A few months ago Rex Ryan put out the call around the league for other teams to help his New York Jets by defeating the New England Patriots. Gang Green's goal this season was to win their division and get a home playoff game, and they would need help, as the Patriots would need to lose more than the two games they play against the . Of course, that clarion call turned out to be one more piece of bluster by the master of bluster, as the Jets couldn't take care of business themselves, losing both games they played against New England this season, and getting walloped this past Sunday night to boot. Most of Ryan's chatter is harmless entertainment, but one statement after another keeps getting thrown back in his face. He continues to write checks his team can't cash. Super Bowl guarantees, empty predictions and outlandish statements lay like so much trash on the side of the New Jersey Turnpike.
The first loss to the Patriots back in October laid the groundwork for the team's mini-resurgence. They chucked the chuck-and-duck philosophy and went back to ground and pound, or at least a more balanced attack. But on Sunday night, everything went wrong. The team was terrible in all three phases of the game. Mark Sanchez threw a pair of interceptions and called an ill-advised timeout that Ryan labeled "the stupidest play in NFL history," Nick Folk missed a sure-thing field goal, the defense dropped a few should-have-been interceptions, Joe McKnight muffed a punt and on and on. They even didn't fare so well health-wise, as LaDainian Tomlinson and Jeremy Kerley both suffered knee injuries. There were some good things -- Jamaal Westerman pressuring Tom Brady into a safety, Santonio Holmes produced (six catches, 93 yards), Plaxico Burress caught another touchdown pass, David Harris ran all over the field making tackles -- but obviously none of that was enough to come out on top.
"I apologize to our fans," Ryan said after the game, speaking about his team's performance. And he had to apologize again for a different reason, when he tossed an expletive at a fan while heading to the locker room. Ryan was successful in getting a few other teams to do some of the dirty work for him, when the Steelers, Bills and New York defeated New England. And everything was set up for the Jets to take control of the division. Unfortunately, Ryan couldn't get his own team to rise to the challenge. Dustin Keller didn't turn out to be a prophet when, in the week leading up to the game, he declared, "We're going to win this game." But that loss didn't stop the Jets from continuing to be the Jets. This week Ryan said, in responding to Bill Belichick's alleged own cursing, "It's something I'll bring up to him after we beat them in the playoffs again this year." And Matt Slauson chimed in "We know if we play like us, [the Patriots] would have no shot." At least they don't have any trouble putting a loss behind them and moving on to the next game. Or the next prediction.
And now on to the other top stories of the week in the world of New York sports.
The Old College Try: The Jets didn't have much time to lick their wounds or wallow in their embarrassing loss to their biggest rival, as they had to face the Broncos and the NFL's biggest lightning rod in Tim Tebow only four days later. With the unorthodox quarterback behind center, Denver now is forced to run a college-option-type offense, of which Broncos coach John Fox stated this week, "If we were trying to run a regular offense, he'd be screwed." The Jets kind of tried that way back in 1976 when Lou Holtz brought his rah-rah collegiate style to New York. Holtz rotated Richard Todd and Joe Namath in and out of games, with Todd used whenever the coach wanted to run an option-type play. Of course, the Jets finished 3-11 that year, and they didn't win their first game until Holtz let Namath play a full game and go back to calling his own plays, so that plan didn't quite work out. Let's fast-forward to Thursday night, and both offenses resembled the '76 Jets, or maybe the 1928 Pottsville Maroons, in Denver's 17-13 win. The Jets even went back into their past in a different way and tried the old fake spike play, which didn't fool the Broncos. And Gang Green's whole offense didn't fool Denver either. Sanchez threw another pick six. Though Joe McKnight did a decent job filling in, Shonne Greene having to leave the game and Tomlinson missing it altogether made their task that much harder. Even when the offense finally moved down field with ease to open the second half, they scored their only touchdown by accident, when Slauson fell on a fumble. As for the defense, they had a great game plan and executed it masterfully, with their big linemen stuffing the middle and the speed guys taking care of the outside, thwarting Tebow all night long. Until the last drive, that is, when the Bronco quarterback did it once again, rushing his way to another game-winning touchdown, and handing the Jets a devastating loss. Rex Ryan could only shake his head on the sidelines because, after spending 56 minutes showing the world how to stop the unique, controversial QB, he knew he'd just been Tebow'd.
