It was not a shot.
As any of you who regularly watch "Barking with Bart" know, Bart Scott loves boxing. We didn't get a chance to air our weekly installment last week on newyorkjets.com, so I asked Bart during the open locker room period on Thursday for a boxing analogy in reference to today's Jets-Chargers AFC Divisional Round battle in San Diego.
After all, the Jets' weakside linebacker, along with S Jimmy Leonhard, DT Marques Douglas, head coach Rex Ryan and defensive coordinator Mike Pettine appeared in the divisional round one year ago. And before the five former Ravens faced the Titans in Tennessee, the Edgar Allen Poes were substantial underdogs against a 13-3 club favored to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl.
Sound familiar? But while the Ravens' and Titans' styles of play mirrored each other, the Jets and the Chargers couldn't be more different.
"This is a brawler versus a boxer," said the Madbacker. "We are coming in as the brawler and they have a flashier way to win."
Like boxers, football teams have different styles. Thankfully for NFL fanatics, this playoff clash is going to come off while boxing fans everywhere wonder what happened with the megafight between welterweights Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
The Jets want to make this game into their own version of "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler and Tommy "Hitman" Hearns. The epic 1985 three-rounder between the illustrious middleweights, won by Hagler, is still considered one of the most enthralling and breathtaking sporting events of our time. They stood toe-to-toe and viciously traded blows, making it equal parts frightening (due to the punishment handed out) and beautiful (you don't see that kind of valor every day).
But the Green & White will have to impose their will on the Chargers. Like Mayweather, the 'Bolts can build up a big lead on you in a hurry and then cruise to a points decision.
"When we play the way we play, games are always going to be close, teams are always going to have an opportunity," Scott said of the Jets. "It's going to be that period where it's going to be tough sledding for a while before you break through. When you play the style they play, you either can blow somebody out early or you can get blown out. Their style of play is similar to Arizona or Green Bay, with an explosive offense that is built to score. It's built to take chances deep — they throw probably more 15-, 20-yard and more passes than any team in the NFL."
So the word out of Chargers camp is that LB Shawne "Lights Out" Merriman called the boxing analogy "trash-talking."
Come again? Scott hasn't said anything that could be even remotely considered controversial in weeks and he's not even worried about verbally sparring with Philip Rivers, the Chargers' extremely talented and at times emotional signalcaller.
"I think you can get inside his head by knocking him on the ground, trying to make it a physical game," Scott said. "I'm not concerned with engaging him in conversation. There is too much other stuff to worry about in that offense than to focus on trying to engage the quarterback. Too many weapons."
Ah, maybe referring to Rivers, Vincent Jackson, Antonio Gates, LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles as weapons must be a slight? The Chargers have won 11 in a row, so people wonder how Rex's Jets have the gall to actually believe they can win this contest.
"Sometimes when you haven't lost a football game in a long time, you forget the lessons that losing teaches you. Sometimes it can be a curse to win so many games in a row," Scott said. "Yeah, you have the confidence, but sometimes you forget and the little things go uncovered and uncorrected. Everybody feels good when you win, but when you lose you have to analyze everything."
If you don't believe Scott, FB Tony Richardson is living proof. T-Rich has played 15 seasons and never advanced to a conference championship game — he actually played in this divisional round with the Chiefs three times and never held serve at home.
"I think there is something to be said for having played in that wild-card round just for the fact that you're a football player and that's what we do," said the 38-year-old Richardson. "You take time off and some teams are probably going to benefit from that, but I know in the past it didn't benefit me. For whatever reason, we didn't win those games."
All the pressure is on the Chargers. They're expected to win, but the Jets *expect *to win. They are a refreshing bunch because belief is at their core — belief in their leader, belief in their teammates and belief in themselves.
"This is special. We're built right now to take our show on the road because of what we do — we play defense and we run the football. We're built to be pretty special for this ride," said Richardson, who also confided with newyorkjets.com that he wants to come back for another year if things can be worked out. "There are a lot of young guys and the thing is that this opportunity doesn't come around very often and we need to cherish it."
The 'Bolts had better bring everything they have today because the Jets aren't going to get knocked out. Sure, they could lose, but they're going to press and stalk the Chargers all afternoon in that ring.
The real shots are coming, and for Merriman, it might be hours until the lights go out for good.