Ryan’s Jets defense showing signs of dominance

Some players shook their heads. Others couldn’t help but

cringe.

The New York Jets’ defense sat in the film room, stunned while

watching the video of the last time it played the New England

Patriots. There was Tom Brady leading his offense on a

clock-chewing, victory-sealing drive, and the Jets unable to stop

them.

”The guys, especially up front, those guys looked at it and

said, `Who is that impostor wearing my jersey?”’ defensive

coordinator Mike Pettine said Thursday. ”There were a bunch of

guys that I think felt that way. That’s not us, and that’s not

where we are now.”

Not even close. Since that game – a 30-21 loss at New England on

Oct. 9 – the Jets have turned their defense around. Not that it was

at all bad at the beginning of the season. Far from it. It’s just

that the dominant defense Rex Ryan insisted the Jets would have has

started to show up in a big way.

”It’s all about executing and playing better football,”

linebacker Bart Scott said. ”You look at that film and we didn’t

execute, we didn’t tackle well. That was kind of the beginning of

us trying to make our way back to playing at a high level. I think

since then, every week we have gotten a little bit better.”

The Buffalo Bills found that out the hard way last Sunday, when

the Jets caused turnovers, stuffed the run and put constant

pressure on the quarterback. Next up: Brady and the Patriots on

Sunday night in an AFC East showdown for first place.

”I think last week was our best performance to date,” Scott

said. ”We know it’s going to take that same type of effort, if not

a greater one, to try to beat these guys.”

In the last meeting, the Jets got within six points at 27-21

with 7:14 left in the game on a 21-yard touchdown catch by Santonio

Holmes. Suddenly, a game in which the Patriots had mostly held a

comfortable lead throughout was turning into a possible nailbiter.

All New York had to do was stop New England from scoring and give

the offense time for a winning drive.

Brady went to work, though, leading the Patriots on a 13-play

drive that lasted 6 minutes, 12 seconds and was capped by a field

goal by Stephen Gostkowski that put the game out of reach.

”That’s something we always stress every week is getting off

the field,” safety Eric Smith said. ”There were times we could’ve

gotten off the field, penalties extended drives, things like that.

Self-inflicted wounds.”

The Jets gave up 446 yards to the Patriots in that game,

including 136 yards rushing by BenJarvus Green-Ellis. It’s the last

time New York allowed a 100-yard rusher – and the last time the

Jets lost. They allowed 308 yards against Miami the following week,

268 against San Diego, and 287 last Sunday against a Buffalo team

that had been one of the NFL’s best.

Fred Jackson had a quiet 82 yards rushing, and Ryan Fitzpatrick

struggled mightily with a 15-of-31 performance that included a late

touchdown, when the game was already decided, and two

interceptions.

”We’ve been trying to get rolling these last couple of weeks,”

said linebacker David Harris, the AFC’s defensive player of the

week after getting five tackles and an interception.

The Jets were ranked eighth in overall defense the last time

they played the Patriots, and are in the same spot entering this

matchup. But the last few games have proven that New York’s defense

is now much more of a presence.

”We feel good about this week,” Pettine said. ”We feel we’re

a different team. We’re much improved over that performance from

the last time.”

In the three games since, the Jets have five sacks, six

interceptions, seven forced fumbles and a whole lot of

confidence.

”We’re just stopping the mental mistakes,” said cornerback

Darrelle Revis, who is having another Pro Bowl-caliber season.

”We’re being a little bit more aggressive on defense.”

And that’s exactly the way Ryan likes it. Especially with the

Patriots up next.

”We weren’t good enough to beat them the last time we played

them,” Ryan said. ”I think we will be this week, but we’re going

to find out.”

New York might be wise to borrow from the defensive game plans

Pittsburgh and the Giants used to beat New England the past two

weeks. The Steelers had primarily played a zone defense this

season, but surprised the Patriots with a lot of press coverage in

a 25-17 win two weeks ago. The Giants won 24-20 last Sunday, helped

in large part by their front four putting consistent pressure on

Brady – always a key part of the game plan to beat him.

”It seems to me that he gets a little more anxious at times,”

Pettine said, ”where before you would see him sit in that pocket

and not move and scan the field.”

As evidenced by his 10 interceptions after four all of last

season, Brady can be forced into mistakes – something the Jets

intend to do.

”Oh, yeah, he’s mortal,” Harris said with a laugh. ”He’s not

an alien, after all.”

Notes: WR Plaxico Burress refused to answer a question about the

terrific play recently of Giants quarterback Eli Manning, his

former teammate. ”I’m not talking about Eli,” he said, before

repeating it. Burress has chosen to focus only on his current

teammates. … Burress, Holmes and quarterback Mark Sanchez have

started meeting together in the morning, just the three of them.

”It’s veteran leadership from both wide receivers,” Holmes said.

”Carrying our young quarterback under us and teaching him things

that we see that he hasn’t seen.”