Ryan all week had induced banter about whether he would outcoach Bill Belichick. About how this was personal. He toiled defending cornerback Antonio Cromartie, while continuing to nip at quarterback Tom Brady. Ryan kept the circus energized. The fluff puffed.
Behind the scenes, Ryan was tinkering with and retooling his defense. He was hoping by kickoff Sunday that the Patriots would continue to see red when they saw Jets green and invoke awkward execution. Ryan was massaging his team, stoking fires inside, pruning his Jets for this big moment, this big stage.
They rolled into Gillette Stadium and spun the Patriots completely around, then upside down, 28-21.
This victory for the Jets, which vaults them into their second straight AFC championship game, was a testament to Ryan's bodacious style and sly coaching.
He got his players to turn last month's 45-3 humiliation on this same field into a web of frustration, confusion and embarrassment for Brady and the Patriots.
He took a "bunch of mighty men'' -- that is what he called his team -- and turned them loose. The brash talk erased any of their fears. This chance against these Patriots, who had rocked them so harshly, was all the Jets needed for retribution, redemption.
"I was dead wrong, I thought the game would come down to me and Belichick ... but it came down to our players and our assistant coaches, and we won that battle,'' Ryan backtracked, the victory safe -- his gracious, midfield, postgame meeting with Belichick complete, his team moving on to Pittsburgh on next Sunday in a bid for a trip to Super Bowl XLV.
And, sure, Ryan could cool it now, take the high road, peel back from the pregame lit-match-to-gasoline routine.
But you think Ryan didn't spin a web in this one?
Listen to Patriots receiver Wes Welker: "Well, you work on one thing all week and then you get something different. We adjusted, but at the end of the day, it's about us making plays and moving the ball down the field. We didn't do that on a consistent basis.''
That's a mouthful.
He is talking about how the Jets started this game on defense with their safeties deep. They would walk them up, walk them back, but, in most instances, keep them deep with the middle covered. In fact, the Jets packed the middle of the field with their defense. This caused the Patriots' entire offense discomfort. The tight end underneath routes were denied. The linebackers were banging on the tight ends at the line of scrimmage. The cornerbacks were effectively rerouting the receivers at the snap. The pressure was coming. And then it was not.
The defense was multiple. The disguise was laudable.
Tom Brady looked baffled.
Brady at halftime had managed a meager 50.9 passer rating. New England's QB and his offense were limited to just three points for all but the final 13 seconds of the first three quarters.
It was mess for Brady from the start. His opening drive looked good, a beauty from his 16-yard-line to the Jets 28. And then linebacker David Harris lit a fuse for the Jets, picking off a Brady pass.
"It was a screen pass and we got him off his spot,'' Harris said. ``He had to do things a little quicker. It caused him to make the overthrow.''
Harris returned the interception 58 yards to the Patriots 12. And though the Jets blew a field-goal attempt, the damage to Brady's psyche and the Patriots offense was done. From there, the Jets hit him harder (five sacks total), made him skittish, forced him into rare inaccuracies.
"I think he started seeing and feeling imaginary defenders,'' Harris said. "I think we started to get into his mind on every play.''
"He sure looked confused,'' Jets safety Brodney Pool said.
Linebacker Calvin Pace steamed around the end on Brady, whacked him good, gained one of the Jets sacks and later explained: "You could tell, he was starting to feel it.''
And finally this from cornerback Darrelle Revis: "Oh yeah, their team was confused. And Brady, he was a little tripped up.''
It was 7-3 Jets, there was 1:14 left before halftime and the Patriots were getting desperate. The team that led the league in points scored was feeling strapped. So, rather than punting from their own 38, they tried a direct snap to safety Patrick Chung. He showed why he plays defense instead of offense, flubbing the snap, the play buried just like the Patriots offense. The Jets took over and made it 14-3 just before halftime.
By the time Brady started to stay patient, be quicker in his short stuff, just inch his way up the field; by the time the Patriots scored 10 points in the final quarter, the Jets still had answers. They won the fourth quarter, 14-10. Shonn Greene's 16-yard run with 1:41 left iced it.
"They mixed it up quite a bit,'' Brady said. "They certainly have a lot of calls.''
Later, he added: "I think they spun the dial pretty well on their pressures and coverages.''
Brady knew it. He was in a web all game. Tangled. Stuck.
The Jets, in their recent 45-3 meltdown here, trailed 17-0 in the first quarter and 24-3 at halftime. But in this one, once Brady threw that early pick, once Harris turned that early Patriots drive into no points, the Jets gained their foundation. They were settled. That never happened the last time here. That never happened for the Patriots this time.
Ryan used a combustible mix to get his team settled.
He has a team that is truly in his image. The more noise, the more suited they are for focus. The more likely they are for success.
"Same old Jets," Ryan said. That line used to mean pure misery for the Jets.
Leave it to Rex Ryan to spin it anew.