‘Man, it’s go­ing to be a blood­bath’

For­mer coach stands be­tween Jets, play­offs

Winnipeg Free Press - Section D - - FOOTBALL - By Den­nis Waszak Jr.

NEW YORK — All that stands be­tween the New York Jets and the play­offs is Rex Ryan.

Well, how’s that for an ab­so­lutely juicy sto­ry­line?

The Jets, in their first sea­son un­der coach Todd Bowles, are fac­ing a wi­nand-in sce­nario against the Buf­falo Bills and their for­mer coach, who was fired af­ter fail­ing to lead New York to the post-sea­son in each of the last four of his six sea­sons.

“In the words of the great Steve Smith,” line­backer Calvin Pace said, re­fer­ring to Bal­ti­more’s lo­qua­cious wide re­ceiver, “Man, it’s go­ing to be a blood­bath.”

The Jets (10-5) went from be­ing out­side the play­off pic­ture to controlling their chances with a 26-20 over­time vic­tory Sun­day over the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots — helped in large part by Bill Belichick choos­ing to kick off rather than start the ex­tra pe­riod on of­fence.

Ryan Fitz­patrick coolly marched the Jets down­field and won it with a six­yard pass to Eric Decker.

Pitts­burgh, which held a tiebreaker edge over New York, sur­pris­ingly lost to Bal­ti­more and slipped be­hind the Jets in the play­off race.

“I want it,” de­fen­sive line­man Shel­don Richard­son said of reach­ing the post-sea­son. “I want it bad.”

He and the Jets get to prove how much Sun­day at Buf­falo (7-8). The Bills had high hopes in Ryan’s first sea­son, es­pe­cially when he de­clared their play­off drought would end. In­stead, they’ll miss out for the 16th straight year.

So, af­ter spend­ing six years do­ing ev­ery­thing he could to get the Jets into the post-sea­son, Ryan will be out to keep them from get­ting in.

“It’s just the next game on the sched­ule,” cor­ner­back Dar­relle Re­vis said, down­play­ing the matchup.

Ryan is al­ready 1-0 against his for­mer team af­ter a 22-17 vic­tory over the Jets. While Ryan was clearly ex­cited by the win, he also pre­dicted the teams’ next meet­ing would prob­a­bly help de­cide who goes to the play­offs. He was half right. Mon­day, Ryan praised the Jets, not adding any ex­tra fuel — but, it’s early in the week, of course.

“I think, first off, it’s about get­ting the win and we know we are fac­ing a team that is red hot,” Ryan said in Buf­falo. “This team is a com­plete foot­ball team.”

Af­ter their loss to the Bills, the Jets fell to Hous­ton 24-17 to drop to 5-5. A 4-1 start was washed away by in­con­sis­tency, lost op­por­tu­ni­ties and a search for an­swers.

“We had to come to­gether,” Pace said, “or the ship was gonna sink.” They haven’t lost since. “The past couple weeks have been play­off games,” Bowles said. “There really is no pres­sure. They just play to­gether and we have fun and we try to get bet­ter as a team. There’s no pres­sure on us. We know have to win. We’ve been hav­ing to win the past five weeks.”

Fitz­patrick’s steady play dur­ing the win­ning streak has been MVP-like. He has thrown for 1,525 yards and 13 touch­downs with one in­ter­cep­tion. In three of the last four games, Fitz­patrick has driven the Jets to a win in the fi­nal two min­utes of reg­u­la­tion or over­time.

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