Rex Ryan didn't trot out any of his stand-up material Monday afternoon.
He didn't claim not to know the Miami Dolphins' running back, or give any of his players nicknames.
Instead, the Buffalo Bills' coach stepped up to the podium and choked down a heaping helping of humble pie. A day after watching his defense get decimated by Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in a 40-32 loss at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Ryan said the bright side is things have already hit rock bottom.
"It ain't gonna get worse than that," he said. "And yet, at the end of the day, we still actually had a chance to compete for the victory. So obviously there's a million negative things that we've got to get corrected, yet I love the fighting spirit of our team and the heart that our team has. So if there's one thing we've got to be able to see – it can't be worse than that, in all three phases."
Ryan described the loss as an "ugly day." Particularly grisly were the 14 accepted penalties committed by his team out of the 18 called, a total that cost his team 140 yards and broke down like this: Illegal block above the waist (two), offensive holding (two), delay of game (one), unnecessary roughness (three), taunting (one), illegal use of hands (two), illegal formation (one), defensive holding (two), offensive pass interference (one), unsportsmanlike conduct (one), offside on a free kick (one), defensive pass interference (one).
Most egregious on that list are the penalties for unnecessary roughness, taunting and unsportsmanlike conduct – which was called against Ryan himself for arguing about a call from the Buffalo sideline.
If the head coach is setting that kind of example for his players, it's fair to wonder how much of a concern discipline is for the team.
Ryan said Monday he has to do a better job "recognizing that we've got to have that controlled emotion and that aggression and things like that. The bigger the game, the more calm you got to be. I think we got to realize, ‘Hey, let's play the game.' We want to be as physical a football team as there is in the league. We've always said that. But we want to do it within the confinements of the rules."
Brady certainly didn't need any help Sunday.
"If you make mistakes against a good team, they burn you," Ryan said, "and clearly that team did. ... It's a horrendous loss, there's no question about it. It should hurt."
Before the game last week, Ryan made headlines when he claimed not to know the name of Patriots running back Dion Lewis. He doubled down on those comments after the game when asked if he regretted what he said considering Lewis had 138 yards from scrimmage.
"Uh, that's the reason we lost," he said sarcastically. "Go ahead, I still don't know his name. Next time run the ball."
It was a bizarre, nonsensical comment. Lewis did average 5.7 yards per rush on his seven carries, but the Patriots found more success throwing the ball. So much so, in fact, that Tom Brady set a record for passing yards by a Bills opponent in a single game – breaking a 54-year-old mark held by George Blanda. That's the main reason the Bills lost.
But that's just Ryan being Ryan. His bravado isn't going to be stunted by one loss – no matter how ugly.
On Monday, he disputed the notion that any of the talk coming from the Bills' locker room last week played any part in the outcome. And true to form, he couldn't resist taking one more shot at New England.
"I'm not gonna put a muzzle on our players," he said. "If they want to say something, they have all the freedom in the world to say it. Just like I'm going to. We're not to say, 'well, that's why we lost the game.' That had nothing to do with why we lost the game. And that's the way it is. ... There's different ways of chatting and all that stuff. Let's face it: New England isn't exactly Boy Scouts of America, alright? So you can say what you want, but the tape doesn't lie, either."
It's when that "chatting" bleeds over into the field and leads to penalties that it becomes a problem. That happened Sunday far too often.
"There’s a difference between coming out ready to go, fired up ready to play and coming out and being totally without poise, without focus," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "A lot of stupid, idiotic stuff – that plays right in their hands. If you have no poise, no focus you get caught up in all the 'BS,' that’s what they do. We did that.
"It’s something obviously that we talk about, we try to get reined in when we can do it and we just have to do a better job of it, no doubt about it. I’m embarrassed, the way that started off was bad. It looks bad on our team, our fans and it is reflected in the way that we played. It’s inexcusable, it’s terrible."
Hearing Williams talk, it was hard not to think of the actions of his head coach.
"Well, Kyle is telling the truth," Ryan said Monday. "It was embarrassing you have that many penalties and getting scorched the way we did defensively, we take a lot of pride in the defense that we have. You give up 460 yards passing, I think that is pretty embarrassing. It was embarrassing but that doesn’t" mean "it'ss going to be embarrassing the rest of the season. I can tell you this: It's not going to be."