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The Conversation: Monday Night Football

The hype leading up to Monday night’s game between the Jets and the Patriots was almost as unbelievable as the result. Take this pre-fiasco gem from the Daily News’ Mike Lupica: “Game of the year so far in pro football. The Jets in there with the big boys.” He got it half right, one team did look huge, the other seemed to shrink as the chilly night in Foxborough wore on. The final score was a humiliating 45-3 as the Pats’ Tom Brady and his coach Bill Belichick piled on. Here to discuss how it all went wrong—and if Rex Ryan can keep the Jets from crashing the rest of the season—are Paul Longo, the coach of the William Floyd High School Colonials, the 2010 Suffolk County Varsity Football champions; Dan Mennella, author of Press sports column The Mennella Line; and John Otano, Press sports columnist and “LIPressPicks Guru.”

Dan: For me, this was again about the Jets’ coaching staff and its lack of flexibility. We knew that the Jets haven’t been clicking on all cylinders in recent weeks, but they’ve been winning, and the Patriots, for all the hype, are a flawed team, too. Rex Ryan wanted to play his usual close-to-the-vest, field-position kind of game, but that’s not the right formula for this New England club. Ryan mismanaged them into an insurmountable early deficit. The second half of the game was basically a formality.

Paul: Dan’s right. The Jets were very conservative. They don’t stretch the field vertically. They’ve got some very good receivers, but they should take a shot down the field more often. It doesn’t have to be bombs, but little longer routes. They were almost coaching scared, so to speak. I thought it was getting out of reach from the first series when Ryan threw the red flag down for the wrong play. That challenge was bizarre. Then when the Pats scored a touchdown that was not a touchdown, and he didn’t challenge that one, that’s nuts. It’s the old thing where one team wins the first game, and the team that lost just outworks the other team. It’s human nature: you want to go back to the things that you did, thinking you beat them already; and the other guys are working like crazy to figure out how to beat you. I’ve seen that a lot, even in high school football. Belichick and his guys worked hard and came up with some good schemes, they were moving the front around, they were blitzing from different angles. They really outcoached the Jets.


John: Paul’s example of Rex Ryan’s questionable challenge of the spot of a Mark Sanchez quarterback-sneak calls into question how prepared Ryan was for this game. Although the Jets picked up the first down after going for it on 4th and 1 on their own 46, the gamble was reckless. If they hadn’t converted, Brady would have surely led the Patriots down the short field. Ryan’s mismanagement, as Dan points to, coupled with a Patriots team playing flawlessly at home, ended in the worst loss under the Rex Ryan regime.

Dan: Paul and John are dead-on about the Jets being outcoached, and I have doubts about Ryan and the Jets coaches. Will they be willing to revise their approach? I think the best teams in the NFL are the ones that can win in a variety of ways. The Jets have not proven they can win by moving the ball through the air. It’s always best to dictate the flow of a game. Of course, most offenses are not as good as the Patriots’, but sometimes you have to adjust on the fly, and I question whether Ryan can do that. The ground attack is great (nearly five yards per rush vs. the Pats), but sometimes you have to go to Plan B.

John: Dan, you hit on one of my major concerns for the Jets going forward: How will the Jets win games when their philosophy is compromised early in the game? Ryan has enjoyed so much success by sticking to his guns but when his team is put in an early hole, as they were Monday night, do they have the personnel both on and off to field to stay in games with teams like the Patriots? Time should soon tell as the Jets finish the season with a matchup with Miami this week to be followed by back-to-back road games against the Bears and Steelers. The two-game stretch against the potential playoff squads should provide further insight into the adjustments Ryan will or will not make moving forward.

Paul: Ironically, there’s actually kind of a parallel with us. We got killed by Sachem North. We were a young team, though, which is a little different from the Jets because they are the veteran team. We lost by a lot to Sachem North and there was big hype on that game. It was home-coming for Sachem, it was live on Channel 14 and MSG. I think my kids were kind of nervous. I don’t think the Jets were particularly nervous as much as unprepared. But it’s the same thing. You just have to take it one week at a time. I know it’s an old cliché but you really have to focus on the next game. It’s very important to win that next game. That’s one thing we did do, and it was a tough game with Connetquot High School. I think it’s going to be very similar with the Jets. They’re going to be playing Miami, a team they should beat, but it’s not going to be easy. And it was the same thing with us. Our kids responded and they played a great game. It was a battle. And I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a battle for the Jets. If they win, they’ll be going in the right direction again. You can build on that. If they lose, then people start looking at each other and the character issue comes into play. And that’s important because if you start to lose a couple of games, and you’ve got guys who aren’t the best of characters—and frankly I think the Jets locker room is filled with some guys who aren’t the best of characters—that could get ugly. With a team like this, you need to win. That was embarrassing Monday night. One loss you could live with. It’s very important that they win this game. Especially with this type of team.

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