Todd Bowles and the New York Jets will look to take down the undefeated New England Patriots this weekend in Foxborough. Can they do it?
By Jeff Jarboe
When Rex Ryan came to New York back in 2008, he immediately won over the hearts of Jet fans when he told them in the preseason he’s “not here to kiss Bill Belichick’s rings.”
The Super Bowl guarantees were a bit much, but sticking it to Belichick on the day he arrived in New York made the New York Jets fan base excited and hopeful that a new era was about to begin.
Rex would go on to win his first matchup against big bad Bill at home on Sept. 20, 2009, marking the franchise’s first win at home against the Patriots since 2000.
Over the years though, Rex struggled against Belichick as so many coaches do, finishing with a 4-9 record.
Now, six years later, Ryan’s replacement, Todd Bowles, will try to win the hearts of Jet fans over as he leads the 4-1 New York Jets into Foxborough to challenge the 5-0 division-leading New England Patriots.
And he’ll be doing it with a Jets team who is more talented and more balanced than any team Rex Ryan ever coached.
The defensive line features three first-round picks (Richardson, Wilkerson, Williams), the secondary features four (Revis, Cromartie, Pryor, Milliner), and through the first five games they rank first in total defense.
On the other side of the ball this Jets team has established a balanced offensive attack for the first time in years with veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick at the helm, and Chris Ivory pounding the rock in the backfield.
Ivory has been arguably the best running back in the league through the first five games, averaging 5.71 yards per carry and his success has opened things up for his teammates in the passing game – namely, Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker who have four touchdowns apiece.
Despite ranking first in total defense and eighth in total yards per game, Bowles’’s Jets are still the underdogs as they head into Foxborough to face Bill’s undefeated Pats, and rightfully so.
The Patriots have dominated their opponents in 2015 and seem like they (or at least Brady) are out to stick it to the rest of the league for the whole Deflategate scandal. Brady has been near flawless through five games, posting a 1,699/14/1 stat line and he continues to turn practice squad players like Dion Lewis into Pro-Bowl candidates.
However, what the 2015 Patriots don’t have that many of the Patriots teams Rex faced seemed to always have, is a strong defense.
New England currently ranks ninth in total defense, but that’s a misleading statistic. When you look closer you’ll notice they rank 15th in passing yards allowed per game, and 22nd in rush yards allowed.
If Bowles is going to earn his first win against Belichick it’s going to be because he exploits their mediocre defense by utilizing the power running game to open up the passing lanes for Fitzpatrick.
The one area in which the Patriots defense has thrived in this season has been getting to the quarterback. They rank third in the league with 19 sacks through five games, and will undoubtedly look to improve upon that number against the Jets.
If the Jets open the game with a spread passing attack and look to shred the Pats secondary, it’s not going to end well. Yes, the offensive line has played well on passing downs and yes, Fitzpatrick is the least-sacked quarterback through the first six weeks, but the Jets’ success in the passing game comes from their success on the ground.
Get Ivory going early, own the game clock, and when they start to stack the box is when you start to utilize play action and look downfield.
All of this is dependent however, on whether or not the defense is going to be able to stop Tom Brady.
Jets Defensive Coordinator Kacy Rodgers hit the nail on the head yesterday when he said, “they do a great job of attacking their particular opponent. What you saw against one team, you might not see the next team.”
This is the biggest challenge that Bill Belichick poses as a head coach, and it’s something that Rex always struggled with during his time with the Jets. His ability to put together a game plan both offensively and defensively, specific to the team he’s going up against is unmatched by any other coach in this league.
One week Brady might throw the ball 60 times, the next he might hand the ball off 30 times. One week Rob Gronkowski will have three touchdowns, and the next LeGarrette Blount will have three touchdowns.
Muhammad Wilkerson, Leonard Williams and Damon Harrison continue to dominate against the run, and with Sheldon Richardson back now Bowles has four beasts to attract double teams and open up lanes for those inside blitzes he loves so much.
New England’s offensive line is beat up with Nate Solder out for the year, and it showed against Dallas when Greg Hardy was getting in the backfield at will. If Bowles can hit on a few disguised blitzes and the front seven can pressure Brady consistently throughout the game, Revis and company will do the rest of the work in the secondary.
The problem is, Brady is a master at recognizing blitzes and he’s a master at adjusting to get the ball out quick to his playmakers. Revis is going to have to be in press coverage mode all game, because when Edelman gets the ball in his hands he’s a tough guy to tackle.
Beating Belichick isn’t easy, but it’s possible. For Bowles and the Jets this is just the next game on the schedule, but for the Jets fan base this game is everything. We’ll see if the rookie head coach can make them happy and hand the Pats their first loss of the year.
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