FLORHAM PARK, N.J. – LaRon Landry was asked Tuesday whether the Jets were in a must-win mentality for Thursday night’s crucial game against visiting New England.
The hard-hitting safety looked at the questioner as if he were sizing up a wide receiver daring to cross the middle against him.
“For me, it’s been like this since week one,” Landry said.
Well, OK then. Still, an occasion such as this one should be enough for Landry to raise his ever-present intensity to an even higher level of focus.
There’s no avoiding the fact that this game could be remembered as the most important one of the Jets’ 2012 season. If they win, another magical run to the playoffs, similar to the one they executed in 2009, is very possible. In fact, some might consider it almost likely, considering after Thursday night, the Jets will not face a team that currently has a winning record.
Four of those teams are 4-6, the same as the Jets, and the other, Jacksonville, is 1-9.
The flip side is that a loss to New England would give the Jets a 4-7 record and put them in desperate shape for a playoff run. Even running the table against those faltering opponents might not be enough to salvage their season.
The Jets won five of their last six games in 2009 to qualify as a wild card, then reached the AFC title game. Sixth-year defensive end Mike DeVito was a key player on that squad, and he sees the same attitude now that he did then.
“You can see it in this locker room,” DeVito said. “Guys are confident. There’s nothing but confidence in here. We’ve been through a lot of different situations before. We do well (dealing) with adversity.”
A national television audience, many of whom may have just pushed away from their Thanksgiving tables, will judge for themselves whether this Jets team has a miracle comeback in them.
DeVito said the day adds to the excitement.
“I love it. I love it,” he said of playing on Thanksgiving. “There’s not a better day to play. It’s a really fun thing.”
But for DeVito and the rest of the players on the Jets’ defense, the amount of Thanksgiving fun they have won’t be measured in how quickly they can ditch that conversation with an annoying relative, but whether they can disrupt the communication between New England quarterback Tom Brady and his receiving corps. That unit will not include talented and punishing tight end Rob Gronkowski, out with a fractured forearm.
Still, although Coach Rex Ryan said he certainly wasn’t sad Gronkowski will miss this game, he knows No. 12 still is the key to the Pats’ offense, as he has been for over a decade.
“When you look at him, you can almost say he’s a machine back there,” Ryan said, but quickly added there’s much more to Brady. “The thing about him is he’s a machine, yet he’s passionate and a fiery leader and all that type of stuff, so you wish he was just a machine. His competitive side elevates his team as well. That’s what you get in those once-in-a-generation-type quarterbacks, that he’s just a special guy.”
The Jets’ defenders “just have to be sound in coverage and try to disguise well and execute,” Landry said. “He’s going to be Brady. He’s going to complete passes and he’s going to be great out there.”
“I think the biggest thing for us,” cornerback Antonio Cromartie said, “is trying to make sure every single guy (on defense) is on the same page.”
Or else Brady and the Patriots may put an end to the Jets’ 2012 comeback narrative.