Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine realized how deadly the Patriots offense is to the middle of the field heading into last year's Playoff game in Foxborough. They knew they would need to dedicate as many resources there as humanly possible. That meant taking them away from other areas. They found two spots where it made sense, outside. One of the strengths of the New York defense is its cornerback duo. Darrelle Revis regularly gets no help on the outside. The help that would be there rolls to help out the other side. In the Divisional round, the Jets took this to another level. Instead of rolling coverage to Antonio Cromartie's side, the Jets gave Cromartie little help and loaded the extra men in the middle of the field.
Ryan and Pettine bet on Revis and Cromartie being able to take away Deion Branch and Brandon Tate respectively on their own. It was a good bet. The Patriots looked like world beaters on offense near the end of the regular season, but winning can mask weaknesses. The Pats were not dynamic on the outside. None of their opponents had the imagination or the personnel to exploit this.
If you wonder why the Jets tried so hard to land Nnamdi Asomuhga, look no further than this game. The Jets would have been able to execute this and divert resources elsewhere against everybody instead of just teams without great outside receivers.
I really think New England's trade for Chad Johnson was a direct response to this game and the need to force the Jets to respect the outside deep threats. I am not sure the Jets will change their approach, though. Johnson has not impressed with the Pats, and Cromartie did a great job last year against him when the Jets played the Bengals. Revis is a much better matchup against the more physcial Branch than Cromartie is. I think the Pats are going to have to force the Jets to respect their ability to push it down the field.