Ryan remains confident his Jets are ready to take flight

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Rocking a New York Titans fleece and a hat with the matching AFL throwback logo, Jets coach Rex Ryan subtly joked Thursday that he'd not thought anything about it when he selected his attire for the day.

"I just thought it looked good -- color-coordinated," Ryan said. "Nah, I just turned and grabbed something. If it's got like four Xs on it, then I'll usually grab it. It really wasn't a conscious thing this week. Well, as far as you guys know."

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Hey, if it takes a little extra mojo to get the Jets back on track (they are 5-1 when wearing their throwback Titans uniforms), there's nothing wrong with that. But it's also very clear Ryan is keeping his public messages -- even this little one -- much more subdued this week.

It's instead time to get down to some serious business. nobody seems to know it more than Ryan, who is trying to avoid his first three-game skid as a head coach.

"We obviously need to be a lot better than we were the last two weeks," Ryan said. "Going against the Patriots, we have to be at our best. Then, we'll see. I feel confident that we can win."

Nothing fuels bravado like success, and no opportunity could be better than this one. If the Jets can channel the swagger that led to a 28-21 win when they last traveled to Foxboro in the playoffs last season, they'll be immediately back on track.

Another loss, though, particularly like the 45-3 blowout suffered at Foxboro one month prior to that playoff win, and the Jets will need to dig deep for a shot at the playoffs -- let alone meeting Ryan's preseason expectations for the Super Bowl.

"You have to believe in the people you have in the building, believe in what you're doing," Ryan said. "We'll get it corrected. We've done that. The Super Bowl isn't played last week or this week. It's a long process.

"You've got to get your team in the playoffs. Then you go from there."

So how will the Jets do it -- particularly when their recipe the past two weeks resulted in a 10-point loss to the Raiders followed by a 17-point loss to the Ravens? When it comes to football, the message this week has involved getting back to their roots. Quarterback Mark Sanchez will employ a more simplified passing offense. The running game is expected to become the primary focus once again. The return of center Nick Mangold, who missed the past two games with an ankle sprain, should also help.

"We're getting back to the basics," LaDainian Tomlinson said Friday. "That's how I would define this week. Getting back to the things we do well. That's how we're going to get it done."

Although publicly subtle this week, Ryan has been much clearer as it pertains to the message he is delivering to his team. On Monday, the coach gave a fiery, almost angry speech with the attempt of sparking his squad out of its funk.

It seems to so far be working. Ryan said Thursday's practice might have been the best of the season. Tomlinson agreed.

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"Our tempo was great," the future Hall of Fame running back said. "In and out of the huddle, completions, running the football, the defense was flying around. I really thought it was one of our better practices."

The Jets are far from the team that got to the AFC Championship Game each of the past two years. Their running game ranks 30th in the league, and their rush defense sits at 27th. That's not to say the Jets have been poor in every phase, but they aren't succeeding in the areas that previously defined them.

"We've tweaked a couple techniques in our running game, and we really feel good about that," guard Matt Slauson said. "We've really focused hard on it. So we'll see."

Without question, the Jets are trying to get back to being themselves on the football field. If they can do that, it will also allow them to get back to being themselves off it.

On Wednesday, Ryan donned a jacket that he called his "Hall of Fame blazer" after telling reporters that he'd received a letter from Southwestern Oklahoma State University informing him that he'd been selected to the school's Hall of Fame.

He was loose, laughing about the head-to-head matchup against Bill Belichick, another future Hall of Famer of a different kind. Even for a moment, it was typical Rex. When someone mentioned he'd been subdued up until that point, he didn't hold back.

"I'm just going to be me," Ryan said. "I've said that from Day One. I'm going to be true to myself, true to this football team and that's how I'll always approach it."

Well, maybe not always. Maybe not this entire week. Truth be known, there's a sense in Florham Park that the Jets' bravado has been weakened, even if slightly. With a win against the Patriots, though, we all know it will back in an instant.

"We know what's at stake," Ryan said. "We have to beat these guys for us to have a chance at the division. We know we have to find a way to beat these guys, and obviously it's a huge challenge."

Follow Jeff Darlington on Twitter @JeffDarlington.

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