December 06, 2010
SAVER: Tom Brady vs Rex Ryan
BY: Mike Saver
Monday night's highly anticipated matchup between the New York Jets and New England Patriots will be the fifth time that Tom Brady has faced a Rex Ryan coached defense.
Rex's defensive schemes are reminiscent of his fathers' vaunted Chicago Bears defenses. That is to say he blitzes.. a lot. His primary goal is getting to the quarterback and making sure his life stays miserable for a full 60 minutes.
He's done a pretty good job of that against Tom Brady. It's probably one of the reasons the coach has been so vocal about his belief his team will win Monday night.
The first time Brady faced Rex Ryan's defense was in 2007, when Rex was defensive coordinator for the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, that was also the year that the Patriots went undefeated. Tom Brady threw for an NFL record breaking 50 touchdown passes on the season as the Pats blew out nearly every team they faced. That year, the offense looked nearly unstoppable.
It was a different story on that Monday night game against Rex Ryan and the Ravens.
The seemingly invincible Patriots nearly lost that night. The Ravens held a 24-20 lead with under a minute to go until Brady sealed the game with a touchdown pass to Jabar Gaffney with only 44 seconds left.
Brady's hardships against Rex Ryan since he's become head coach of the New York Jets have been well documented. Currently, Brady and the Patriots hold a 2-2 record against the big talking coach and are 1-2 against his New York Jets squad. Against Rex's defenses, Brady averages 257.75 yards, 1.25 touchdowns and 1 interception while completing 54.94% of his passes.
To sum it up, Tom Brady hasn't been his best when facing Rex Ryan.
In his weekly appearance on WEEI, the quarterback explained what makes the Jets defense so tough to face:
"[Rex Ryan] has a pretty extensive playbook. He has a lot of different calls, all of them are based around rushes or getting to the quarterback," Brady said. "I think it allows him a lot of flexibility when he has the type of cover players that he has because one on one matchup is fine when you have Darrelle Revis on anybody and [Antonio] Cromartie on anybody, then with those other nine guys, five can rush, and who knows what five they're going to be. Sometimes it's six guys that are rushing. They change it up pretty good."
While the results haven't been good so far, there may be hope for improvement.
Brady and the Patriots have seen Rex's defense many times by now. However, Monday will be the first time the Jets coach will face the brand new offense the Pats have been running since trading away Randy Moss.
With Deion Branch added to the mix, New England has had an offense that looks reminiscent of it's super bowl years - no stars, no pro-bowlers, no favorite target. Only the open guy. Now, instead of chucking it up to Randy Moss down the sideline, the Pats methodically move down the field with a series of short passes and a power running game.
While losing a deep threat like Randy Moss would, in theory, hinder the Pats offensive attack; they've been rolling recently. The style that New England plays now may be too much for Rex Ryan to handle.
In a recent article for the Boston Herald, Karen Guregian talked to Fox/NFL Network analyst, Brian Baldinger, about the vulnerabilities of the Jets' defense:
"I think (the Jets) have much better luck against guys like Terrell Owens and Chad Ochocinco and Andre Johnson than they do against Wes Welker and Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead," Baldinger said. "I think those matchups are much tougher. If you look, they've already benched their safety Brodney Pool, and started Eric Smith (against Cincinnati) because they haven't covered tight ends well. The middle of the field has been a problem."
It's Baldinger's belief that when Bill Belichick traded Randy Moss to the Minnesota Vikings back in October, it was part of a plan to restructure New England's offense around beating the Jets.
Watching the second half of the week 2 face off between the Jets and Patriots, one could see his point. The Pats failed to put any points on the board, while Brady was consistently forcing the deep ball to Randy Moss. Those 6 throws resulted in 2 interceptions and 0 completions. Wasted plays.
"[The Patriots have] eliminated a lot of the low-percentage type throws, those 40-yard streaks down the sidelines" says Baldinger. "..So it's really (playing) to Tom's strength right now, just point and shoot and get the ball out of his hands quickly. Since the Cleveland game, that offense has been awfully sharp. It's a good-looking offense right now."
Quick, high percentage passes could certainly carve up the Jets' blitz. However, Rex Ryan doesn't plan to blitz every time. The key, he says, is confusing Brady:
"We're not going to let him sit back there and go through pass [skeleton type work with no rush]. We're going to pressure, mix our coverages, change our coverages, change our blitzes -- all-out blitz, sometimes simulated pressure, sometimes three-man rush, sometimes four-man rush, multiple coverages. That's how you play Brady. You can't just sit back and let him know what you are in."
Of course, Rex is likely taking some pointers from his brother Rob Ryan (the former Pats assistant and current Browns defensive coordinator), he acknowledged as much earlier this week. Confusing Brady was the exact game plan Browns' head coach, Eric Mangini, talked about after blowing out the Patriots, 34-14, in an upset back on November 7th.
The Jets were able to get the best of Brady the first time. In order to avoid a season sweep and take the AFC East title, Brady's going to have to figure out Rex Ryan's defense.
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