- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Go ahead, hate the New York Jets. They're not the most lovable team, and they know it. They talk a lot, curse a lot and they think they're better than everybody else. But say this about them:
Beneath that puffed-out chest is a big heart. Yeah, that's right, the reality-TV stars have as much substance as shtick, and they proved it Sunday with a 28-14 victory over the New England Patriots at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
In a critical Week 2 game, without star cornerback Darrelle Revis for the entire second half, the Jets rose up from a bad week and a bad first quarter with the kind of performance that can change a season. They showed resilience, overcoming injuries and deficits and turning Randy Moss into a second-half slouch.
"This team," Rex Ryan said proudly after beating Bill (Rings) Belichick for the second time in three tries, "is a lot tougher than people think."
Let's be honest, the Jets didn't deserve anyone's respect after last Monday night's horrendous showing, and they were criticized by everyone from Tedy Bruschi to Terrell Owens, both of whom ripped Mark Sanchez. Even Joe Namath, the Jets' patron saint of optimism, piled on, dumping on Braylon Edwards, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and everything green.
"With 'Hard Knocks' and the way we go about our business, a lot of people are going to be hating on our team," tackle Damien Woody said matter-of-factly. "That's fine. Like Rex says, we enjoy being the villain."
The cynics had to be smiling when Moss escaped Revis Island for a one-handed, 34-yard touchdown catch with 53 seconds left in the second quarter, giving the Patriots a 14-7 lead. It was the double-whammy hammy: Not only did he get beat, which happens about as often as Ryan says "no comment," but Revis pulled his troublesome left hamstring and didn't return.
Without Revis, you had to figure Tom Brady, who passed for 179 yards in the first half, was going to finish with at least four bills. When the Jets got to the locker room at halftime, there was no sign of Revis. They knew he was finished for the day, but there were no "Win-it-for-Darrelle" speeches. His name didn't come up, according to linebacker Bart Scott.
It was just business.
"Drew, you're in," one of the coaches called out.
And that was that.
Without Revis, backup cornerback Drew Coleman was thrust into the sub package. Antonio Cromartie was assigned to cover Moss, and look what happened: Cromartie, Mr. Finesse, got physical with Moss and held him to zero catches in the second half. Cromartie also made an interception while covering Moss on a deep ball.
Slouch that, Randy
The defense, already down nose tackle Kris Jenkins and linebacker Calvin Pace, made Brady look like Sanchez (Week 1). In the second half, the $72 million quarterback completed only 7 of 16 passes for 69 yards. That the Jets did it without Revis, who watched on TV from the trainer's room, was almost incomprehensible.
"We couldn't run it, we couldn't throw it, we just sucked," said Brady, providing music to Ryan's ears.
Ryan constantly preaches a "Next man up" mentality, and it was tested. Safety Eric Smith went out temporarily with an injury, but Brodney Pool came in and made an interception. Center Nick Mangold missed a series with a bum right shoulder, and Rob Turner came in for a seamless transition. The result was a six-play, 70-yard touchdown drive, ending with the second of Sanchez's three touchdown passes.
Next man up.
"We know Belichick is a champion and, if he sees a broken wing, he goes at it," Scott said.
The Jets were broken, all right. Belichick tried to attack an undermanned secondary, but the Jets' coaches made smart halftime adjustments. Instead of blitzing, they dropped more in pass coverage, befuddling Brady. In fact, the Jets rushed fewer than five players on two-thirds of Brady's pass attempts, and he went 10-for-21 with two interceptions against a conventional rush, according to ESPN Stats & Information.
"We used every DB known to man," Ryan said.
The biggest day belonged to Sanchez, who overcame a week from hell. His world was rocked after Monday night, and there was a whole lot of nasty being said about the young quarterback. He responded with the best passing game of his career, galvanizing an offense that needed a leader.
A desperate team needs hope from the quarterback, and the Jets got that from Sanchez. But there were other leaders who stood up, spreading the Ryan doctrine. All week, he convinced his team that last week wasn't as bad as the outside world made it appear.
"You would've thought we lost a Super Bowl and the whole world was crashing down," Woody said.
In the crucible of a virtual must-win, facing the great Brady, the Jets displayed resolve. Guard Brandon Moore called it "just a huge win. To be able to come back after all the stuff that was said last week some teams would've tanked it and felt bad for themselves, embarrassed. We stayed confident."
If they had lost? They would've been in an 0-2 hole, listening to another week of ridicule. Scott said they would've been egged by fans at the grocery store. The Jets proved something Sunday. Go ahead, hate them. But respect them, too.
3dEric D. Williams
2dMel Kiper Jr.