January 09, 2011
Patriots Hope To Get Playoffs Off On Right Foot
BY: Bob George/BosSports.net
Michelle Ryan no longer owns the Jet head coach's most favorite feet.
No, that honor now belongs to Nick Folk, the Jet kicker. Don't be surprised if, after Folk nailed a 32-yard walkoff field goal Saturday night in Indianapolis to lift the Jets to a 17-16 Wildcard victory over the Colts, Rex Ryan went up to his kicker and wanted to admire his feet. The now-famous foot fetish video, which purports to feature Ryan and his wife Michelle, has the gentleman narrator asking to touch and smell the lady's feet. In this case, Ryan may want to include kissing Folk's feet as well.
Folk's right foot brought Ryan a lot more than some kicks, and we don't mean the field goal kind. Ryan managed to finally defeat Peyton Manning for the second time in seven tries in either the regular or post season. And best of all, it propels the Jets into the Divisional Playoff round next weekend at Gillette Stadium for a third meeting with the Patriots, a team he hates as much as he loves feet.
So, how does Patriot Nation react? With relief or trepidation?
On the one hand, removing Manning from the playoffs not only brings joy and happiness to Ryan, but it also lifts the morale of Patriot Nation. Most experts feared the Patriots having to face Manning in a playoff game, even with the game being in Foxborough and not Lucas Oil Stadium. Even though Manning is 0-2 in Foxborough in the postseason in his career, he is still dangerous and can shred the Patriot defense even with such a depleted receiver corps that he has/had. With the Colts now out of the picture, the road to Dallas now got a little easier for the Patriots.
Or did it?
The down side is that the Jets held Manning to only one touchdown on the road on Saturday night, and Folk outdid Adam Vinatieri in terms of late clutch field goals. Saturday night showed what the Jets are capable of, no matter what garbage comes out of Ryan's mouth at the presser podium. Mark Sanchez didn't set the world on fire, but rather he managed the game well and did not lose the game with foolish mistakes. Granted, the Colt defense is not the same without Bob Sanders, but Sanchez did well to keep his team in position to win late like they did.
So the Patriots don't have to face the Colts at all, and don't have to face Baltimore at least until the AFC Championship Game, and the Ravens have to deal with a road date with Pittsburgh next week. But did they really get a reprieve in having to face the Jets?
If you figure that the Jets will come out and cut another 45-3 stinker, then we already know your answer. You might also be a fool for thinking that the Jets will play that poorly for a second game in a row.
True, the Jets may be easier to handle than the Colts. There is a lot more familiarity with the Jets, but the Jets are also just as familiar with the Patriots. A big reason the Jets were whipped so soundly in December at Gillette Stadium was the absence of safety Jim Leonhard, who was lost for the season earlier that week with a broken leg sustained in practice. He still won't be there to help quarterback the secondary.
But Darrelle Revis will be. He held Reggie Wayne to one yard on one catch. So will Antonio Cromartie. These two corners form one of the best tandems in the league. They were good enough to keep Manning in check on Saturday.
To a man, the Patriots are probably thrilled to death that they get the Jets and won't get the Colts. The Patriots get an opponent they know they can handle, with a loquacious head coach who really knows how to put his foot in his mouth, and that does not only apply to his cinematic career. They get an opponent that can also rise up and play well enough to win, but the way this week will likely play out, don't expect the Patriots to cut a stinker like they did last year against Baltimore.
Ryan has already stoked the fires for a terrific Patriot performance this weekend. When asked about Manning in a midweek presser, Ryan remarked about how Manning studies for games better than Tom Brady does, accusing the Patriot quarterback of relying on Bill Belichick a great deal, all the while obliquely throwing Tony Dungy, Colt offensive coordinator Tom Moore and Jim Caldwell under the bus. Suffice it to say that Brady will be hell bent on proving Ryan wrong, not that Brady will need much more motivation at all.
The problem with Ryan spouting off his mouth is that most of the time he can back up what he says. In both of Ryan's seasons as Jet head coach, he has drawn New England at home in Week 2 and won both games. In 2009, he called Revis the best cornerback in all of football and denounced Belichick's success as Patriot head coach. Revis went out and smothered Randy Moss all game long, and the Jets won 16-9. In 2010, Moss was called a "slouch", but the Jets won anyway, 28-14.
The good thing is that Ryan is 0-2 at Gillette Stadium as Jet head coach. He has lost both games by an aggregate 76-17 count. In both cases the Patriot home win followed the road loss. In both games the Patriots completely outplayed the Jets.
The dissing of Brady isn't the only thing that will get locker room attention in Foxborough. In the wake of Jet conditioning coach Sal Alosi being suspended for the season after the tripping incident at Pittsburgh, Jet front office management insinuated that the Patriots do the same thing, that being strategically lining up assistant coaches on the sideline to impede opposing players who meander out of bounds and try to get back in quickly. This little event really did not sit well with Belichick and the Krafts, and it will only serve to make the Patriots prepare better for this weekend.
All signs point to a Patriot win. They are healthier, they are at home, they know the Jets inside out, and they will be motivated like never before. They will be haunted by last year's loss to the Ravens, and they will love nothing better than to stick it to Ryan and make him look even more like a buffoon rather than the great head coach that he is.
Not that the Patriots won't be careful of the Jets. Manifestly, they are a good team that belongs in the playoffs, and could cause trouble next weekend.
But Brady and Belichick will be more than ready to send Ryan to certain defeat. Or, in Ryan's case, de-feet.
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