FLORHAM PARK, N.J.
Fresh off a three-game winning streak and already preparing for a rematch with the Patriots, you'd figure Rex Ryan would be yapping up a storm and talking trash to get his players fired up for Sunday night's prime-time matchup.
It turned out to be just the opposite.
Oh, Ryan was in a giddy mood Monday, the day after the Jets beat the Bills, 27-11, for their third straight win. And he thanked the Giants for their 24-20 win over the Patriots, which put the Jets in a three-way tie for first with New England and Buffalo in the AFC East and gave the Jets a chance to move past the Pats with a win Sunday.
But given the chance to puff his chest about his team's standing, particularly its vastly improved performance on defense, Ryan took a pass.
After watching his team manhandle the Bills' offense and allow only a meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter after a third-quarter field goal, Ryan refused to gloat about how much better his defense is playing, especially compared to its uncharacteristically erratic performances earlier in the season.
"We gave up 287 yards and we gave up that touchdown at the end," Ryan said. "I mean, I was happy with our performance, there is no question, but we're not sticking our head up yet. We'll stick our head up three weeks from now and see what we are in our division. Then we'll start talking about where we are. We know we have work to do."
Hey, Rex. Baseball season's over. The NBA lockout lives on. It's early in the hockey season.
We need back-page material, Coach!
This kind of calm, reasoned perspective just isn't going to cut it, especially in Patriots Week. How about tweaking Bill Belichick or something? Why not call out Tom Brady for two straight losing performances against the Steelers and Giants? There are plenty of former Jets on the Patriots -- Shaun Ellis, James Ihedigbo and Danny Woodhead. Care to take a couple of shots at them?
Ryan wasn't biting on anything Monday. He did admit he had ditched the suit jacket he broke out at a news conference a few days before last month's game against the Patriots. It's the one he used to announce his induction into the Southwest Oklahoma State University Sports Hall of Fame. Even slapped a clip-art insignia on the jacket pocket to make the proclamation "official."
But the Jets lost to the Patriots, so no news conference props for Ryan Monday. Not a controversial quote to hang a columnist's hat on.
But that's OK, too, because he speaks the truth when he tells us that the real test of whether his defense is back to the standards he expects won't come until Sunday night at the earliest.
"We'll come up with the best plan and we'll see who can out-execute who," Ryan said. "It's always a chess match. I've always said I think Bill is the best. I don't think there is anyone that can dispute that, but he's going to get our best shot and then some."
Ryan knows the Patriots will be dangerous, especially in such a wounded state. The last time they lost three straight was in 2002, the season after they won their first Super Bowl title.
ut if the Jets send New England to a third straight loss, it will be because of a rejuvenated defense. But this time, Ryan isn't boasting before the fact. It doesn't mean he won't change his mind as the week goes on. But for now, he'll let his defense do the talking.
We'll see if that's good enough for Patriots Week.
I have a sneaking suspicion it will be.