Miami hosted undefeated Chicago that Monday night. Ryan was a ball boy for the Bears as his father, Buddy, coordinated of one of the most feared defenses in history. But not in that game. The scored 31 points by halftime and walloped the Bears, 38-24.
The loss registered as a blip in for the Bears, who won their next six games, including the championship against New England. Their Monday night meltdown served as a catalyst for their famous shuffle.
“I hope history repeats itself,” Ryan said Tuesday. “The goal of the Bears was to win the Super Bowl. And that’s our goal. Whether people like it or not, I really don’t care.”
Ryan is not suggesting his current defense compares to that of the 1985 Bears, a unit often cited among the best in league history, especially after the on Monday night. He is instead noting the parallels: the biggest of big games, late in the season, on the road, on national television, ending in complete embarrassment.
Those Bears and these have that in common.
“We stunk up the joint on defense, we stunk up the joint on offense, we were probably worse on coaching,” Ryan said. “It was a bad game.”
Ryan arrived at the Jets’ facility early Tuesday morning still at a loss to explain how his team played its worst game at the worst possible moment. Ryan went straight to work. Counterfeit contenders? He would show them.
In nearly two seasons under Ryan, the Jets have proved themselves nothing if not resilient. His first season nearly ended in a collapse all too familiar to the fan base, but the Jets, with help from the schedule, sneaked into the playoffs and advanced to the A.F.C. championship game.
This season, the Jets (9-3) have won three times for every game they have lost. But in four contests against teams with winning records, they have fallen three times, including 45-3 to the . Now, Ryan stares at another career-defining stretch.
For months, he praised his players, finding on his roster the league’s best cornerback (Darrelle Revis), best center (Nick Mangold) and best play-making wide receiver (Santonio Holmes), among many, many other proclaimed bests, including even the best backup tackle (Wayne Hunter). He positioned the Jets as villains, heels, and with every victory, with every boast and every best, he heightened their potential fall.
Now, he must prove that his words were more than that, more than a misguided belief in the talent on his team. He must prove that these Jets are not the Jets of 2008, or 2000, or 1997. Their response will serve as a referendum on his philosophy, and on his highly praised coaching and motivational skills.
Inside a relatively subdued locker room on Monday night, linebacker Bart Scott acknowledged that a large segment of the N.F.L. probably enjoyed watching the Jets consume crow. If the Patriots had run the score up, what did it matter? The blustery Jets had answered, atypically, with silence.
“Frankly, we don’t care,” Scott said. “We are who we are. We just lost a huge game that would have set us up, but this is a group with wide shoulders. I’m not going to flinch. We’re not going to flinch.”
Added fullback Tony Richardson: “If you put yourself out there, and you’re not able to back it up, people can say whatever they want about you.”
The final quarter of the schedule affords the Jets an opportunity for redemption as well as collapse. Their choice. They host Miami on Sunday, then travel to Pittsburgh and Chicago on consecutive weekends, three tough games, three weeks in a row. They end the season by hosting Buffalo.
They entered their game against the Patriots tied for the conference’s top playoff seed and exited Foxborough, Mass., in Position No. 5, with Baltimore, a team that topped the Jets in the season opener, only a game behind. Of course, New England (10-2), despite its blowout victory, sits only a game ahead. Such is the wacky world of N.F.L., where standings shift drastically each week, this year in particular.
As Ryan noted, as the Chicago Bears proved in 1985, one game does not a season make. Even one as embarrassing as the game the Jets last played.
“That’s the best thing about it,” wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery said Monday. “We don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves. If we want to prove the type of team we are, if we want to back up all our talk, there’s still time, against good teams, to do that.”