The Old Man and the Jets' D reeled in a big one Sunday night at Gillette Stadium. Defensive lineman Shaun Ellis, who has spent his entire 11-year career in green and white, was maybe the best player on a Jets defense that stifled Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in a 28-21 divisional playoff win that landed the Jets in their second straight AFC title game.
Imagine that after all those year of "same old Jets." No one appreciates the difference Rex Ryan and his coaching staff have made more than Ellis. Reflecting on the past two seasons, Ellis said, "It has been great considering where I started. I've been to the playoffs a couple of times but never reached that ultimate moment. And for us to get back here a second time is great considering all the hard work that previous teams have put in over the years."
Ellis was an unstoppable forced against the Patriots. Mostly lining up inside, he applied pressure up the middle, pushing the pocket into Brady's face the whole game. And he did it without the usual level of blitzing from Ryan's defense. Ellis had two of the Jets' five sacks and applied the pressure that chased Brady into Sione Pouha's arms on another. He also forced a Brady fumble that the Pats recovered, totaled five tackles and added two quarterback hits.
Describing Brady's apparent frustration against the Jets, Ellis said, "He just couldn't get a bead on us. He was expecting one thing, and we showed him another thing. Our defensive backs did a great job of showing him one look and moving to another look and getting hands on receivers."
Pouha said that, of all the Jets, beating the Patriots probably was most personal for Ellis because he's played more of these AFC East rivalry games than any other Jet. The Jets' 45-3 loss on their last visit to Gillette Stadium on Dec. 6 just added fuel to Ellis' fire.
"We just felt like we were totally disrespected the last time,' Ellis said. "They ran up the score on us. Brady with his emotions [gesturing]. They were doing our Jet run on certain plays [imitating Jets receivers Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes pretending to have wings]. We just wanted to get them back. Rex set the tone earlier in the week with his speech, and everybody just bought into his system."
It's a system that works best with an angry Shaun Ellis coming up the middle to hit the opposing quarterback. If he can do that on Sunday against Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger, Ellis finally might get to experience the ultimate moment in the Super Bowl.