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The bully is in for a beating

Sports Xchange LEN PASQUARELLI
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Coach Blowhard might have put his foot in his mouth again when he reissued the hackneyed "it's personal" challenge to characterize Sunday's third meeting with the New England Patriots this season.

For those who pay attention to semantics, that's "it's personal" as opposed to the lame "personal matter" camouflage behind which he recently reverted to deflect all those foot-fetish accusations of the past few weeks. Similar words, of course, but different intents. Indeed, even the outspoken New York Jets head coach and resident manure-stirrer Rex Ryan would agree.

While his goal might have been to increase the temperature of a Jets team that figures to confront polarized extremes late Sunday afternoon — the league's hottest offense playing in Arctic-level conditions — Ryan has succeeded in ratcheting up the rhetoric. But, just as significantly, he has raised the hackles of a New England bunch that seems to successfully subvert its sentiments.

The latest example, taking Ryan's hyperbolic lead, came Tuesday, when cornerback Antonio Cromartie termed Patriots quarterback Tom Brady an orifice from which human manure exits. Pretty strong words from a guy who, on national television, couldn't remember the ages of his seven kids.

Responded one Patriots veteran on Tuesday night, declining for fear of retribution from his coach or his teammates to attach his name to his words: "Damn right we're (upset). But we bite our tongues here. It's part of what you marry into when you come here. We'll do our talking out on the field, where the pictures are worth a million words, not in sound bites that are going to get all that useless attention."

Credit Ryan and Cromartie and the rest of the mouthy Jets for at least standing behind their trash-talking. The Jets don't talk off the record or without attribution, and for such lack of cover they are to be congratulated. But they are like the sassy neighbor who lives next door but carries on his battles across the backyard fence, always with a ready excuse to dash back inside when you're both out getting the mail at the same time.

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Measure, not mouthiness, usually wins such critical NFL games. And there is no more measured team than the Patriots, who reflect the dispassion of their coach, in much the same way the Jets mimic their leader. It's easy for the media to be critical of Bill Belichick, because you leave his press conferences with a notebook page half-filled, as opposed to requiring a couple legal pads for Ryan's rants. But neither man would have it any other way. And just as the bluster of Ryan now permeates his team, the publically even-keel approach of Belichick prevails with the Pats.

The overriding promise of The Wizard of Oz is that, once the needy had navigated the treacherous yellow brick road, the great and powerful man would deliver, among other things, a heart and courage to the deficient. The truth, though, was that The Wizard rendered his best rhetoric from behind a curtain. Ryan doesn't ask for any draperies, but the curtain could come down on his shtick if he and his team fail to deliver on their inflammatory words.

In New England, it's understood that you play, and you act, like a Patriot. With the Jets? Well, as the HBO series "Hard Knocks" displayed, they've got to erect signs that remind their charges to "Play like a Jet." Even if his history of the franchise is more along the lines of the performance a biplane. And they've got to stoke the players with those "it's personal" proclamations. In New England, conversely, nary is heard a discouraging, or defamatory, word.

Notable with the two AFC East rivals is that each has a "New" in front on its name. But the guess is that, on Sunday afternoon, it's going to be the same old story: The braggadocious bully might win the debate but probably not the football game.

Tagged: Patriots, Jets

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