One Play Short: The New York Giants were wholly confident that they would march down field at the end of the fourth quarter and put seven points on the board to tie the game, just as they've done so many times before during the season. The San Francisco 49ers, on the other hand, were just as confident that their league-best red-zone defense would come up with a big stop and go on to victory, just as they've done so many times before during the season. One of those two sure things would have to budge. And it turned out it was the 49ers who had the one big play in them, as they thwarted the Giants on a fourth-down pass attempt, and won 27-20. The Giants have thrived in a come-from-behind, never-count-them-out style of play in 2011, but it wasn't to be this time around. Beginning with last week's Patriots game, their schedule is a nightmare, and they weren't expected to roll the table on all the playoff-caliber teams they have to face, so this loss wasn't too surprising. But will it be just a small bump in the second-half road, or will the one word that every person associated with the Giants is already sick of hearing rear its ugly head again? Of course that word is "collapse." While there was some bad in this game (two Eli Manning interceptions, a 29-yard Steve Weatherford punt, a blown coverage that led to a touchdown, a dropped pass by a wide-open Victor Cruz, having to settle for too many field goals and succumbing to a perfectly placed onside kick), there was also some good (Manning's two perfect touchdown throws and 65 percent passing, Mario Manningham's and Hakeem Nicks' perfectly caught touchdown receptions, Corey Webster's interception and three-play sequence near the end zone that stopped the 49ers from scoring, Antrel Rolle's solid game), so this wasn't exactly a late-game collapse, where one gets that "here we go again" feeling, as overtime was only half an inch away from Manningham's outstretched fingertips. It's bounce-back time against the Eagles, though, this Sunday night, and Michael Vick might not be there to enjoy the rivalry game. Though Michael Boley might not be there as well. But the Giants surely are used to playing without key members of the team by now, so it will be business as usual for them. And no one will let them forget last season's debacle against Philadelphia, so they'll need to win just to stop people from using that damn word again.
Seven and Counting: The New York Hurricanes and new Garden villain Eric Staal, who was booed every time he touched the puck. And on Tuesday, it was the usual Rangers-New York Islanders battle at Nassau Coliseum, with the Blueshirts hanging on and hanging in thanks to Henrik Lundqvist making saves with his mask, sprawled out on the ice and every which way he could, finally taking the lead for good on a late, clutch Brad Richards goal. When the Rangers were struggling early in the year, we were pining for them to play like last year's edition, but after 16 games, at least statistically, this year's model is slightly better -- they're scoring 2.93 goals a game compared to 2.84, giving up 2.13 goals to 2.41 and killing penalties at an 87.69 percent rate to 83.66 percent. It's the power play that needs work, as they're at 13.43 percent compared to the 16.90 percent of last season, and they couldn't produce yet again on a 5-on-3 against the Islanders. The Rangers aren't perfect, but they just keep on winning, one way or another, with everybody chipping in, from Sean Avery to Steve Eminger to Jeff Woywitka.only played two games this week, but they won them both to extend their winning streak to seven games. On Friday, they used a third-period four-goal explosion (including Brandon Dubinsky's first goal of the year) to defeat the
Getting Better: The Islanders' season was summed up by Jack Capuano after Tuesday's game against the Rangers when he said, "The puck's just not going in." Well, maybe it can be summed like this, too: If they play like they do vs. the Rangers against everybody else, the Islanders would be a different team. Lundqvist kept the Isles from winning Tuesday's game (though Evgeni Nabokov almost matched him save for save), and despite the Rangers' goalie's efforts, the Islanders were one Josh Bailey turnover away from at least gaining a point. But they put it all together on Thursday, defeating the Canadiens, 4-3. It was touch-and-go at the end, but the offense was there, with the secondary scoring Capuano's been craving (Jay Pandolfo's first of the year and 100th of his career, a rare even-strength goal from a defenseman, with Mark Streit poking the puck in the net), and Rick DiPietro relieving an injured Nabokov and being just good enough to win it. They went from awful in their 4-1 loss to the Canucks on Sunday to good but with no result vs. the Rangers to a well-earned two points against Montreal.
