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ORCHARD PARK, N — The brotherly bond between Rex Ryan and Mike Pettine goes only so far, especially now that the two are at different ends of New York.
After leaving the Jets, in part to come out of Ryan's imposing shadow, Pettine is itching to see how his new-look, Buffalo defense matches up against his long-time mentor on Sunday.
Following four years as Ryan's defensive coordinator in New York — and 11 years together with the Jets and Baltimore Ravens — Pettine will return to New York this Sunday as the Bills (1-1) take on the Jets (1-1).
Both teams are looking up at Miami (2-0) and New England (2-0) in the AFC East. So — though it's still early — the urgency is present on both sides.
"I'd be a liar if I said this game didn't mean more to me, or I didn't want to win it," Pettine said. "It's like going against your brother."
Pettine is hoping to break out on his own with the Bills. Using an aggressive, attacking style of defense — not much different from the Jets — Buffalo played well in a two-game homestand to open the season. There will be tougher tests out there for the Bills than banged-up New England and Carolina in Orchard Park, but it's a start.
Pettine is proud of it, either way. The 46-year-old took an unconventional route to the NFL, joining the Ravens as a low-level assistant in 2002 after 12 years of coaching high school football. Like Ryan with his father, Buddy, Pettine grew up in the presence of a football coach. Pettine's father, Mike Sr., is the winningest high school coach in Pennsylvania history.
"You talk about coming in from the ground floor with no expectations but just thought that people would see his abilities," Ryan said. "Well, I clearly saw his abilities and the more I talked to him, the more I realized that. His background is very similar to mine.