Hate him or love him, Rex is Rex

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Hate him or love him, Rex is Rex

By Mary Paoletti
CSNNE.com

FOXBORO -- You hate Rex Ryan.

You think him an instigator for saying he wanted to kick Bill Belichick and the Patriots' collective ass. You judge him an attention-whore for the "Hard Knocks" self-indulgence and bombastic press conferences. You call him a pompous windbag for suggesting -- no, stating -- that his New York Jets are the better team and would win the Week 13 meeting.

Just don't write Rex Ryan off. Do so and lose out on some of the most striking sincerity in the NFL. His Monday night post-game reception is a brilliant example.

New York got facewashed, 45-3, by the Patriots in hostile territory. New England was absolutely giddy. More fans than reasonable hung tough in 27 degree weather (11 with the wind chill) to see each precious second tick down on the monumental Jets failure.

Ryan's response: "I came in to kick Belichick's butt and he kicked mine.''

Patriots fans must have howled in ecstasy when that quote hit airwaves. It was sweeter than a white flag; it was a humiliating concession made by an over-sized enemy in a white turtleneck. But even in defeat Ryan wasn't exactly humbled.

"Humiliating? For one night..." he scoffed. "Shoot, I'll fight tomorrow. I guarantee you that. Humiliating? It's the biggest butt-whuppin' I've ever taken as a coach in my career. But I can promise you one thing: I'll be ready to play 'em. I'll play 'em right now if they'll go out and do it again.

"That's the only way I know how to respond. I'll sit back out there and stick my chin out again."

And why not?

Why back down? Why apologize for confidence? Belichick said it himself: all coaches want to win. Ryan just isn't being polite about it. He isn't trying to sneak up on anybody under that worn out veil of self-deprecation. He's lumbering through the NFL's streets, hollering his intentions and waving his gun in the air where everybody can see it.

It's honesty.

Think Rex Ryan said his team was better just to get under people's skin? It's not that complicated. He really believed it was true.

"I thought we were going to play a great game. I really did.'' Ryan said. "I thought we were having the best week of practice that we had. Obviously, we had the injury to Jim Leonhard and that kind of put a damper on us but our preparation was great. I thought we were gonna have a huge game and it was just the opposite. "

Ryan shook his head as he spoke. He was at a loss. The Jets had already beaten New England this year, after all. And though national sports writers were picking the Patriots, nobody expected a blowout. Nobody foresaw the shutdown of Mark Sanchez (1733, 164 yards, 3 interceptions, 1 fumble, 1 sack, 0 TD) nor a declawing of Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie.

"Our defense gave up 45 points,'' Ryan lamented. "There's been times that's been a quarter of a season at least, giving up that many points.''

When asked if such a number was even conceivable, Ryan wagged his head more firmly.

"No,'' he said. Then he lifted his eyes and focused on the cameras. "I can imagine us shutting people out. That's what I think happens. But, clearly wasn't the case. This is a good football team. They did a great job coaching, out-coached us and outplayed us."

The complimenting of New England was effusive. It might surprise the people who focus on Ryan's chest-thumping but praising the Patriots makes sense for the Jets coach. Why? All part of the honesty.

"We were trying everything but it just... shoot. They got the job done,'' he said, brow furrowed. "But you've got to give them credit. Tom Brady was hot. He can burn you. They've got a lot of weapons and they did a good job. They protected the quarterback pretty well and gave Brady enough time to make some plays and their guys came up with some big plays for him. "

Huge, huge plays. Brady was surgical on Monday night. The New England quarterback completed 21 of 29 passes, racked up 326 yards and recorded four touchdowns. Gaudy numbers next to Sanchez's tallies. The crowd really started rollicking after a fourth quarter run up the middle by BenJarvus Green-Ellis made the score 45-3. The Patriots were shoving Ryan's bravado back down his throat. Chants of "J-E-T-S! SUCK! SUCK! SUCK!" mixed with cries for running up the score on the hated rival.

But if the Patriots were trying to needle New York on the field the way Ryan did with his words, the Jets coach wasn't squirming. If anything, it brought Rex Ryan right back to where he started.

"I wouldn't say Belichick was necessarily trying to rub it in, but this is the same team that took a bunch of shots on us and they had paybacks. Let's face it, we kicked their butt at our place so they're trying to come back. Trust me, we'll remember this, there's no question about that. "

So where does he stand now, exactly? Respectful of the Patriots' quarterback, nearly reverent toward their coach. Wary of the now Number One team in the AFC.

"We know that this division goes through New England. We thought we were gonna put a stranglehold on it because we would have been up a full game on 'em and have the tie-breaker on 'em. Right now we've pushed. We won one, they won one.

"To say we underestimated them... I don't think so,'' Ryan said. "They've still got Belichick at coach and Brady as quarterback so we'll never underestimate the New England Patriots."