Fighting Spirit: Speaking of not scoring, the New Jersey Devils have been in the same boat as the Islanders, although they've been getting better results, points-wise. They battled through a home-and-home against the Capitals, losing the first one (Adam Larsson notched his first NHL goal, though he got steamrolled by Washington along the way) but coming back to win the second. They showed their resolve again, by recovering from a 4-3 loss to Boston on Tuesday, when they were outshot by the Bruins 18-6 in the third period, by producing their best offensive game of the year with their 5-3 victory over the Sabres the following night. Ilya Kovalchuk returned to the lineup and his presence paid immediate dividends, as the Devils scored more than three goals for the first time all year (without the help of empty-netters and shootouts). They've now won five of their last seven.
Hot Stove Hodgepodge: There were no big stories for the New York Yankees and New York Mets this week, just minor news. Ivan Nova finished in fourth place in the Rookie of the Year voting, while CC Sabathia also came in fourth for the Cy Young. The Yanks signed LHP Mike O'Connor to a minor-league deal. And Brian Cashman isn't letting Jesus Montero play winter ball as a safety precaution, as he feels the catcher got enough at-bats over the summer and doesn't want to chance an injury. As for the Mets, false rumors of Jose Reyes signing with Miami were squashed, but he was believed to have received a six-year contract offer in the neighborhood of $90 million from the Marlins to open the proceedings. It doesn't look like Reyes will get "Carl Crawford money" (Carl Crawford shouldn't have gotten "Carl Crawford money"), but if this is the opening bid with years/money skyrocketing from here, things may get too rich for the Mets (though if nobody else jumps in, the Mets may yet have a chance). Signs are pointing to the team tendering contracts to Mike Pelfrey and Angel Pagan, but they lost Jason Pridie to the A's and Nick Evans and Taylor Buchholz to free agency. And the Mets held a press conference announcing plans for next season's 50th-anniversary celebration, and it appears they'll be doing things the right way for a change (meanwhile, the poor Astros will honor their half century of existence by getting kicked out of the National League). Banner day will be brought back (will it turn into an Occupy Citi Field situation, though?), a new commemorative logo was unveiled, each decade of the franchise's history will be celebrated with a bobblehead giveaway of players past (Tom Seaver will be first, in April) and the team will wear home pinstripe uniforms inspired by the old 1962 threads, with no black dropshadow, and road grays for most games, with all-white homes and black jerseys worn sparingly. They may not finish ahead of the Marlins in the standings but at least they'll look better than them.
Gunshot of the Week: If the Giants are sick of hearing the word "collapse" they also don't want to hear the words "gunshot," "Giants wide receiver" and "nightclub" in the same sentence. Unfortunately, those words were strung together this week when Victor Cruz was an innocent bystander when shots were fired at a Chelsea club. Fortunately, he was not injured or involved in any way. But, unfortunately, there was a victim.
Quote of the Week: The Jets do so much trash talking that when one of their players actually says something nice about another person, it causes heads to turn. Earlier this week Antonio Cromartie, of all people (yes, the same guy who once called Tom Brady an a-hole), had this to say about Tebow: "The biggest thing that stands out to me is a guy that's outspoken about his Christianity. Actually, I think we need more men to be more like that. I think the world would be a whole lot better." Tebow answered back in kind: "Well, I think that's very nice of him to say." I'm not sure, but I think the world just spun off its axis.
And that's the New York week that was.