Jets bury ball, put Patriots game to bed

Updated: December 9, 2010, 3:29 PM ET
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Instead of holding his Wednesday morning team meeting in the usual place -- the auditorium -- New York Jets coach Rex Ryan brought his team outside for some fresh air. And a not-so-subtle message.

The players didn't know where they were going. As they exited the building, Darrelle Revis wondered if it was going to be a surprise field trip. Antonio Cromartie, wearing flip-flops, was concerned about his feet getting cold. After all, it was about 30 degrees at 8:45 a.m. ET. Santonio Holmes, figuring Ryan was up to a motivational ploy, told a teammate, "Something good is going to come out of this."

They were headed to a funeral -- "a funeral for a football," Revis would say later.

Ryan gathered his players around a hole in the ground, just off a grass practice field, and placed a football into the earth -- a game ball from Monday night's embarrassing 45-3 loss to the New England Patriots.

According to some players, Ryan said, "We're burying this game and all that happened Monday night."

With that, the Jets interred the memory of their most lopsided defeat in nearly a quarter century -- or so they hope.

The hole was filled with dirt and covered with patches of sod. They skipped the tombstone. In two days, the Jets went from ripped to R.I.P.

Give Ryan points for creativity. Revis said it might have been Ryan's best motivational tactic ever. Several players said they'd never witnessed anything like it in football.

"I've never seen a coach do that," Revis said. "We all got the point. Usually, in the past, you hear a coach say, 'Let's bury this' and you have to visualize it. When you actually see it, you're like, 'Wow, this is serious.'"

Patriots coach Bill Belichick also did something similar after a loss to the Miami Dolphins in 2001.

The Jets (9-3) are at a critical point in their season. They took a four-game winning streak into New England, billing it as the game of the year, but they were overwhelmed mentally and physically by the Patriots. It was the kind of beatdown that can shatter a team's confidence.

Ryan said he's not worried about his team's psyche, yet he felt compelled to address the New England debacle as the Jets began preparations for Sunday's home game against the Dolphins (6-6).

"When he asked us to go outside, I knew the message was going to touch everybody," Holmes said. "I liked it, just the fact that he called us up and told us to come follow him. ... What he did today was something that grabbed everyone's attention."

Said Revis, "Everybody was just shocked. Nobody said anything."

That was the theme of the day -- turning the page. The players were off Tuesday, so this was their first meeting since the Monday night massacre. As a team, the Jets didn't bother to review the tape of the game, although many players watched it on their own. It didn't get any better the second or third time.

Ryan was relatively subdued in his news conference. After expressing equal parts defiance and humility Tuesday, he preferred to look ahead, not back.

"We're not going to dwell on this loss the rest of the season," he said. "We got beat. It is what it is. We're moving on."

It was the Jets' most lopsided loss since a 45-3 loss to the Dolphins in 1986, and it may have cost them a division title and a home game in the playoffs.

On Tuesday, Ryan compared his team's plight to that of the legendary 1985 Chicago Bears, who lost a late-season Monday night game and went on to win the Super Bowl.

Of course, that team finished 15-1 and is recognized as one of the greatest defensive teams in history.

Ryan received criticism for that comparison. On Wednesday, he toned it down, mentioning the 2008 Arizona Cardinals as a team that faced a similar plight. That year, the Cards suffered a 40-point loss to the Patriots in Week 16 and came within a circus catch by Holmes of beating the Pittsburgh Steelers in the Super Bowl.

The Jets have been resilient under Ryan, but they've never had to recover from a loss this decisive.

"You can't let it beat you," defensive tackle Trevor Pryce said, commenting on possible residual effects. "Don't ever stare at a bully and blink. This team is not going to blink, I promise you that."

Instead of relying on words, Ryan took action, shoveling dirt on a ball and a game in the Jet Cemetery.

Rich Cimini covers the Jets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. Follow him on Twitter.

Rich Cimini

ESPN New York Jets reporter

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