EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 21, 2009

Bravado backed up

Jets talk the talk, walk the walk vs. Pats

Bill Burt

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Larry Izzo admits it was a not a typical week in his football career.

The undrafted NFL overachiever, now in his 13th season, was not only going to be smacking heads with several of his old chums from New England, but several of his New York Jets teammates talked "smack."

One teammate, safety Kerry Rhodes, even called out the greatest player Izzo ever played with, Tom Brady, and informed him about the unofficial bounty out to knock him on his rear end.

In Foxboro, as Izzo was spoon-fed for eight seasons, silence isn't only golden, it is mandated. And when other teams say the seemingly most insignificant things, even questioning Patriots security, as Colts president Bill Polian did once, the Patriots take that personally.

There was a season's worth of bulletin board material heading into this game including Jets coach Rex Ryan saying he wouldn't "kiss Bill Belichick's rings" and Rhodes saying the Jets wanted to "embarrass" the Patriots on every play.

"It's definitely different around here," said Izzo, about 30 minutes after the Jets beat the Patriots, 16-9. "Personally, I don't talk. I like to let my play on the field do my talking. But if you do talk, you better back it up. We backed it up."

The Jets are having a ball.

In a short time, Ryan has instilled a personality and swagger into the team, that hasn't been seen since "Broadway" Joe Namath was calling signals at Shea Stadium.

It's a far cry from what it was like the previous three years under Belichick protege Eric Mangini.

"We are going to go after you, on both sides of the ball," Ryan said soon after being hired.

"I like it a lot," said Jets offensive guard Damien Woody, who spent five years with the Patriots and four with Belichick as head coach. "We do have a lot of characters around here and coach Ryan has brought a lot of personality to the team. We have fun and we're not afraid to show it."

Woody isn't just talking about the locker room. The Jets play that way, too. At least they have two games into Ryan's brief tenure.

Defensively, the Jets, as advertised went after Tom Brady. While he wasn't sacked once, too many times he threw the ball earlier than planned. Brady completed less than half of his pass attempts — 23-for-47.

"Any time you hold Brady to under 50 percent completions, that is saying a lot," said Ryan, whose defense hasn't allowed a touchdown in two games.

After a passive first half, in which the Jets offense gained only 57 yards, it joined the "go-for-it" brigade. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, Mark Sanchez hit Jerricho Cotchery on a 45-yarder to the Pats' 11. Two plays later Sanchez did something Brady didn't do, he threw a touchdown pass, to tight end Dustin Keller.

Lost in the chatter this week is the fact that the Jets might not only be good, but they might be very good.

Even though he's a rookie, Sanchez easily outplayed Brady in the second half (11 for 17, 145 yards, 1 TD).

And they may have that elite defense, which can lead a team deep into the playoffs.

The Jets weren't done talking after the game.

"He looked frustrated," said defensive end Shaun Ellis of Brady. "I could see it in his eyes. His eyes were wide open. I looked in his eyes a few times. He was trying to figure out where everyone was coming from."

Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis, who covered Randy Moss (four catches, 24 yards), is on record saying after two games of not allowing a touchdown that "it means we're great. We're great as a defense."

Izzo, who won three Super Bowls in New England, wouldn't join the quote parade. There is little doubt in his mind that Nov. 22, the date of the next Patriots-Jets game, this time in Foxboro, will be a little extra special in New England.

"I'm sure they will be waiting for us," said Izzo. "That I am sure of."

A lot can happen between now and then. The Patriots play Atlanta, Baltimore and Tennessee at home over the next month. There's also dates with Miami and Indianapolis, too.

Maybe it's time for the Patriots to forget about who's talking and figure out why so many defenders are getting clean shots at Brady. They may also want to figure out how to run the ball consistently, like good teams usually do, and also try get more pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

And maybe it's time for all of us to realize the Jets can not only talk a good game, but they can play it, too.

E-mail Bill Burt at bburt@eagletribune.com.