Florham Park, NJ – Following three straight comeback performances where he twice threw for over 300 yards – the other game being “just” 299 yards passing – Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez seemed primed for a big showing in Week 12. After all, New York was hosting Cincinnati in primetime on the night of Thanksgiving and the Bengals secondary was severely depleted after a rash of injuries. Instead of carving up the Bengals secondary, Sanchez had a turkey of a game, one of his worst performances of his sophmore season.
All told, Sanchez was 16-28 for a scant 166 with a touchdown and an interception in a Jets win that was spearheaded by a big special teams play and a bit of “trickeration” play-calling. There was no excuses from Sanchez immediately after the game and none a week after when he addressed reporters on Thursday following practice.
“I think it was just an off night. The coaches talked about it, other people talked about it being a short week, but it doesn’t matter,” Sanchez said. “The good ones, the great ones, they don’t let that affect them.”
Despite the poor showing last week, Sanchez has earned a reputation for being clutch, and rightfully so. For three straight weeks leading up to the Bengals game, Sanchez orchestrated drives where the Jets won on their final possession. Then there was last year where Sanchez managed the offense efficiently, with the Jets winning five of their final six games to squeak into the playoffs.
The legend of the man called the “Sanchise” by his teammates was only enhanced in the playoffs where the Jets won two road games and took a halftime lead into the AFC Championship Game, falling just short of their second ever Super Bowl appearance in team history.
All this leads head coach Rex Ryan to marvel at his second-year quarterback who is seemingly clutch when the spotlight is the brightest.
“This is a huge game in the regular season and he’s always performed well in those type of games. Last year in the playoffs, he played great. We lost the AFC Championship game not because of Mark - Mark played a great game,” Ryan said. “He’s that competitive. He wants to do well and he does do well in those type of situations.”
Ryan speculated that his quarterback probably left the podium last week, following the game, and went from the press conference to the locker room then immediately to watch the film from the game. The less then encouraging performance against a beat-up Bengals has Sanchez vowing that his maturation will continue.
And how he follows up last Thursday’s performance this week against New England will show just how far a quarterback who has clearly made strides has come in just a year’s time. This time a season ago as a rookie, Sanchez was forcing balls and the coaching staff was simply hoping for him to manage the game. Now, he’s become a playmaker for the Jets and the confidence is clearly showing, even if the Cincinnati game was clearly in anomaly in what has been a season of progress for the quarterback.
“I can’t tell you in words. It’s just a different feel out there. You start to understand the game and how long the games are,” Sanchez said. “You’re not on so much of an emotional rollercoaster during the games. I’m taking care of the ball better and that’s been the biggest area of improvement.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at Twitter.com/kdyer1012