EAST RUTHERFORD, New Jersey - Rex Ryan didn't look himself in the early hours of Monday morning. He looked . . . humbled. With red-rimmed eyes and a long face, the man annually plagued by premature coronation was left to explain his team's chances of winning the AFC East. "It looks doubtful right now," he admitted. "What am I gonna say? Maybe I should guarantee the fact that we're out of it. Last time I did that we made the playoffs, so, yeah, we got no chance."Before the game began, NBC's cameras showed LaDainian Tomlinson in the middle of the Jets' scrum saying, "The division is ours, it's ours tonight. Let's go get it."Now the division is a long way from their reach. The Patriots have a one-game lead in the standings and the head-to-head tiebreaker. The combined record of the Patriots' next seven opponents is 21-42. During the week, Ryan asked Jets fans to be loud and make things miserable for the Patriots. His team made things so miserable for those fans they were leaving in droves midway through the fourth. "We've been down this road before but . . . you know," Ryan said, his voice trailing off. Starting again, he said, "I apologize to our fans. I thought our fans were ready to go, just like I thought we were. It's disappointing."Inanely phrased questions that would draw a glower from Bill Belichick were answered by Ryan even in all his glumness. Asked if he was surprised by how badly his team played, Ryan said, "I thought we'd play a lot better. You make those mistakes, you fumble a punt. You have poor time management-- a timeout that was a critical error. You make that many mistakes against that team, there's no chance."As for the X's and O's, Ryan was left to shrug. He blew sunshine about the Patriots defense, saying, "That defense is a lot better than people give 'em credit for. They're 32nd in the league (in yards allowed) and all that but when you get up a lot of scores on people you're gonna give up yards."(Aside:They are 32nd in the league because they can't defend; thenumber of blowouts the Patriots have been involved in is minimal. Never mind the fact they're completely rebuilt from training camp.) Asked ifhe was surprised New England played well with so many spare parts inserted,Ryan offered,"You got Tom Brady back there. I don't care who else you got. You see the difference a great quarterback makes in this league. You just gotta look down the road at Indy (where the Peyton Manning-less Colts are winless). This guy's an amazing player."The comment about the "great quarterback" may have been a swipe at Mark Sanchez or maybe not. Ryan does go on and sometimes his foot finds his mouth. If Ryan was making the point Sanchez is inferior to Brady by a lot, at least he didn't discriminate when leveling that charge against the Jets. "We think we're as good as the Patriots," said Ryan."Butclearly we're not."
Tom E. Curran highlights the best and worst plays from Sunday's game between the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Patriots went into Pittsburgh and beat an under-manned Steelers team Sunday afternoon, 27-16. Here are some of our quick takeaways.
PATRIOTS 27, STEELERS 16: Curran's Best and Worst | Troy Brown: Pittsburgh didn't capitalize on Pats' mistakes
-- With all eyes on the matchup between Antonio Brown and Malcolm Butler, the third-year Patriots corner held his own. After allowing nine catches for 133 yards to Brown in their first meeting last season, Butler allowed Brown to catch five passes for 90 yards Sunday. Butler also took advantage of some of the chances taken by Landry Jones, intercepting one pass intended for Brown in the end zone in the first quarter. Butler finished the day with two pass breakups and a pick on 10 targets. The four catches he allowed to Brown were the only catches he allowed in the game.
-- Julian Edelman looked like Julian Edelman in the win. He caught 9 of the 10 targets sent his way for 60 yards, getting open underneath while seeing one-on-one coverage for much of the contest. Edelman has been on the injury report for the last two weeks, limited with a foot injury, but he was able to get open on the intermediate routes that has made him one of Tom Brady's favorite targets over the last few years. Edelman did have one drop on third down, and he did fumble a punt return, which allows us to . . .
-- . . . take a look at what was a rough day for Patriots special teams units. Kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed yet another extra point -- his second in as many weeks. He has now missed five kicks on the season, including three field goals. The Patriots kickoff unit also had a difficult day, allowing three kicks to be returned past the 25-yard line. The punt-coverage team made one costly error at the end of the first half when Brandon Bolden kicked a bouncing ball out of the back of the Steelers end zone. Instead of the Pittsburgh drive starting at the 6-yard line, where Bolden touched the football, it came out to the 20. At the end of the half, the Steelers kicked a 32-yard field goal. Bolden also dropped a third-down pass that would have gone for a first down. On another punt, it appeared as though Bolden got up slowly after trying to down the ball near the goal line. It was his first game back after suffering a knee injury in Week 4.
-- LeGarrette Blount had a big day against his former team. The 250-pound back didn't want to be a story line earlier in the week, denying interview requests, saying that he would speak after the game on Sunday. His performance at Heinz Field will certainly keep those requests coming. He ran 24 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns, beating up on the Steelers front-seven late in the game as New England protected its lead.
-- While the Patriots offensive line provided Blount with enough room to run, it was a relatively sloppy day for Brady's protection up front. Left tackle Nate Solder turned in one drive during which he allowed a pressure and was then flagged for back-to-back holding penalties (one of which was declined). Shaq Mason also appeared to have trouble with Pittsburgh's Jarvis Jones, allowing a couple of pressures and picking up a flag for holding. Joe Thuney and David Andrews -- both of whom had good blocks on James White's score -- also picked up penalties. There will be plenty for offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia to pick at and try to improve in the coming week of practice.