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SportsColumnistsKimberley Martin

Rex Ryan gets defensive; now it's the Jets' turn to do same for complete game

Rex Ryan looks on during a game against

Rex Ryan looks on during a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field. (Sept. 16, 2012) Photo Credit: Getty

The Jets got a glimpse of life without Darrelle Revis. And it wasn't pretty.

To hang Sunday's loss on the cornerback's concussion would be irresponsible, of course, considering how many things went wrong for coach Rex Ryan, both on offense and defense. But Revis' absence in the Jets' 27-10 loss to the Steelers raised valid questions about how good this unit really is without him.

Two games does not a season make, but the inconsistency of the defense has nevertheless been surprising. The group let up against the Bills in the Jets' opener, then was worn down by Pittsburgh's passing game in Week 2. And with Revis' status for Sunday's game in Miami still unclear, fans are curious to know which version of the Jets defense will show up at Sun Life Stadium.

Last week, Rex Ryan's heralded unit allowed quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to convert 53 percent (8-for-15) of his passes in third-down situations, resulting in a 36:36-23:24 Steelers' advantage on time of possession. Not to mention, the Jets surrendered 331 total yards (compared with their 219) and a 7.8 average gain per pass play (compared with the Jets' 4.4).

You can debate whether Antonio Cromartie "was clearly in control of the situation," as Ryan said, on Mike Wallace's skillful 37-yard touchdown catch. But what can't be questioned is this: The Jets' defense needs to step it up. For all four quarters.

Ryan has always maintained his defense is elite. And even though the 49ers appear, at least for now, to have the most complete defense in the NFL, the Jets coach -- and defensive guru -- made it clear on Monday that his faith in his guys hasn't wavered.

"Bet against us, that's all I'm saying," he said defiantly, when asked if he's concerned about the unit's performance. "Bet against us. We'll see where it ends up. I know where it's going to end up. I tell you every year."

Every coach should have that level of confidence in his crew. But the Jets' defense, which finished fifth in the league overall last season, currently is ranked 16th, having allowed 360.5 yards per game.

Though Ryan and his players expressed confidence this week in the Revis-less secondary, they all offered the same catch as the turning point of the game -- Wallace's third-quarter score -- in the aftermath of yet another loss in Pittsburgh. "That was a killer play in the game," Ryan said.

Said Calvin Pace, "You've got to make a play on that."

Four of the Bills' 10 longest plays in Week 1 came after Revis left the game in the fourth quarter with what the team termed, a "mild" concussion.

But despite not having the All-Pro cornerback against the Steelers, defensive lineman Mike DeVito said the Jets didn't alter their game plan against Roethlisberger.

"He's arguably the best defensive player in the NFL, so you never want to be missing a guy like that," DeVito said of Revis in his weekly WFAN radio spot Tuesday. " . . . We have the next-guy-up mentality and we trust those guys to fill in and play a position at the same level and I think they did a pretty good job. I think we just need to get back to those fundamentals in finishing."

But without their shutdown corner, the Jets are limited in their blitz packages (both in personnel and frequency), their ability to use man vs. zone coverage, and their ability to lock up their opponent's best receiver.

This weekend's matchup in Miami is the perfect opportunity for the Jets' defense to absolutely smother Ryan Tannehill, a rookie quarterback who still is adjusting to the speed of the NFL.

Now, imagine how easier a task that will be if Revis Island is open for business.

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