Rex Ryan doesn't take kindly to slights about his team.
The day after the Jets improved to 3-2 with an improbable win at Atlanta, he was questioned on a conference call about the teams they've beaten -- the Bucs, Bills and Falcons, who are 3-11 combined.
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"You can try to discredit us all you want,'' Ryan replied. "That's fine. It's no big deal to us. We know what we have in our building and that's it. But you can take any stance you want on it. Those were facts, there's no question.
" . . . Hey, that's for you to write and all that. And that's all fine and dandy. We really don't care, though.''
But the truth is, he does care. And so do his players.
Minutes after Nick Folk's 43-yard field goal as time expired clinched the 30-28 upset on Monday Night Football, Ryan spoke of the low expectations that had been placed upon his team. He referred to ESPN's preseason power rankings, which rated the Jets last in the NFL. It's the same list his players seem to bring up, unprovoked, almost every week.
After his rookie quarterback, Geno Smith, outplayed Matt Ryan in crunch time, the Jets downplayed the power of outside criticism. And Tuesday, Ryan tried to do the same.
"We really don't care what people that don't believe in us say,'' he said. "We care about what our fans think and we care about what our locker room knows to be the truth.''
But within minutes, he admitted the negative comments from national and local media do "put a little fuel to the fire. Of course it does. We know they're not in the meetings, not seeing what we're seeing. But I'm not going to lie and say it doesn't spark you a little bit.''
His players echoed similar sentiments Monday. Calvin Pace was convinced the perception of the Jets wouldn't change after the statement win over the Falcons, who many predicted would make the Super Bowl.
"For whatever reason, everybody wants to crack jokes on us and [say], 'The Jets aren't going to do this, the Jets aren't going to do that,' '' Pace said. "I don't think anybody forgot about [ESPN] picked us dead last. So I think every day, guys come out with a chip on their shoulder and want to prove the naysayers wrong.''
The Jets will get another chance to do that on Sunday. The Steelers, six-time Super Bowl winners, are 0-4 and 21/2-point underdogs at MetLife Stadium. But even with momentum on their side, the Jets aren't puffing out their chests.
"It's not like we feel like we're King Kong or something,'' Ryan said. "We knew we were much better than we were given credit for. But with that said, we're not even close to where we have to get to. And starting this week against Pittsburgh, that's where our focus is.''