FOXBOROUGH - The Patriots offense will get a double dose of Ryan defenses: after Rex’s Jets came into town Sunday, Rob’s Cowboys will be at Gillette Stadium this week.
The pair’s story is known by now: Rex and Rob are the sons of Buddy Ryan, who implemented the 46 defense with great success in the 1980s, particularly as defensive coordinator of the 1985 Chicago Bears , considered by some to be the greatest defense in NFL history.
Not only did the twins inherit their father’s acumen for coaching defensive football, they also are the reigning clown princes of the league: Rex, in his third season as the Jets’ coach, is known to say just about anything in front of a microphone - and amazingly, Rob, in his first season as Dallas’s defensive coordinator, may be the more colorful of the two.
Yesterday, Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked about seeing the Ryans and their respective defenses in back-to-back weeks, and he said, “There’s definitely some carry-over. I wouldn’t say they’re exactly the same, but there’s definitely some carry-over.
“Both are based out of the 3-4 but use a lot of different looks. Both defenses use a lot of multiple defensive backs: four, five, six, seven. There’s a lot of carry-over in some of those respects.’’
Even though the Patriots and Cowboys haven’t played since 2007, when both teams were undefeated and the game was overhyped as the game of the century - one of several the Patriots would play in that season - because of the Ryan factor there is not as much of the unknown for Belichick as his team heads into this week’s game. Rob and Rex, understandably, have some similarity in their philosophies.
There’s also familiarity for Belichick: Rob was on Belichick’s original staff in New England, serving as linebackers coach from 2000-03 before leaving for Oakland to become the Raiders’ coordinator. And while New England may not have played Dallas recently, it did face a Rob Ryan defense just last year, when he was with the Browns and Cleveland held the Patriots to just 283 yards of offense and pestered Tom Brady into a season-low completion mark of 52.8 percent.
With the Jets and Cowboys having already played this year, and with each of the brothers tasked with slowing down Brady and the Patriots offense, Belichick has no doubt they will share notes.
“I’m sure they talk a lot,’’ he said. “I’m sure they exchange a lot of ideas and that sort of thing. There are individually some things that are the same, but the big thing is that this is a lot of different personnel - personnel that we’re not very familiar with that’s very good. [The Cowboys] have a lot of good players on offense and defense.’’
But for their shared traits, to this point in the season, Rex and Rob have gotten different results from their respective defenses: while Rob’s Dallas group is the league’s best rush defense, allowing a measly 61.8 yards on the ground per game, Rex’s Jets are near the bottom in that stat, giving up 134.8.
Rex relies on his pass defense, led by standout cornerback Darrelle Revis; Rob’s secondary hasn’t truly been challenged, and isn’t often challenged because the Cowboys’ front seven, led by DeMarcus Ware, Jay Ratliff, and Bradie James, has been so stout and adept at applying pressure.
The Jets are fifth in the NFL against the pass, the Cowboys 14th.
Containing Ware, who had 72 sacks over the previous five seasons and already has five in four games this year, may be the toughest task for the Patriots offense.
“They move him around; you don’t know where he’s going to be,’’ Belichick said. “It’s hard to call a play and say, ‘Well, he’s going to be here; this is how we’re going to deal with him.’ You can do that to some degree with some players. He’ll play to percentages, but you’re not ever sure exactly where he’s going to be depending on the call they have and what adjustments they make within that call to what you’re doing. That’s a big challenge.
“He’s a heck of a football player. He’s really fast, explosive, he’s a good technique player, he plays with his hands well. Strong pass-rusher: speed rush, power rush, up-and-under move, he comes up the middle, he comes outside. He’s a tough matchup problem wherever he is on the field.’’