He never found one.
"We tried everything," the Jets coach said, shaking his head. "We tried man, tried two-man, zone, you name it, but you've got to give him credit, man. He's one heck of a quarterback and we definitely had some issues there."
After bottling up Manning for much of the first two quarters, the Jets couldn't contain the four-time MVP quarterback in the second half.
"With Peyton Manning, if you can't disrupt his rhythm, he's going to kill you," Ryan said. "And, we couldn't disrupt him enough."
It wasn't the first time the Jets' defense couldn't come through. It blew late leads in games against Miami, Jacksonville and Atlanta and earned a reputation for not being able to come up with big stops.
Still, Ryan was confident all week, saying his team would be the most loose AFC championship squad anyone would ever see. It turned out the defense was way too loose against Manning & Co.
"We're close," he said. "We thought we could win it all. We really did."
"We couldn't get off the field," Ryan said. "They kept marching it down the field on us."
Despite their lofty ranking during the regular season, Ryan and the Jets were irritated by suggestions they weren't a big-time defense.
Their performance Sunday proved why.
"You've got to get some stops and we never got enough of them," Ryan said.
When cornerback Donald Strickland went out late in the first quarter, the Jets were forced to adjust their defense by playing guys in different spots they weren't accustomed to. Manning figured that out immediately and the Colts started going with a three-receiver set, and he started finding mismatches with Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie.
"It's really tough to match up with them, just with the efficiency that they play with," safety Jim Leonhard said. "You can have great man coverage, but that ball is right where it needs to be."
Even playmaking linebacker Bart Scott, hobbled by a sprained ankle, wasn't on the field much -- and that compromised the defense.
The clearest sign things were starting to go awry was late in the first half, when Manning threw three consecutive passes to Collie, including a 16-yard toss with 1:13 remaining to cut the Colts' deficit to 17-13.
"That really took some of the wind out of our sails," Ryan said.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press