National Football League
Jets win more than just a playoff game
National Football League

Jets win more than just a playoff game

Published Jan. 16, 2011 12:00 a.m. ET

The Jets won the culture war.

After a week’s worth of heated trash talk that exposed the disdain between the Jets and the Patriots, Rex Ryan’s pack of alleged bad boys humbled Bill Belichick’s pack of alleged choirboys 28-21.

Not since 1988’s “Catholics vs. Convicts” clash at Notre Dame Stadium has football staged the kind of cultural confrontation we witnessed Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

Jets-Pats was more than a typical NFL divisional playoff contest. To some degree, it was a battle for the heart and soul of the league.


“It’s all about a system with (the Patriots),” a Jets executive told me in the postgame locker room. “With us, it’s all about the players.”

Rex Ryan’s New York Jets are America’s No. 1 reality TV show. They’re loud, talented, in your face and occasionally wildly irresponsible (Sex Ryan’s foot-fetish videos, Antonio Cromartie’s baby-mama fetish, etc.). In the buttoned-up, Roger Goodell-disciplined NFL, the Jets come off like the NBA’s Miami Heat.

If you had to compare Bill Belichick’s Patriots to a basketball team, only the WASPy, boys-next-door Duke Blue Devils fit the description.

In winning three Super Bowls early in the new millennium and consistently fielding outstanding regular-season squads, Belichick perfected the art of choosing overall team character, locker-room chemistry and adherence to rules of media secrecy over loading up on individual talent.

In places such as Kansas City and Atlanta — where former Belichick-trained executives have power — the “Patriots Way” has a pronounced influence. In other cities, the Belichick influence is more subtle.

The Patriots Way is rejected in New York by Rex Ryan. The Jets say what they want, do what they want and they’re completely unafraid to call bull(crap) on Belichick and the Patriots.

To the Jets, the Patriots Way is Spygate and hypocrisy. The Patriots cheat and they’re phony. They’re Eddie Haskell. The locker room America bought as filled with All-American, high-character good guys is really filled with Wes Welkers, the New England receiver who made the game’s most critical error days before kickoff when he littered a pregame interview with foot jokes about Rex Ryan and his wife.

“I’ve never seen anything like that,” LaDainian Tomlinson told me. “She’s off limits. You don’t talk about that man’s wife. (Welker) better be glad he didn’t say anything about my wife.

“This is how I feel: When it happens to them, it’s classless. When they do it, it’s a different story.”

Welker, who was benched by Belichick for New England’s first series, crossed a line. It’s one thing for the media and fans to joke about Ryan’s personal life. The players and coaches are peers. They shouldn’t participate in anything that embarrasses one of their peer’s family members.

Welker handed the Jets the emotional advantage.

“I felt that it motivated a lot of guys,” said Mark Brunell, New York’s veteran backup quarterback. “It was inappropriate.”

New York fullback Tony Richardson, another longtime veteran, added, “That was personal. Guys will take shots at other guys. But that was personal. There was no reason to bring his family into it. Rex has a son in 10th grade.”

The lone stupidity challenge to Welker’s blunder was Belichick’s strategic blunder late in the second quarter.

Trailing 7-3 with 70 seconds left in the half and facing fourth-and-4 at the New England 38, Belichick left defensive back Patrick Chung with the option of running a fake punt. Chung dropped the direct snap, and the Jets tackled him for a 1-yard loss.

The Jets capitalized, scoring a quick TD to take a commanding 11-point lead.

The fake was ignorant. There was no reason to force anything at that point. The Pats were getting the second-half kickoff. New England panicked. The alleged “smartest” team in football played a dumb football game.

What's even worse is the way Belichick avoided responsibility for the fake punt. He sidestepped all postgame questions about who called the fake. Monday afternoon Chung took responsibility for the botched play. Rex Ryan would've handled the situation by taking full responsibility for the error. The Jets coach would've protected his player.

The Patriots Way protects the system. The Patriots Way is in a bit of trouble.

The Pats fell for Rex and Cromartie’s trash-talk bait, and when New York’s superior defensive personnel and flawless game plan stopped Tom Brady and Co. from gliding up and down the field, the Patriots turned amateur with their strategy.

Down 10 points in the fourth quarter, Brady chewed up nearly eight minutes of clock with a 14-play, 48-yard drive that featured seven running plays and the Pats sauntering in and out of the huddle as though there would be a fifth quarter.

CBS cameras appeared to catch Belichick complaining about his team’s offensive play-calling.

It’s now fair to question everything about the Patriots.

They haven’t won a Super Bowl since Spygate. Judging by Jay Glazer’s FOX Sports pregame story, Belichick and the Patriots were building special-teams, sideline-tripping walls long before the Jets.

Yeah, the Jets won the culture war.


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