FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — Rex Ryan has no bold message for Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots this week.
Nope, no fightin’ words this time around.
“I’m not even worried about tweaking New England or anybody else,” Ryan said Monday. “It’s to the point where we have to focus on us.”
After all, the way the usually brash coach sees it, the New York Jets (4-6) need to stay focused after ending a three-game skid Sunday with a 27-13 win at St. Louis.
“Right now, we’re just swinging,” Ryan said. “We’re going focus on our opponents, specifically, but anything we do, we’re behind where we have to be. We can only focus on ourselves and just find a way to punch it. We earned where we are and we just have to find a way to punch our way out.”
The victory was a huge boost to the Jets’ dim playoff hopes. Now, Ryan’s squad has just a few days to prepare for the AFC East-leading Patriots, an extremely familiar opponent, and the teams’ showdown Thanksgiving night.
“We know each other well, but clearly when you look at how their offense is, they can run a zillion different things,” Ryan said. “I don’t know how much of a help (a short week) will be, but I guess we’ll see on Thursday.”
Fittingly, quarterback Mark Sanchez wore a white T-shirt in the locker room with the words “We Will Persist” printed across the chest and “Until We Succeed” on the back. He has worn it a few times during the season.
“That’s the most important thing is to not change our preparation and make sure it’s focused the way it should be,” he said. “But not to press, not to take things too lightly, just attack it the right way, and I think the coaches have really put an emphasis on that. We’ll just keep rolling and hopefully rack up some more wins.”
The Jets are tied with Buffalo and Miami at 4-6 for second place — or, last place, depending on how you look at it — in the division, with the Patriots holding a three-game lead.
While it appears likely New England will win its 10th AFC East title in 12 years, the Jets haven’t given up on getting back to the playoffs after missing out last season.
Ryan has repeatedly expressed his respect for Belichick and the Patriots, but has also issued bold statements leading up to their matchups. He said, “I want them to know, and they know, that I think we’re going to beat them,” last month before the Patriots pulled out a 29-26 overtime victory.
Ryan recognizes how dire the situation is right now, though, and that talk means little. Ryan isn’t even concerned about needing to talk to his players about keeping the trash talk to a minimum.
“I don’t know how much of that there will be,” he said. “It’s not something I’ll bring up to the team.”
There’s no doubt that the Patriots remain the Jets’ biggest rivals, an assessment left guard Matt Slauson agreed with Monday.
“I don’t hate the Patriots,” Slauson said. “I respect the heck out of them. They’re a really good team — but I like us a lot more.”
Last week was tumultuous for the Jets, with anonymous teammates taking shots at Tim Tebow in a newspaper report, and Woody Johnson meeting with Ryan, general manager Mike Tannenbaum and others, according to another report. A loss to the Rams might have signaled the start of a season unraveling. Instead, there’s a new sense of confidence around the team.
It certainly helped that a few of the teams the Jets are chasing in the playoff picture lost Sunday, including Pittsburgh (6-4), Indianapolis (6-4) and San Diego (4-6). Not that Ryan and his team noticed, of course.
“We’re not getting into that now,” Ryan said. “We know we have to get better.”
The play of Sanchez on Sunday was a good start. The beleaguered starting quarterback had his most efficient performance in more than a month, going 15 of 20 for 178 yards and a touchdown, and most importantly, no turnovers. Ryan and the Jets have stood by Sanchez all season despite the increasing calls from fans and media for the team to give Tebow a chance to save the season.
“It’s part of the job,” Sanchez said. “It’s just the way things go when things don’t go right on the field. It’s natural, and it’s a little more enhanced here in a market like this, so it’s part of the territory. I’ve been there before and it doesn’t really affect what we’ve been doing.”
At least for a few days, Sanchez quieted all that chatter.
“I think he needed it just like the rest of us needed it,” Ryan said. “I don’t think he’s any different. We all needed it.”
New York is 4-6 for the first time since 2009, when the Jets went on a roll and went all the way to the AFC championship game. While it may seem unrealistic to some that the Jets could produce a similar type of run, none of their remaining five opponents after the Patriots — Arizona (4-6), Jacksonville (1-9), Tennessee (4-6), San Diego (4-6) and Buffalo (4-6) — currently has a winning record.
“We got better as the season went on, and I think that’s clearly what we have to do now,” Ryan said. “If the players can draw from it, then that’s great. Again, we have a ton of work in front of us and a short amount of time to prepare for, clearly, the best offensive team in the NFL.”
NOTES: WR Jason Hill (low back) was the only player who did not participate in the team’s walkthrough — a rare practice under the lights. … Ryan insisted he has not lost confidence in rookie WR Stephen Hill, who has dropped four passes, according to STATS LLC. “One thing I know for sure is we’re going to keep throwing to him,” Ryan said, “and I think this young man is going to realize, by the way, you can play this game.”
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Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.