Reserved Belichick gets last grin, win

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It wasn’t until the final question of his postgame news conference – one about retired favorite Tedy Bruschi(notes) – that Bill Belichick cracked even the smallest of smiles. Prior to that, he’d been the picture of pursed lips and occasional grimaces.

His New England Patriots had responded to 12 days of chirping out of New York to deliver a hellacious whipping on the rival Jets, 45-3 on Monday night. And yet, Belichick was sticking hard to his traditional monotone. He was gloating, you could say, by expressing no excitement at all.

Just wanted to come in tonight and play well … good week of practice … onto Chicago … nice to win.

For Rex Ryan, the only thing more frustrating than getting humiliated by Belichick on the field is the fact Belichick hardly dignifies the rivalry off of it. Ryan can’t make any more noise than he already does. He can’t beg any harder for attention from Belichick. He can’t declare war any clearer. He’s done everything he can to make this personal – coach v. coach.

“I came in to kick his butt and he kicked mine,” Ryan said, taking his licking like a man.

Bill Belichick's stoic midfield handshake was the start of a relatively indifferent celebration for the Patriots coach.
(Michael Dwyer/AP Photo)

And yet all he gets from Belichick is the outward exuberance of a preseason win.

“It was a good night for us and we’ll take it,” Belichick said.

Yeah, yeah, next.

The entire thing may drive Ryan loopy. He spent more than a week as a one-man hype machine for a game that didn’t need it. That’s him. He can’t help himself. He’s going to win with bravado. It’s the only way he knows how and this was Jets-Patriots on Monday night, pole position in the AFC East at stake.

[Rewind: Rex Ryan, reality TV star]

By winning, the Patriots (10-2) have the inside track on the No. 1 seed in the conference. By losing, the Jets (9-3) could be stuck with a three road game route to the Super Bowl. No less than Patriots owner Robert Kraft called it the biggest regular-season game in his nearly two decades with the franchise.

Belichick, of course, spent the week acting like it was just another week. His players said they noticed nothing different out of him in preparation. There was no Rockne-style pep talk. Kicking Ryan’s butt wasn’t mentioned in the game plan.

“You know, we practice hard every single week,” tight end Rob Gronkowski(notes) said. “We practiced just as hard as every week. He expects us to go out and work hard and it doesn’t change at all.”

[Photo: Tense moment between NFL coaches]

“We’ll be out there all day if we don’t [practice well],” quarterback Tom Brady(notes) said. “He’ll just keep us out there.”

So the machine cranks on. Ten wins with a bullet. Bring your hype, bring your jokes, bring your gaudy records up from New York and watch it all get torn apart in the wintery Massachusetts wind. Watch electric Gillette Stadium stands turn into a swaying, singing three-hour circus. If you thought New England was at all vulnerable, think again after this show of force.

[Rewind: Rex Ryan compares wife to Gisele Bundchen]

Brady threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns while delivering his seventh consecutive start without an interception. You can all but hand him the MVP trophy. The Patriots offense, which was supposed to sputter without Randy Moss(notes), practically scored at will on the vaunted Jets defense.

Brady shrugged at the success and credited some favorable matchups. Like perhaps 5-foot-8 Danny Woodhead(notes), who caught four passes for 104 yards. Considering he had been cut this year by the Jets, that had to feel good. Right, Danny?

“We won the game and anytime you win the game, that is the most important thing,” Woodhead said.

And you wonder why Belichick loves him.

Down the hall, the Jets took turns finding colorful ways to describe the destruction.

[Related: Golfer taunts Tiger with unflattering new nickname]

“A good old-fashioned butt-kicking,” Mark Sanchez(notes) said.

“It’s like a boxer throws a haymaker. He connects. ‘Man down,’” Damien Woody(notes) said.

“This humble pie tastes like a car tire and it goes down like peanut butter,” Sione Pouha(notes) said.

On and on it went. The Jets can be a sideshow even in defeat. It was like each one was trying to outdo the next and give the tabloid headline writers material. The Patriots just dutifully noted that they executed the game plan well.

Two different teams, two different styles.

In the end though, this comes back to Belichick and Brady and what may be the start of psychological advantage over their counterparts. This monster game was a mismatch in coaching and quarterbacking.

Belichick dialed up every proper call. Ryan was left wandering the Jets sideline with an expression that shifted from pained to confused and back again. His team was disorganized, unprepared and undisciplined.

And while Brady was slinging it all over the field, hitting four different receivers for scores, Sanchez was a mess. He looked like a second-year player still finding his way. He looked like a Southern Californian bothered by the cold. He threw three picks and accomplished little.

“I thought we had a great week of preparation,” Sanchez said. “It just didn’t look like it tonight.”

Across the way, New England had the same week of preparation they always do. Of course they did. Or, at the very least, of course they said they did. The Jets are just another team, just another opponent, just another week in the process.

If Rex Ryan thought making this personal was a way to rattle King Belichick, he might want to consider Plan B.

“I’m sure we haven’t heard the last from them,” Belichick noted.

He didn’t look too concerned about it.

Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010