He will probably continue to overestimate his New York Jets, though, and believe to his core that it's the truth. A quality of confidence most teams would probably love in a coach. And a quality most fans clearly love to hate in a rival.

Mary Paoletti can be reached at mpaoletti@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Mary on Twitter at http:twitter.comMary_Paoletti

SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rawls leads Seahawks to 40-7 pummeling of Panthers

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SUNDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL: Rawls leads Seahawks to 40-7 pummeling of Panthers

SEATTLE - Behind Thomas Rawls bouncing off and through tacklers and a big-play punch from Tyler Lockett, the Seattle Seahawks rediscovered their offensive star power on Sunday night.

It came at a significant cost to their defense.

Rawls ran for 103 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Lockett took a reverse 75 yards for a score to open the second half and the Seahawks routed the Carolina Panthers 40-7 on Sunday night.

Click here to read the complete story

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

Curran: Outcome expected, Patriots can still build off win vs. Rams

FOXBORO – So they did precisely what they were supposed to do. Poleaxed a bad team that had come cross-country to get its whipping and then return home.

It’s hard to downgrade the Patriots for that. Not this time. Even though they were facing a rookie quarterback making his third NFL start in Jared Goff, even though the Rams were without wide receiver Tavon Austin, the net the Patriots threw over the Rams offense was so stifling that those qualifiers don’t count.

The Rams went 1-for-9 on third down. They were 0-for-8 before the late conversion. They didn’t get over 100 total yards until their final drive of the game and that required a breakdown by Malcolm Butler on Kenny Britt. Britt, the Rams best offensive player this season, hadn’t had a catch before that.

PATRIOTS 26, RAMS 10

So what if the Patriots used the Rams as their step stool to get to the next rung? So what if they were supposed to do exactly that? They’d had other matchups this season when they hadn’t choked out lesser opponents. This time they did.

And some of the players who figured prominently are precisely some of the players who’ve had their struggles.

Jabaal Sheard, benched two weeks ago, forced a pick and three passes defensed. Logan Ryan, who’s seen his role change and playing time dwindle, had a sack on a corner blitz and had two quarterback hits to go with five tackles. Kyle Van Noy, still fitting into the defense, had a pick, a pass defensed and four tackles. Alan Branch, who hasn’t struggled but had an NFL suspension hanging over his head until the league rescinded it Saturday, was his normal nuisance up front. Chris Long and Shea McClellin, both new to the team this year, had sacks.

“That happens around here,” explained Dont'a Hightower. “The next-man-up mentality has been here for a few years. Guys don’t play early then later in the season, they get right whatever it was that wasn’t right and they come back and we play well. It’s about us playing together.”

Hightower has steadily proclaimed that the defense has the talent and self-belief necessary to get where it needs to be on a consistent basis.  

“I feel like every week should be like this regardless of who we’re playing,” he said. “We had a great week of practice. Everyone was all in the same mindset, the same focus. (Defensive coordinator Matty Patricia) again did a great job of calling the game, mixing it up. We just went out there and executed.”

As the Patriots head into the final four games of their schedule, the caliber of their competition will rise. The next opponent, Baltimore, has won four of five including a 38-6 demolition of the Dolphins on Sunday.

The Broncos are up after the Ravens and that game will be in Denver, never an easy spot for the Patriots to say the least.

The Patriots close at home with the always-annoying Jets and then have to go to South Florida to play Miami in the New Year’s Day finale.  

“We’re just one week at a time,” said Ryan. “You can’t break this season off a couple weeks. Next week, we see what Baltimore [Ravens] just did, they’re a real good team. We know how that’s been in the past so it should be a nice game, a competitive game, competitive atmosphere. We’re just one week at a time, we’re happy we got this game and we’re on to the next one.”

It’s hard to point to this game and say, “All’s fixed.”

It was the outcome expected and there was no letdown. Part of the process.

“It’s December, time to play our best football,” said Devin McCourty. "We’ve been at it for a while now dating back to the beginning of training camp. Things we’ve talked about working on and things we’ve talked about improving, it’s time to start improving on those things and getting them done. Bill [Belichick] said it over and over that who we play each week is not going to matter if we don’t come and fix the things we need to fix and play the way we need to play. I think the whole team understands that and it starts with him, but [also] us echoing it as captains and as leaders. Today I think showed that when we do those things, we go out there and play well.”

The principals in this win – players like Sheard and Ryan – signaled that concerns over buy-in and locker room fissures appearing after playing time was shifted and personnel was shipped out were probably unfounded.

It’s a tough place to play because performance matters and there’s not a lot of, “That’s ok, you’ll get ‘em next time…” with this coaching staff.

It’s mentally challenging.

“That might be an understatement,” laughed Hightower. “But that’s part of the process, that’s part of the Patriot way and we try to adapt to it.”