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Fake punt a Rex-ipe for disaster

Jets coach Rex Ryan defended his decisitry fake punt thbackfired gave momentum Bears. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

Jets coach Rex Ryan defended his decision to try a fake punt that backfired and gave the momentum to the Bears. | Jonathan Daniel~Getty Images

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Updated: December 26, 2010 11:23PM



It’s been a very tough week for Jets coach Rex Ryan, the former Bears ball boy and son of famed Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan.

You didn’t think it could get any worse until Sunday’s Jets-Bears game at Soldier Field when Rex made the worst decision in his family since his wife, Michelle, reportedly put a video made by the coach in admiration of her feet on the Internet. The tape went on Deadspin.com this week, and the coach and his family endured embarrassing headlines in the New York tabloids.

The papers should be filled with punishing puns this morning after Ryan made a colossal blunder that cost the Jets a victory against the Bears. Can one play really decide a game? Sure it can.

‘We felt good about it’

On fourth-and-three at the Jets’ 40 and nursing a 24-17 lead, Ryan went for a fake punt on the opening possession of the second half.

‘‘We worked on it all week,’’ Ryan said. ‘‘We felt good about it .  .  . it’s one of those things where we thought the play was there and we knew the play was there. Again, we just have to execute the play.’’

How absolutely absurd. The decision was idiotic, one of the worst in the NFL this season, even if that fact was lost on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

‘‘I thought it was the right call at that time,’’ Sanchez said. ‘‘If we get that, [Jets special-teams coach Mike Westhoff] is a hero for that play. It was a great call. And you don’t get it, and they get the ball right there. It’s a high risk — high reward.’’

More like dumb risk and limited reward. A pass from Sanchez to Brad Smith was defended by Rashied Davis, the Bears took over and like many teams that get a turnover on the plus side of the field, they went for a home run. Jay Cutler threw a 40-yard touchdown pass to Johnny Knox for a game-tying touchdown, the first of three third-quarter TD passes for Cutler.

For years people have moaned about the dullness of NFL coaches when it comes to bold decisions. The safe way is to make tedious, yawning, safe decisions designed to not lose as opposed to trying to win. God bless Ryan for favoring his father and putting his neck on the line to make games interesting.

The problem with extending the neck is that it holds up the head. And since coaches face the guillotine on a weekly basis, it’s better not to expose such a crucial area.

And the Jets’ decision to fake punt in that situation — be it by Ryan or Westhoff or both — put too much importance on one play. Why risk it all when leading on the road? Moreover, the Jets didn’t just signal their intention, they may as well have unfurled a giant FAKE PUNT banner or put Sanchez in shiny rhinestones and Santonio Holmes in flashing neon.

‘‘Everybody knew it was a fake,’’ Davis said.

‘‘Everybody at home knew it was a fake, shoot.’’

Part of the inspiration for the fake was to keep from kicking to Devin Hester, a threat to score on every return, but as Davis astutely observed, if the Jets were going to punt, why have Holmes lined up as a gunner and Sanchez as a personal protector for punter Steve Weatherford? Why would Sanchez be in the game? No way he would block.

Moreover, as soon as Sanchez started to roll, Davis knew he was going to Smith, who had lined up in the slot instead of as the personal protector. He couldn’t go to Holmes because there is no pass interference on the gunner.

‘‘It helps when it is that obvious,’’ Davis said.

‘‘You just have to diagnose and figure out what is happening and what they are trying to do to us. You follow your rules, and Dave Toub does a great job in giving us solid rules to go by.’’

Toub, the Bears special-teams coordinator, went back to last season and found tape of things the Jets and Westhoff were doing. Davis said the Bears study tape of their opponent from this season, but with Toub watching ‘‘triple or quadruple’’ the amount of tape his players do, they were prepared.

The Bears yelled “fake’’ before the attempt.

Locked in a ‘special’ battle

Davis laughed when asked if the attempt was arrogant or dumb. He said the Jets simply were relying on the element of surprise to win the day. But what about the idea of Westhoff wanting to prove something to Toub and a Bears special teams unit he is battling with to be the best in the NFL for 2010.

‘‘They could have been,’’ Davis said.

‘‘From watching [HBO’s] ‘Hard Knocks’ or whatever it is, he seems like an arrogant guy. He said he wasn’t going to punt to Devin all week, but I thought he was going to. He is a prideful guy. He loves his special-teams unit.’’

Almost as much as the Bears love theirs.



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