FOXBORO MA - DECEMBER 06: Head coach Rex Ryan of the New York Jets looks on against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 6 2010 in Foxboro Massachusetts. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
One question ahead of the Divisional game at New England this Sunday is how the Jets will respond defensively to the 45 point fiasco in December. Can the Jets play better? If Rex Ryan's history with the Jets is any sign, there is room to be hopeful.
I can think of three rematch games in which the Jets had been shredded by opposing offenses in the previous meeting.
The first was the second meeting with the Dolphins last year. In the first meeting, the Dolphins put up 31 points and averaged 6.5 yards per offensive play. The teams met three weeks later. The Dolphins averaged 2 yards per play and scored 10 offensive points (and 21 nonoffensive points).
The second was also a rematch with the Dolphins. It was the second meeting this year. The Dolphins averaged 6.2 yards per play in Week 3 this year. That number dropped to 2.3 in Week 14 this year, and Miami scored all 10 of its points in that game on a short field set up by turnovers.
We just witnessed the third rematch. A year after getting shredded by Peyton Manning in the second half of the AFC Championship Game, the Jets held the Colts to 16 points and only allowed a single touchdown.
These three games had different reasons for the Jets playing better the second time around. The improvements against Miami were based more on fundamentals. The Jets lost one on ones a lot in the first encounters with the Dolphins. They were out of position on a lot of plays and were outexecuted. These things improved in the second games. Against the Colts, issues were more schematic the first time around. They sent a ton of pressure in the AFC Championship Game against Peyton Manning and left their corners isolated in mismatches. This time the corners had more help as the Jets played coverage.
I think the issues in the December game in Foxborough were all of the above. The Jets blew assignments. They got outexecuted. Guys were caught out of position and using poor technique. I also did not like the scheme. It was very vanilla. While this is somewhat similar to what the Jets just used to win against Indianapolis, it isn't as effective against the Pats. New England spreads the ball around and has good playmakers going out on passing routes from the receiver, tight end, and running back positions. The key is confusing the protection and getting to Brady. That is how the team has had success against New England. The Colts were lacking their normal assortment of playmakers so the Jets could play coverage even without a lot of pressure. I'm not sure they can do that against the Pats. Somebody will get open.
I don't mean to say it is as easy as Rex Ryan snapping his fingers to make things better. There were other mitigating circumstances. Again, the Colts had some key guys out this year who played roles last year. The Jets also had much better corners this time around. The Jets did not have Darrelle Revis when Chad Henne torched them through the air in the first meeting but did in the rematch. The Pats are also a much better team than either Miami team or this year's version of the Colts.
I do think there are schematic and technical things the Jets can correct that will make the defense play vastly better, though. The first thing a team does in a rematch game is assess what went wrong in the previous meeting and work on correcting it so it will be at the center of this team's mind.