FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Rex Ryan seldom is a man of few words.
But the New York Jets head coach let his brevity do the talking Monday when asked about Mario Williams' charge that Austin Howard, the Jets right offensive tackle, resorted to illegal tactics to prevent the Buffalo Bills superstar from sacking Mark Sanchez on Sunday.
"Well, I'll say this," Ryan said at his Monday news conference, a stern look replacing his usual smile. "Mario Williams is a great football player. There's no question. He's a tremendous player. But I disagree with him on this."
Williams, the premier free-agent defender available in March who signed a six-year, $100-million contract with Buffalo, was expected to be a sack monster. But Howard tamed him completely. Williams had zero sacks or pressures in a 48-28 Jets rout.
"Pass blocking doesn't include hands to the face," Williams complained to reporters after the game. "When someone tells officials that, and they just walk away, or they don't call it, that is disheartening.
"(Howard)'s a hands-to-the-face guy, and they don't call it, so he will continue to do it."
NFL pass blockers are not allowed to put their hands under a defender's face mask and into his face.
Ryan, though, said he couldn't be happier with Howard's performance.
"There are no two ways about it. He had an outstanding game."
The Jets mixed up their pass-blocking schemes to assist Howard against "Super Mario," Ryan said.
"We had some chips, we had (third tackle as tight end) Jason Smith on (Williams) one-on-one a few times. We had some slide protection. But Austin had him a lot of times by himself."
Left guard Matt Slauson said after the game that the original plan in pass-pro was to slide the other offensive linemen to the right, to help the 25-year-old kid out.
"But after a few plays," Slauson said, "we saw he didn't need any help."
That is one hell of an indictment against Williams.
Let's get this straight. A third-year journeyman on his third NFL team, making his first career start at right offensive tackle, should not be able to completely shut down one of the fiercest pass rushers in the game. Time after time.
Often all on his own.
I asked Ryan if he and his coaches were surprised that Howard so completely neutralized Williams.
"We've seen him do this thing on the practice field," Ryan said. "But against Mario, in your first NFL start? That was impressive."
The key, Howard said after the game, was all the preparation work he and his offensive linemates put in.
"Confidence comes from preparation. The coaches made sure that we were prepared for this game. We worked hours on end in classroom, film study. Plus extra film work, on my own.
"D'Brickashaw Ferguson even took all the tackles after practice every day and did more technique work -- all camp long, really. To have those guys to lead me, and to emulate, and to follow ...†the confidence just builds and builds every day."
I asked Ferguson about Howard, and he said that the Iowa native's abilities are no mirage. Nor is his unflappability.
"His poise and his talents work well for him," Ferguson said. "I think he did an excellent job."
Too bad Williams couldn't see that. Or at least acknowledge that after the game.
Where does Super Mario go from here?
Sunday's game was just that -- one game. Bills head coach Chan Gailey put it best, perhaps, when he defiantly told reporters afterward in regard to Buffalo's non-existent pass rush: "Let it go. It was awful today, I understand that. But don't kick the dirt on us yet."
Williams, though, better rise up and shake the dirt off. He will be facing better offensive tackles than Howard soon enough. And better offences.
The Bills need him more than ever to be impactful. Right away. Like, starting in Sunday's home opener against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Because a couple more performances like this past Sunday's, and the highest-paid defender in NFL history will have more than dirt kicked on him. He'll have the "bust" label thrown at him, from every corner of America.
And there'll be no replacement refs he can blame for that.