FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Publicly, Rex Ryan tried to put a positive spin on the recent fourth-quarter defensive struggles. He did some number crunching, compiling a stat sheet that shows the current defense compares favorably to the league-leading unit from last season.
Behind closed doors, Ryan took a different approach -- a louder approach.
On Monday, the New York Jets' coach lashed into his defense for blowing a 16-point lead to the Houston Texans, according to several players. Ryan was upset with mental mistakes and communication breakdowns that nearly resulted in a devastating loss.
"We've seen him mad before, but this was the maddest I can remember -- and rightfully so," one player told ESPNNewYork.com, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
Or, as linebacker Jason Taylor said, "The meetings today weren't fun and bubbly."
Imagine the mood if the Jets (8-2) hadn't pulled out a miracle win, 30-27, in the final seconds. They offered no apologies for their latest "How'd they do that?" victory, but they also recognized the defense has to get better. They've blown fourth-quarter leads in back-to-back games, tarnishing the reputation they worked so hard last season to establish.
Asked whether this is a Super Bowl defense, cornerback Darrelle Revis said, "This is a Super Bowl team. We're not going to single out one phase of the team."
A telling remark, for sure, a far cry from the swagger-licious attitude that permeated the locker room last season. A championship-caliber defense wouldn't allow two touchdowns in the span of seven minutes, as the Jets did Sunday.
It wouldn't leave the tight end wide open, as they did on Joel Dreessen's 43-yard touchdown reception. (Taylor fessed up, saying Dreessen was his responsibility.)
It wouldn't have a deer-in-the-headlights look on a seven-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, in which Revis, of all people, committed a coverage faux pas on a 35-yard pass play.
It was so bad that chatty linebacker Bart Scott, whose vocabulary doesn't include the words "no comment," refused to speak with reporters after the game, claiming he might say something "inflammatory." On Monday, he avoided reporters again, leaving the locker room via a side door.
"To give up that many points in the fourth quarter, it definitely feels like a loss to us, the way we played," safety Eric Smith said.
Revis paused when asked whether the defense has lost some of its aura.
"I don't know; that's a good question," he said. "We want to be an aggressive defense, but right now things are a little bit shaky. ... We have to get back to that dominating defense we had last year."
According to Ryan's stat comparison, the defense is better in almost every category compared to last season after 10 games. Before Monday night, the Jets were seventh in total defense, fifth in scoring defense. Ryan shared his stat sheet with the players, trying to lift them up. He also dropped the hammer, telling them he won't tolerate mental mistakes.
"Nobody is harder on this defense than I am," Ryan told reporters. "That unit, in particular, I just expect so much from them. Sometimes guys make mistakes, but we've got to try to get them fixed."
Ryan took the blame, saying, "I've got to do a better job." Specifically, he took the heat for the Dreessen play, claiming he made a bad call. Thing is, Ryan no longer calls the entire game, as he recently ceded a large share of the play-calling responsibilities to second-year coordinator Mike Pettine.
Ryan defended Pettine, saying they've worked together for so many years they're practically one brain. No one pointed a finger at Pettine, or any of the other coaches for that matter. This is a proven defensive staff with some of the best minds in the business, although defensive end Shaun Ellis said the Texans "kind of out-schemed us."
The Jets can start the fixing process Thursday night against the Cincinnati Bengals (2-8), losers of eight straight. Lousy record notwithstanding, the Bengals can throw the ball, with the Carson Palmer-Terrell Owens combination lighting up defenses. Pass defense is the Jets' Achilles' heel, but Ryan vowed to get the problems solved.
"We'll see who's right," he said, alluding to the critics. "I know where my money is at."