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Ryan's mastery of Belichick, Brady something to talk about

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- You can love them or hate them -- and the guess here is that more of you probably fall into the latter category -- but the New York Jets are sticking around.

Their divisional-playoff pounding of the New England Patriots on Sunday, which wasn't anywhere near as close as the 28-21 final score would suggest, was even more significant than their moving within a game of a first Super Bowl appearance in 42 years.

It was a referendum for boldness and brashness, for name-calling and swaggering.

"It's kind of like we're selling a heavyweight fight," defensive end Trevor Pryce said. "And (coach Rex Ryan) is good at that."

For those of us who have had the audacity to insist that the Jets should just shut up and play, myself included, the team delivered this message with the force of a heavyweight fighter's best knockout punch: "No, you shut up! We'll keep on talking and doing everything we do that you don't like, because it's our way. And our way works!"

Yes, it does.

The Jets made their 45-3 loss here in December seem like it never happened. They made the Patriots' NFL-best 14-2 record seem like it never happened, either. Same goes for New England's offensive tear through the second half of the regular season.

The Jets talked, sure. They offended, definitely.

But they also played -- especially cornerback Antonio Cromartie, he of the hateful and vulgar comments directed at Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the days leading up to Sunday's game. And they also coached -- especially Ryan, the man responsible for the unbridled, say-whatever-you-feel attitude that fills the locker room.

"I mean, I guess we could kind of rub some people the wrong way," fullback Tony Richardson said. "But I like Rex's style. We believe in Rex, and when he says something we take it to heart. We know he's not just saying it to say it, and we just try to go out and execute."

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That's the part of the green and white tornado that has been Ryan's two seasons as the Jets' head coach that was much harder for those of us on the outside to understand until the Patriots' game. The assumption that too much talk would ultimately hurt when it came time to play was wrong, because the Jets couldn't have performed much better than they did on Sunday.

They made Brady and the rest of the Patriots' offense timid and hesitant by throwing out a blanket of tight, physical pass coverages that New England seemed thoroughly unable to handle. They blew through the Patriots' defense with relative ease. The only thing that ever really stopped the Jets in this game was the Jets. When they executed well, which happened a fair portion of the game, the Patriots had no chance.

The only thing more stunning than Brady -- who had one of the greatest regular seasons of his career and is a sure pick for league MVP -- being out-dueled by second-year counterpart Mark Sanchez and throwing his first interception in 340 attempts was the outcome of the coaching battle.

Ryan had said it was "personal" between him and Bill Belichick, just as it had been "personal" between him and Peyton Manning before the Jets' wild-card win at Indianapolis. Ryan made it his mission to make amends for 45-3, and he couldn't have succeeded any better.

His defensive plan twisted Belichick's and Brady's brains into knots. Belichick was so befuddled by what the Jets were doing to his team that, in what looked to be a move of pure desperation and panic, he called an ill-advised fake punt that failed and set up a touchdown that put the Patriots in a 14-3 halftime hole.

It seemed that the Pats were never able to recover.

"The only way that you have that kind of confidence is if you work as hard as he does," Pryce said of Ryan.

And Pryce, who was in Baltimore when Ryan was the Ravens' defensive coordinator, knows all about his coach's work ethic. He could see that Ryan was investing a tremendous amount of time and energy to find a way to embarrass Belichick and Brady the way they had previously embarrassed him.

"These last two weeks, he has been in the defensive meeting room every day," Pryce said. "You don't even know he's there sometimes, and all of a sudden, you hear his voice and say, 'Rex is in here?' And he helped put this game plan together more so than normal. And it worked.

"He came up with some stuff that just literally confused Tom Brady beyond belief."

Which is only appropriate, given that most everything this Jets team does is beyond belief.

Including sticking around the postseason while the Patriots pack for the offseason.

Follow Vic Carucci on Twitter @viccarucci.

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Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert (10) rushes during an NFL football game between the between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Los Angeles Chargers, Sunday, Sept. 20, 2020, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Peter Joneleit)

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