Throughout the offseason Rex Ryan was accused of excessive self-love every time he dared to make it known that he wasn't in awe of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots. Those accusations were proven untrue on Sunday afternoon as Ryan became master of his AFC East domain with an emphatic 16-9 dismantling of the Patriots.
Ryan's defense held the Patriots to three first-half field goals, harrassed Tom Brady into one of his worst days as a pro and sent the ever-gracious and classy Belichick whimpering off to the locker room after a handshake that made his frosty meetings with Eric Mangini seem like red hot love affairs. It was a hard-fought game in which the Patriots equipped themselves fairly well, but Belichick's hasty exit at the end of the game certainly made it seem like Jets safety Kerry Rhodes was prophetic when he said that the Jets would embarrass the Patriots.
While the defense showed up from the opening bell, it took Mark Sanchez and the offense quite a while to settle into the game. They didn't pick up a first down until their fifth drive of the first half, which ended with a field goal, but it seemed to settle down the rookie quarterback. He came out slinging in the third quarter and the Jets scored on their first three drives to turn a 9-3 Patriots lead into the 16-9 score that would hold up the rest of the way. Sanchez threw for only 15 yards in the first half, but was 11-for-17 for 148 yards in the second half and found Dustin Keller for the game's only touchdown on a perfectly placed pass to end the first drive of the second half.
Sanchez's stats were more impressive against Houston in Week One, but his performance was more impressive this week. He didn't get discouraged by the team's poor offensive start, he didn't force any throws into traffic and took a sack in the fourth quarter instead of making a risky throw that could have helped bail out a Patriots offense that had no chance against his defense. In short, he understood his role and was willing to let the defense win the game for him.
That's probably going to keep being the wise choice for Sanchez as the season goes on. The Jets brought pressure on nearly every snap from center, forcing Brady into bad throw after bad throw since he didn't have Wes Welker to use as a safety valve due to injury. One of those bad throws was picked off by Darrelle Revis, who could probably just send a tape of today's work against Randy Moss to Pro Bowl voters and feel free booking a flight to the game right now.
If Sanchez and Revis were two game ball recipients, the third has to go to Ryan. He laid a huge challenge in front of his team by refusing to soft pedal expectations entering this game and they met the challenge by playing with the same bravado and swagger he demanded. It's not clear what rung on the ladder one reaches after being named toast of the town, as Ryan was last weekend, but we'll find out this week.