Blustery, boastful Rex Ryan was nowhere to be found Monday when it came time to explain his team’s stunning, 28-21 victory over top-seeded New England.
Instead, some imposter stood in his place, humbly praising Bill Belichick and the Patriots from the podium, and throwing verbal bouquets at AFC Championship Game foe Pittsburgh.
What? No personal vendettas this week? No insults?
Send out a search party.
No. Never mind. That was Ryan, all right. It’s just that this game — only the Jets’ fourth trip to the AFC title game since 1968 — evokes different emotions from a man who coached in it the past three years (twice with the Jets and once as defensive coordinator of the Ravens).
“This’ll be huge,” he said. “That’s why this week is about winning the AFC Championship Game. This is where our focus is.
“I’ve been to this game three years in a row, and I don’t know if I can handle not winning.”
Despite installing four new coverages during the week to shut down Wes Welker, Deion Branch and Rob Gronkowski — and leave Brady a five-sack sitting duck — Ryan claimed it was the players who gave him his ultimate vengeance against the coach who rang up a 45-3 score on the Jets last month.
But the victory appears to have shooed the sideshow circus out of town.
“It’s a different feel,” Ryan said. “I thought last week that Bill Belichick had dominated me the time before. I mean, he did — I’m not in his class, not even close. But I knew he was gonna get my best shot, no question. And at the end of the day, it never mattered because it came down to our players.”