), 21 (Packers, the only loss in bunch), 23 (Chargers), and 41 (Dolphins, a game I’m including because Miami is one of three teams to beat the Patriots this year, having held Brady and Co. scoreless in the second half of the opener).
I imagine you can see where I’m going with this, but let’s collect just a little more evidence first before hammering down the point.
A similar thing happened a year ago, though not to quite the same electrifying demonstration of offensive potency by the Patriots, in the weeks following the Jets game. Two weeks after the Jets’ 30-27 win over the Patriots in Week 7, Brady and friends dropped 55 points on the Steelers.
In the second-to-last week of the 2013 season, they trounced the Ravens, an occasional nuisance with a defense similar in mindset to the Jets’, by a 41-7 score. Five times in the second half of the season the Patriots scored at least 34 points.
OK, now for the hammer: If Rex Ryan has the so-called blueprint for slowing down the Patriots offense and rendering Brady ineffective via the pass rush, why doesn’t any other team follow it?
Or to put it more bluntly: The Patriots have had a habit of unleashing hell on opponents after those occasions in which the Jets have frustrated them. So why worry about other teams duplicating what the Jets have done? They can’t do it — few if any teams have multiple defensive linemen of the quality of Muhammad Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson, which is where it all begins.
There’s also substantial evidence that playing the Jets tends to help bring out the best in them down the road.
So I have to ask: Why do we have to worry about someone co-opting Rex Ryan’s blueprint or scheme or whatever you want to call it down the road? Other teams can identify what he does on film. Very few have the personnel to replicate it, and it’s not like it works all the time anyway — the Patriots did sweep the Jets this year.
I thought it was intriguing when the MMQB.com’s Greg Bedard suggested on Felger and Mazz the other day that the Broncos might want to hire Ryan immediately — as in, during the postseason — should he be fired by the Jets in the days after Sunday’s regular-season finale. Such a move is hardly unprecedented — the Patriots did a similar thing with Josh McDaniels when he left the Rams to return here as an “offensive assistant” during the 2011 postseason.
But the difference is that McDaniels already had a long-established coach-assistant relationship with Bill Belichick. I suspect Ryan’s force of personality almost certainly would prevent him from integrating seamlessly with head coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio in Denver. It would be all about him. I almost hope they do it, just to watch the chaos from afar.
There is no reason at this point for the Patriots to worry about a potential opponent co-opting Ryan’s scheme — or Ryan himself. They’ve locked up home-field. They’ve done their job so far. They can afford to rest key players against an unsung Buffalo defense that is due some accolades of its own.
They need to get — and remain — healthy. For some reason, I suspect that had Julian Edelman, Dan Connolly (especially Dan Connelly), and LeGarrette Blount played against the Jets, we wouldn’t be talking about Rex Ryan’s alleged competence.
No, we’d be noting what we should be noting anyway: That the Patriots are the league’s top-scoring team (30.6 per game) and has averaged 42.6 per game against the three other division leaders in the AFC. Ask me, now that’s a blueprint worth appreciating.