Rex Ryan's reputation lies in his defensive prowess, his ability to confuse and vex opposing quarterbacks with his intricate schemes and exotic blitzes.
And without any hesitation, the Jets' coach declared this past summer that he's "the best defensive coach in football," also crediting the coaches that stand beside him on the sideline. Of course, that statement was made months before his current defense would be ranked 19th overall (allowing 362.9 yards per game) and 30th in run defense (147.7 yards per contest).
In recent years, Ryan's defenses have been stellar, finishing first, third and fifth overall, respectively, since his first year as coach in 2009. But for all their obvious talent, Ryan's defenses also have had trouble protecting leads -- especially late in games.
Last Sunday's 29-26 overtime loss in Foxboro was the 10th second-half lead the Jets have squandered since 2009, Ryan's first year as coach, and their sixth blown fourth-quarter lead, according to Jets' director of publications and website editor-in-chief Randy Lange.
"It's frustrating," a dejected Mike DeVito said Tuesday on WFAN. "And it's stuff that we worked on, it's stuff that we put an emphasis on."
Since Ryan arrived, his defenses have carried the Jets. But with a lack of skill position players on offense, it's even more important to protect leads.
"We want it in our hands when the game's on the line," DeVito said. "And we just weren't able to finish out this week. And we practice it, we continue to practice it and I know we're going to get better at it. It's just a matter of executing at the end. We can do it . . . "
"Finishing," "technique" and "fundamentals" have been frequent buzz words since the season opener. Though they crushed the Bills, 48-28, at home, the Jets allowed Buffalo to score 21 points in the second half. Afterward, Ryan said "you can't have any kind of lapse" regardless of the score.
But for all their miscues against the Patriots, the Jets were right there at the end, poised to pull off a much-needed upset. The defense had done its job much of the way. But in the last minute of the fourth quarter and in overtime, the Jets went to a zone defense that allowed Tom Brady to have his way. Ryan, however, said they weren't in a "prevent defense" -- a scheme in which you allow offenses to pick up yards in front of you rather than giving up the big play downfield.
"Well, they'd been doing a good job when we were playing a lot of man coverage," Ryan explained. "They did a good job, they popped some screens on us and things. So we did try to play some zone on them. But it wasn't necessarily a prevent; we'd been playing it a lot of those calls the majority of the game."
According to ESPN Stats & Information, Brady was 9-for-10 for 101 yards when the Jets sent just three pass rushers. Five of those attempts came on the last two scoring drives -- and all of them were completions.
"We just didn't execute," safety LaRon Landry said of stopping Brady late in the game. "We bottled them up but we let them off the hook."