Rex Ryan avoids tweaking Patriots, focuses on Jets improving
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Sometimes it's best not to say anything at all.
After years of supplying bulletin-board material for opponents, Rex Ryan seems to have learned there is value in taking a backseat to his team. Ryan's face often has graced newspapers' back pages for days on end during Patriots week.
But as his Jets prepare for the latest test in their "win or go home'' type of season, he refused to be baited about his AFC East rivals.
And to some degree, his starting quarterback was relieved.
"It's just a different approach," Mark Sanchez told Newsday Monday when he was asked about his coach's boastful tendencies. "He's admitted that it puts a lot of pressure on the team when he says something like that. So I think he's really learned, too, that everything he says, it matters, and other teams hear it, people hear it, and he wants us to let our play do our talking. And that's good."
The revelry surrounding the Jets' 27-13 road victory over the Rams was short-lived with only three days to prepare for their Thursday night game against New England (7-3). The Jets were just "a first down" away from possibly pulling off an upset of the Patriots in Foxboro on Oct. 21, but the Patriots kicked the go-ahead field goal in overtime and recovered a fumble on a sack of Sanchez to seal the 29-26 victory.
But in the lead-up to another must-win game to save their season, Ryan was remarkably tame.
"I'm not even worried about tweaking New England or anybody else," he said, hours before the Jets held a rare night practice. "It's to the point where, 'No, no, no' -- we have to focus on just us."
It seems a three-game losing streak and 4-6 record will humble a person. Even Rex Ryan. Even coming off a win.
And "that's how it should be every week," said Sanchez, who had one of his best games of the season against the Rams (15-for-20, 178 yards, one touchdown, no turnovers).
He maintained that Ryan does what's best for his players. But Sanchez also believes there's no need to fuel controversies with unneeded guarantees or playful tweaks, especially this week.
"There's nothing really to say except that we know they're a great team," Sanchez said. "It's a great challenge for us on a big stage. There's nothing else you want playing this position, playing in this city, that kind of stuff. It's everything you've ever dreamed of. Just keep playing hard and don't make it bigger than it is and don't underestimate it, either."
The Jets may have saved their season with Sunday's win in St. Louis. But the Patriots continued to roll along with a 59-24 pasting of Indianapolis. The Colts' loss and the Steelers' loss to the Ravens helped the Jets in the AFC wild-card playoff race (if there is going to be one for them). But Ryan, who two weeks ago was willing to entertain postseason talk, wasn't Monday.
"Right now, we have so much work to do, all we can do is focus on ourselves," he said. "We're not getting into that now. We know we have to get better. We know the challenge that's in front of us. We're just trying to punch our way out. That's where our focus is."
Asked if his coach has been generally less talkative about opponents this season, Sanchez said: "I think Coach has seen what kind of both sides can do. You come out and say something and it almost puts you in a position where you're supposed to win, and if you win, it's like, 'Yeah, you already said you were going to win. So who cares?'
"I don't see any point in it. It's never really been my style, and it's just a different approach and I'm all for it."