Rex Ryan has mastered the art of removing pressure from the shoulders of his players and transferring it all onto him, so it should have been expected that the head coach of the New York Jets would implement a familiar tactic this week leading up to Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game at New England.
After seeing that approach work wonders for him last Saturday at Indianapolis when he turned the AFC wild card-game into a battle between him versus Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, Ryan figured why not try it again? So during his Monday press conference with the New York media, the second-year head coach openly challenged Belichick, who has won three Super Bowls with the Patriots and led them to a 14-2 record in 2010 and the No. 1 overall seed.
"This is about Bill Belichick versus Rex Ryan," Ryan said. "There's no question, it's personal. It's about him against myself. That's what it's going to come down to."
When the two coaches matched wits last month on Monday Night Football, Belichick landed a knockout punch early in a 45-3 rout that split the season series and sent the Jets reeling. They were 9-2 at the time and lost three of their last three games. But armed with the confidence of winning yet another road playoff game at Indianapolis, 17-16 on Nick Folk's last-second field goal, Ryan is predicting a different outcome this time around in the rubber match.
"I was outcoached in that game," Ryan admitted. "I said it then, I'm saying it now. Belichick, I recognize the fact this is a Hall-of-Fame coach. He'll go down in history as maybe the greatest football coach in the history of this game, or going to be close to it. He was at that level that week and I was not. For whatever reason, I never had my team prepared the way it should've been prepared. That falls right down on me."
A couple hours later Belichick was asked to address Ryan's remarks on a conference call and had fun with it.
"I might have a little quickness on him, he's probably got a little more strength and power on me," Belichick said. "I don't think you'll see either of us out there making any blocks, or tackles, or runs, throws or catches. At least you won't see me doing that. It's probably a good thing for our team."
New York won the first meeting between the two teams in September, 28-14, but that was when Patriots quarterback Tom Brady still had Randy Moss at wide receiver and was running a different offense. In the second meeting without Moss but with Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead playing a role, Brady threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns and Folk scored the Jets' only points.
"I told Belichick after the game, 'We'll see you in Round 3,' " said Ryan, who with a win will make his second straight AFC Championship appearance. "He just looked at me. "If we win this one, we'll be the same old Jets, right back in the AFC Championship Game."
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