Rex Ryan played coy, refusing to acknowledge what everyone already knew.
The Jets coach had outsmarted the master, beating Bill Belichick at his own game of gamesmanship. In the aftermath of Sunday's electrifying 30-27 overtime win over the hated Patriots, questions centered on the controversial call that changed the complexion of the game: the unexpected field-goal "push'' penalty on defensive lineman Chris Jones that gave kicker Nick Folk another chance to be the hero.
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Ryan reportedly asked officials before the game to keep an eye on the Patriots' special-teamers. When peppered by questions Monday about the penalty, Ryan would neither confirm nor deny he knew all about the Patriots' games. But hidden between the lines of his "no comments'' was the answer.
"Let's just put it this way: We watch every single play,'' Ryan said. "I don't care if it's Week 16 or whatever. We're going to watch every play of the opponent. That's what we do as coaches. I know [coordinator] Ben Kotwica watches all the special teams. I don't know if I watch every game, but I watch a bunch of them. But certainly the coaches, the coordinators, watch every single play of every single game.
"We're aware of opponents' tendencies and everything else.''
Jets guard Willie Colon said he overheard the officials say they had warned the Patriots about pushing on a previous field-goal attempt. And the Pats used the same ploy last week against the Saints, when Jones pushed teammate Will Svitek on a fourth-quarter field-goal try.
During his afternoon ESPN Radio interview, Ryan denied that his twin, Rob, the Saints' defensive coordinator, tipped him off to the Patriots' tactic. "It sounds like a good story,'' he said, "but that is not factual.''
Jets nose tackle Damon Harrison said the "push'' rule, implemented this year, was emphasized in training camp, using a video tutorial, and stressed last week in special-teams meetings.
"We were informed of the rule,'' Harrison said, "and that's why we don't do it anymore.''
Marvin Lewis, coach of the Bengals, the Jets' next opponent, said Monday that his players are reminded of new rules weekly. "And that's not players figuring it out themselves,'' he added when asked about the call against the Patriots.
Talk all you want about the controversial ending of the Jets' unexpected win. Feel free to debate whether the officials should have flagged Jones for a penalty that hadn't been called this season. And, by all means, label Tom Brady one of the best quarterbacks ever to play the game.
But Ryan wants you to remember one thing: "We outplayed New England, and that's why we won the game.''
After the game, rookie defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson said Ryan reminded his players in the pregame meeting that they are better than the Patriots (5-2) and had an opportunity to prove it. Although Ryan declined to discuss his conversation with the team, he made it clear his Jets (4-3) are scared of no one. Not even Brady.
"I've said it before -- we fear nobody. I mean nobody,'' Ryan said. "What that means win-loss, I don't know. We literally fear nobody. We're playing an excellent football team with the Bengals. We recognize that, but if you think we're going in there afraid of them, then we're the wrong team for that.
"New England's an excellent team. They've been an excellent team for five years since I've been here. They've won our division all four years. But at no point will we ever say that we walk in and we fear them. We respect all opponents, but we fear nobody.''