FOXBOROUGH — Earlier in the week, former Jets running back LaDanian Tomlinson disclosed that coach Rex Ryan once told his team that he was going to punch Bill Belichick in the face before a 2010 game. It was a lighthearted motivational ploy by Ryan, Tomlinson said, meant to fire up his players.
“We were playing the Patriots one time . . . Rex is a master motivator, and it was going to be a big game, a heated rivalry game,” Tomlinson said. “Rex got in front of us and he said, ‘I’m going to set the tempo today. When I meet Bill Belichick in the center of the field, I’m going to start it off and punch him in the face.’ ”
Perhaps a few of Ryan’s current players looked past the joke and took their coach to heart. Thursday night’s Patriots-Jets game was marred in the final minute by an ugly scrum along the Patriots sideline, following the second interception of the quarter by Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib.
As Talib was going out of bounds, Jets offensive lineman Nick Mangold dove at his knees from behind. Mangold was flagged for a late hit, but the play triggered pushing and shoving between players from both teams, and resulted in two of Mangold’s linemates being ejected from the last 38 seconds of the Patriots’ 13-10 victory.
D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Willie Colon were both tossed, one for making contact with an official, the other for throwing a punch at a Patriots player. After the heated exchange was finally over — and the fact that the two ejected Jets were still on the sideline was brought to the referees’ attention by Belichick — Ferguson and Colon ran off the field, helmets still on, as a cascade of boos rained from those drenched souls who remained at Gillette Stadium during the second-half downpour.
The play that initiated the tussle was the third and final interception thrown in the fourth quarter by Geno Smith.
Talib stepped in front of Stephen Hill and cleanly picked off the pass. With the Jets out of timeouts and less than a minute left, Talib could have simply run out of bounds, icing the game. He began running upfield, making a couple of moves and looking for a lane to the end zone, before finally deciding to head out of bounds.
That’s when Mangold dove low, drawing a 15-yard personal foul. Ferguson exchanged pushes with Vince Wilfork, and Colon was seen jawing with Patriots cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who had the other fourth-quarter interception.
“I made the tackle, he was obviously along the sideline and I thought he was still inbounds,’’ said Mangold, who is in his eighth year with the Jets. “I thought it was a good tackle and apparently it was not and it started a little ruckus.
“It’s an intense game and an intense rivalry, and tempers flare.”
Said Colon: “I saw my brothers in there so I went running. I lost my temper. I lost my cool out there and we can’t have it. It hurts your team and I know better, so it is my fault. I hope I don’t get suspended.”
Ryan also commented on the melee.
“I think Mangold was trying to make a tackle is what happened. And he does, he goes, tries to take the guy. I think what happened was Nick went down, [Talib] turned his back, [Mangold] ran into the back of his leg. It wasn’t intentional, by any means,” Ryan said. “He just tried to make a cut tackle. Then he went out of bounds and all heck broke loose.
“Apparently our team was the only one involved in that.”
The Jets received three penalties on the play and two ejections. It put one ugly stamp on an ugly game.Michael Whitmer can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeWhitmer.