COLUMN By RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News firstname.lastname@example.org |
Column by RICK GOSSELIN / The Dallas Morning News | email@example.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - Rex Ryan built the best defense in the NFL in a span of one year as coach of the New York Jets.
Ravens tight end Todd Heap makes a diving catch in front of Jets safety Jim Leonhard. Baltimore's defense held the Jets to 176 yards and one third-down conversion. " width="175" height="132" onclick="return clickedImage(this);" alt="BILL KOSTROUN/The Associated Press" src="http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/img/v3/09-14-2010.ns_14JetsRavens.GGF2SLAUB.1.jpg" onmouseover=" this.style.cursor='hand'"> BILL KOSTROUN/The Associated Press Ravens tight end Todd Heap makes a diving catch in front of Jets safety Jim Leonhard. Baltimore's defense held the Jets to 176 yards and one third-down conversion.
Ryan also left behind a pretty good defense in Baltimore - and the Ravens reminded their former defensive coordinator just how good Monday night.
The Ravens rode a suffocating defensive performance to a 10-9 victory over the Jets. But the game wasn't nearly as close as the score.
The Jets reached the AFC title game last season and were featured on the HBO series Hard Knocks this summer. The Jets were a popular preseason choice to reach their first Super Bowl since the 1968 season.
The Jets were loading up for a one-year Super Bowl run in 2010. They traded for wide receiver Santonio Holmes, the MVP of the 2009 Super Bowl. They traded for a veteran Pro Bowl cornerback in Antonio Cromartie and used a first-round draft pick on cornerback Kyle Wilson.
The Jets also signed a couple of legendary all-decade picks from the 2000s, former NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson and former NFL Defensive Player of the Year Jason Taylor.
But the backbone of New York's Super Bowl hopes was a defense that allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL last season. So America expected to see great defense when ESPN pointed its television cameras at the new Meadowlands field Monday night.
And America did see great defense - from the Ravens.
Baltimore allowed the Jets only six first downs and 176 yards. The Jets did not convert a third down until the final minute. They finished 1-for-11.
New York did kick three field goals to keep the score close. But the points were deceiving. The Jets drove just 6 yards for that first field goal after recovering a Joe Flacco fumble on Baltimore's opening possession at the Ravens' 11.
Punt returns of 32 and 22 yards by Jim Leonhard gave the Jets favorable field position for their next two field goals. Nick Folk's second field goal in the second quarter followed a 27-yard drive, and his third field goal in the third quarter capped a 5-yard drive.
"We weren't at our best today, and that's a credit to the Ravens," Ryan said. "I know we can get better. We have to get better."
Ryan served as a defensive assistant with the Ravens from 1999-2008, including the final four seasons as coordinator. His Ravens led the NFL in defense in 2006 and finished in the top five two other times.
In his first season as head coach of the Jets in 2009, Ryan took his defense to No. 1 in the rankings again. But the Ravens didn't collapse on defense with Ryan's departure. Baltimore allowed the third-fewest yards and third-fewest points last season.
It was the Jets' defense that collapsed Monday night. New York led the NFL in pass defense a year ago, and Ryan believed he upgraded his secondary with the addition of Cromartie and Wilson.
But Cromartie was flagged for four coverage penalties for 43 yards and Wilson for two coverage penalties and 27 yards. Joe Flacco completed passes of 38 yards to Anquan Boldin, 27 to both Boldin and T.J. Houshmandzadeh and 25 to tight end Todd Heap.
The Jets were penalized only 88 times last season, 11th fewest in the NFL. But they were flagged 14 times for 125 yards Monday night. The most damaging penalty came on special teams.
Billy Cundiff kicked a 46-yard field goal to cut the New York lead to 6-3 in the second quarter. But Braylon Edwards was penalized 5 yards for running into the kicker. That gave the Ravens a first down, and they went on to score the game's only touchdown.