BALTIMORE (AP) — Boisterous New York Jets coach Rex Ryan and feisty linebacker Bart Scott are preparing to face their former team, the Baltimore Ravens, so let the trash-talking and name-calling begin.
Nope. That was so last year.
There’s no question that Ryan, Scott, safety Jim Leonhard and wide receiver Derrick Mason are motivated to beat the Ravens on Sunday night. All four spent much time in Baltimore, and it’s unlikely they will receive welcome-back cheers from the crowd at sold out M&T Bank Stadium.
But New York’s objective this week was to correct its flawed performance in last week’s 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders. Besides, the real grudge match occurred last season, when Ryan and the Jets lost 10-9 at home. For this one, the Jets (2-1) are all business.
“I think the last time when we opened up the season, I think I was feeling it then,” Ryan said. “Now, maybe after the defeat (against Oakland) or whatever, our focus has been on our football team and getting better.”
Scott, who never met a microphone he didn’t like, was equally vanilla about facing a team he played with for seven years before leaving to join Ryan in New York.
“I mean, we danced this dance a little bit over a year ago,” Scott said. “I expect it to be pretty much the same. You know, friends off the field but opponents on the field. And we have an obligation to ourselves and to our teams to try and get a victory. It’s more important about trying to get a win other than worrying about who played where, who coached where. It’s not about that.”
No doubt. This game took on added importance for the Jets after they gave up 234 yards rushing to the Raiders, including 171 to Darren McFadden. If they can’t handle Ravens Pro Bowl running back Ray Rice, the Jets run the risk of bringing a 2-2 record into next week’s game at New England.
“Oh my gosh. We have to get it fixed, I know that,” Ryan said of his suddenly flawed defense. “I don’t think we’re the 31st run defense in the league,” Scott insisted, “but that’s what our stats are, so I guess we are.
But we know better than that.” The Ravens (2-1) intend to find out. Although Joe Flacco passed for a career-high 389 yards last week in a 37-7 rout of the Rams, and despite the fact that rookie Torrey Smith caught three touchdown passes and amassed 152 yards receiving, Baltimore will almost certainly seek to unleash Rice against the Jets. And he can’t wait to go at it.
“As a running back, you sort of lick your chops when a guy goes for 170 yards,” Rice said. “But at the same time, we’re playing the Jets, so we know they’re going to come in here amped up ready to play.”
So are the Ravens, who have thus far vacillated between outstanding and stunningly awful. After beating the defending AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers 35-7 in the opener, Baltimore fell flat in a 26-13 defeat at Tennessee before hammering the Rams.
Now comes the Jets, and the Ravens are more interested in beating a strong AFC foe than shutting up a few old friends.
“It’s a conference home game, it’s against a team that’s going to be in the playoffs,” coach John Harbaugh said. “This game is going to matter at the end; it’s going to mean a lot.”
And, although Ryan has been pretty good at keeping his mouth shut this week, he will never forget that the Ravens selected Harbaugh as coach before the 2008 season instead of promoting him from defensive coordinator. One year later, Ryan left to guide the Jets.
Not only did Ryan lose last year to Baltimore, but the Ravens also beat the Jets in a preseason game. Of course, Ryan had a retort.
“We haven’t won the AFC Championship game, but we have gotten there two years in a row. The Ravens haven’t,” he said. “You could throw that one right back at them.”
Naturally, in an effort to rekindle the annual war of words between the teams, Baltimore reporters immediately told linebacker Ray Lewis about Ryan’s comment.
“Wow. The only response I can ever have for that is he was sitting in the same place I was sitting watching the Super Bowl,” Lewis said. “He had to be, because he wasn’t in it. That’s the only thing you can ever talk about. I don’t care how far you go.”
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)