Cromartie, Jets' defense shut down Brady, Patriots
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Antonio Cromartie had nothing more to say about Tom Brady.
No trash talk, no expletives.
The New York Jets' chatty cornerback let his play speak for him this time, and coach Rex Ryan's big-talking defense followed his lead in a 28-21 win over the New England Patriots on Sunday to advance to the AFC title game.
"We came here, got a victory in a tough place, in a very hostile place," Cromartie said.
During a week of talking that turned nasty, Cromartie made it clear he can't stand Brady. Brady certainly won't be too fond of him, either — or the rest of the Jets' defense — after this one.
"If they got ticked off about what we say, then that's fine," linebacker Bart Scott said.
Ryan kicked things off the previous week when he praised Colts quarterback Peyton Manning, saying no one studies like him, even though Brady thinks he does. Then, Ryan said last Monday that this game against the Patriots was "personal" between him and Bill Belichick.
"I was dead wrong," Ryan said. "I thought it would come down to me and Belichick. Thank goodness it didn't. He won that battle like he always does. It came down to the players and assistant coaches and we won that battle."
Cromartie took the comments to another level of nastiness when he called Brady an expletive, while he and his coach accused the Patriots quarterback of showboating and pointing at their sideline after a late touchdown. When asked if he regretted his comments, a defiant Cromartie said no way.
Brady brushed off the comments, but they might sting a whole lot more now that he's going home after the Patriots' first playoff game for the second straight season.
So, did they say anything to each other on the field, face to face?
"No," Cromartie said. "Nothing was said."
Cromartie also took no extra pleasure in backing up anything he said.
"It's nothing about making a comment," Cromartie said. "Those were my thoughts. The game is over. We've moved on."
But, Scott was still harping on some of the things the Patriots said.
On Friday, he said Patriots receiver Wes Welker's "days in a uniform are numbered" after the Patriots wide receiver used several foot references — a shot at Ryan's foot-fetish video controversy — in a press conference.
Asked if he meant what he said, Scott didn't back down.
"I meant that I was going to try and take my helmet and try to ram it through his chest," Scott said.
Scott, who played for Ryan in Baltimore before joining the coach in New York, was offended by an opposing player making fun of his coach.
"I can take comments however I choose to," Scott said after the game. "That's my privilege. I took offense to it. I handled it that way and I stand behind my words. ... And if I get another opportunity, let him come through the middle and I'm going try to put him through the ground."
Ryan said this week would be different from the Jets' last visit to Gillette Stadium, an embarrassing 45-3 shellacking. He was right. And it was his defense, his pride and joy, that got the job done.
"It was an awesome game plan," defensive lineman Mike DeVito said. "Rex and (defensive coordinator) Mike Pettine put a great game plan together, switched everything up on them."
The Jets swarmed Brady all game, pressuring and frustrating him with five sacks and picking him off once — his first interception since Week 6.
"This is how we drew it up," cornerback Darrelle Revis said. "We got them into a lot of third downs."
And, New England couldn't convert on them consistently. The Patriots were 5 of 14 on third-down opportunities, and 0 for 2 on fourth down as Brady and the offense were pushed off the field.
"On offense, once we get going, we're unstoppable," Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch said. "But we never got going. They played a lot of zone. Coach Ryan did an excellent job of preparing them."
Cromartie, Revis and the rest of the defense kept the Patriots from making many big plays.
"When our defensive backs play like that," defensive end Shaun Ellis said, "we will win all the time."
The key was the defensive backs jamming the receivers at the line regularly and keeping them from getting too free.
"It's called putting your hands on them," Scott said. "Being physical with them and hitting them at the line and making them earn everything they get. You want to come across the middle, you have to pay the toll. You have to pay the price. There's no free access."
Brady's longest pass was a 37-yard lob to tight end Rob Gronkowski.
"You work on one thing every week and then they did something different," Welker said. "They played a little more zone than we expected, something different than what we were game planning for. But we made too many mistakes.
Cromartie then sealed the victory by recovering the Patriots' onside kick after New England made it 21-14 and returning it to the 25. He then put his finger up to his lip as if to shush the already-silent Gillette Stadium crowd.
Two plays later, Shonn Greene scored on a 16-yard touchdown run.
The numbers looked respectable: Brady threw for 299 yards and the offense rolled up 372 yards and had 26 first downs. But the Jets made the big plays.
Ellis sacked Brady twice, David Harris had nine tackles and a tone-setting early interception and the Jets' defense celebrated a solid effort.
"It's a tremendous feeling," Ellis said. "A lot of people didn't give us a chance."