FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Away from the cameras, the Old Rex emerged.
He's been outcoached by Bill Belichick recently, but losing five consecutive games to New England hasn't shaken Rex Ryan's resolve. Nor has it shrunk his ego.
Latest Jets stories
Before he ever coached a game for the Jets, Ryan told the world he wasn't here to "kiss Belichick's rings.'' And despite his 3-8 record against the Patriots since becoming a head coach in 2009, he has no intention of bowing down to his rival.
Not now. Not ever.
When asked Wednesday on a conference call with Patriots writers if he's been kissing Belichick's rings "a little lately,'' Ryan said, "No, I haven't. Maybe you have, but I haven't.
"And I never will.
"I came here to beat him and to win, and to win our own championship rings and all that type of stuff. Again, hey, the facts are we've lost five in a row to them and things like that. We'll see if it's six in a row.''
The Jets (3-3) will get another crack at the Patriots (5-1) Sunday at MetLife Stadium -- the second meeting of the season between the AFC East rivals. And although it's a tad early to call a Week 7 game a "must-win,'' many of the Jets admitted it is just that.
"We know realistically that we're going to need this one,'' tight end Konrad Reuland said. "This week, I think guys are going to be extra focused and locked in because falling three games behind them and not playing them again, it would not make things easy on us.''
As always, the road to the division title runs through Foxborough. The Patriots have won the AFC East in nine of the past 10 seasons, including the past four. The Jets' last division championship was in 2002. A win this weekend could go a long way toward helping the Jets, who face three consecutive teams (Patriots, Bengals and Saints) with a combined current record of 14-4 before heading into their Week 10 bye.
But losing to New England has become a recurrent theme around these parts. The Jets last defeated the Patriots in the AFC divisional round of the 2010 playoffs. Since then, they've dropped five in a row, including a 13-10 loss in Week 2.
Star defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson was still a Temple Owl the last time the Jets topped Belichick and Brady.
"It's frustrating -- a lot,'' said Wilkerson, a third-year pro.
Worse, the Jets always seem to face the Patriots around his birthday (Oct. 22) and the results have always been the same.
"I keep having a bad birthday,'' the soon-to-be 24-year-old Wilkerson said with a smile. "Tom Brady keeps making it bad for me, so hopefully it's a different outcome.''
Mistakes doomed the Jets in their Sept. 19 meeting with the Patriots, as rookie Geno Smith threw three fourth-quarter interceptions to kill any chance of a comeback at Gillette Stadium.
Ryan's defense, however, held its own. Brady completed only 48.7 percent (19 of 39) of his passes and threw just one touchdown, on the game's opening drive. But Ryan wasn't pleased that Brady's struggles were blamed on the lack of chemistry between the quarterback and his young receivers -- and not credited to the Jets' defense.
Asked Wednesday at his news conference about Brady's issues with his young receivers in Week 2, Ryan sarcastically replied: "I don't know. It has nothing to do with us. I understand we were just out there.
"Certainly that was well reported and all that. So, we'll get to see. We'll see if there are some of those issues that exist this week.''