‘Man, it’s going to be a bloodbath’
Former coach stands between Jets, playoffs
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.