Mike Pettine careful not to 'chase ghosts'

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
5:50
PM ET
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- Two years ago, faced with yet another matchup between the New York Jets and New England Patriots, Bill Belichick delivered a quote that could also describe Sunday's game between the Jets and Buffalo Bills.

"It’s one of those deals where they know that we know that we know that they know that we know," Belichick said.

Bills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine and Jets head coach Rex Ryan worked together for 11 seasons. They know each other all too well. They run the same defense.

[+] EnlargeMike Pettine and Rex Ryan
AP Photo/David DrapkinBills defensive coordinator Mike Pettine coached with coach Rex Ryan for 11 seasons with the Jets and Ravens.
So when it comes to trying to outmaneuver each other at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Pettine has inserted a new buzz term into the vocabulary at One Bills Drive: "Chasing ghosts."

With over 10 years worth of shared terminology and scheme, Pettine emphasized that it becomes even harder to anticipate what Ryan will try to do. In short, it's not even worth it.

"You tighten that material down into a 30- or 40-call game plan and it's hard for me to try to ... you're just chasing ghosts when you say you might see that, or might see this," Pettine said. "It just comes down to execution. You have to get your plays lined up and play sound and hope that your guys can outexecute their guys."

Pettine added that he and Ryan built the defense in such a way that it adapts to personnel, so what Pettine does with the Bills' players may be different than what he did in New York.

"The strength of the system is the ability to make it player-driven," he said. "Like what we've done here, where I wouldn't say significantly different than what we did in New York, but we are different, just based on the personnel that we have here, just as his personnel has changed slightly in New York and he has adjusted his system accordingly.

"Again, I just think you get into a lot of chasing ghosts if you just try to sit on the other side and say 'OK, this is what you're going to get.'"

Bills center Eric Wood isn't coached by Pettine and said he hasn't talked to the defensive coordinator this week, but that term still made its way into Wood's comments Wednesday.

"I'm sure he's talked to our coaches," Wood said. "But sometimes when you discuss too much, it can sometimes lead you to chase ghosts. Rex knows that Pettine knows some of his calls and knows his schemes. So he won't let that affect it."

Pettine also downplayed how much offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett can benefit from Pettine's experience.

"I've talked to Nate some, but it's probably not as much as you'd think. I think you can get caught up in this too much," he said.

Ryan said this week that he and Pettine are like "brothers," but Pettine said Wednesday that he is trying to keep his focus away from that part of the game, as hard as that can be.

"I'd be a liar if I stood here and said this game didn't mean more to me or I didn't want to win it. Coaches in the NFL I think were born with a competitive gene, a hyper-competitive gene, and you want to win at everything," he said. "I can't get drawn into the emotion of that. I have a job to do to put my players in the best position to be successful and that's what we're going to do."

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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