Thursday, October 15, 2009

Dolphins ran over Jets and humbled Ryan

The way Miami runs it, the "Wildcat" formation is no gimmick. It's a straight power running game, and a defense better bring hard hats, work boots and sledgehammers or risk getting run over at the point of attack the way the Jets did in their 31-27 loss to the Dolphins on Monday night.

A week earlier, you could hear the confidence in the voice of Jets coach Rex Ryan when he suggested the Fish were beating up conventional defenses, but it would be a different story against his blitzing schemes. But as he watched the Dolphins run through his pride and joy to regain the lead for the third time in the fourth quarter alone, Ryan was in such a state of disbelief that he neglected to use his timeouts to stop the clock and leave time for his offense to respond.

When Miami's Ronnie Brown ran past Jets linebacker Bart Scott for the winning touchdown, only six seconds remained on the clock. Looking back, Ryan admitted to reporters in a conference call Tuesday afternoon, "I would have handled it differently. But I do have a lot of confidence in that group. I assumed we'd stop them ... I should have been more mindful, but I knew we could stop them."

Except the Jets didn't come close to stopping the Dolphins in the fourth quarter. Ryan said he could recall something like that happening to his powerful Baltimore defense once against Cincinnati. "I'm mad," he said. "That's unacceptable…Absolutely, it was a humbling experience."

A little dose of humility for Ryan and a serving of anger directed toward his defense in practice this week might turn out to be the best thing that could happen to the 3-2 Jets, who were full of themselves after a 3-0 start that included a win over New England. Now, they're in a tough division race with the Patriots and Dolphins and have a division game coming up against Buffalo on Sunday at home.

Ryan plans to ask his team to go full speed in practice for a better picture and better preparation. What he needs to ask from his defense is a greater commitment to physical play.

Just loading up to blitz by scheming to create a numbers advantage isn't enough. The Jets haven't sacked a quarterback in two weeks, which is one reason a backup like Chad Henne was able to look as good as New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees did a week earlier. They might get the ball away quickly, but somebody has to get enough pressure to hit them in the act.

Same thing against the run. Ryan noted the Dolphins' 151 rushing yards actually were more than 30 yards below their average. The "Wildcat" is a version of the old single-wing and is effective because the quarterback is replaced by an extra blocker at the point of attack. Ryan was loathe to admit that the Dolphins' offensive line flat-out handled the Jets defensive line physically, but that's exactly what happened. They got pounded on Miami's winning drive, and that has to change.

On the bright side, wide receiver Braylon Edwards dazzled a few days after the traded that brought him to the Jets, and rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez bounced back from a bad game, though he often holds the ball too long while searching for a receiver. But as heartening as that might be, the Jets are going nowhere unless their defense backs up Ryan's bluster.

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That means winning the physical battles that were lost in Miami. Ryan's guys better work it out the next two weeks against the Bills and out in Oakland because they have less than three weeks until the rematch with the Dolphins at the Meadowlands.

As Ryan said, "This is a setback. We take one step back to make a huge leap forward. The proof will be in the pudding to see how we perform these next several weeks."


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