If Rex Ryan is fired by the Jets on Black Monday, he might be getting calls from other teams looking for a coach.
He should also be getting calls from the teams that will face the Patriots in the playoffs. Coaching what might be his final home game with the Jets, Ryan summoned a strong defensive effort from his 3-11 team that kept them in the hunt for a win into the final minutes. For the second time this year, though, a play on special teams by the Patriots helped seal their fate.
Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork appeared to get part of a finger on Nick Folk’s 52-yard field goal try in the fourth quarter and Folk, who had a kick blocked at the buzzer in New England earlier this year, saw his kick fall short. The Patriots ran clock from there and left MetLife Stadium with a 17-16 victory that clinched a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
Ryan should be getting calls from potential Patriots foes to pick his brain about keeping the Patriots to 231 yards while sacking Tom Brady four times. It was a physical, impressive effort by the defense that looked like it might pay off with an upset win when Marcus Williams picked off a pass that Brady threw under duress in the fourth quarter.
The Jets wound up moving backward when Dont’a Hightower sacked Geno Smith after a blown protection, though, and Folk’s field goal went awry to confirm another loss in what looks like Ryan’s final season. Smith didn’t play a terrible game at all, completing 17-of-27 passes for 210 yards and a touchdown to go with the interception that set up New England’s go-ahead score, but, as was often the case in Ryan’s tenure, the offense wasn’t up to the task on a day when the defense brought the fire.
Brady was 23-of-35 for 182 yards and the Patriots found some success on short, quick passes that negated the Jets pass rush. That worked infrequently, though, and it was a rough day for the offense. Wide receiver Julian Edelman, running back LeGarrette Blount and guard Dan Connelly were all out, which may have contributed to a performance that probably won’t cut it against better competition. There’s time to tweak things, especially if the Bengals can help the Patriots out by eliminating the Broncos from the race for the top seed in the AFC.