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Thursday, December 23, 2010
Stats hint Sanchez in for rough day

By Michael C. Wright

LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- No need to blitz New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, apparently.

When teams utilize a rush featuring four defenders or fewer, Sanchez struggles, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“Uh, he tries to take care of the football as much as they can,” Urlacher said, pausing. “Umm … they’re a running football team. How about that?”

Mark Sanchez
Jets QB Mark Sanchez doesn't excel against four-man rushes.
So evidently, Urlacher knows the inside scoop on Sanchez, too. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Sanchez has thrown more interceptions (nine) than touchdowns (five) when defenses rush him with four or fewer defenders.

The matchup with the Bears on Sunday might make for a rough outing for the quarterback, considering the Bears' reliance on generating pressure with a standard four-man rush. Consider this: the Bears have rushed four or fewer this season on 72.8 percent of their opponents’ passes.

In doing so, the Bears allowed just nine touchdown passes this season while gobbling up 15 interceptions and limiting opposing quarterbacks to a passer rating of 72.5 and a completion percentage of 63.5. Against the four or fewer rushers this season, Sanchez has completed just 57.6 percent of his passes while generating a passer rating of 70.4.

“As a quarterback, he doesn’t necessarily have to be the major game changer,” Bears linebacker Lance Briggs said of Sanchez. “He just has to manage games. They have a great defense, and they have a great running game. So when you have those elements, you don’t have to do a whole lot as a quarterback. Their offense does a whole lot. They use [receiver] Brad Smith in many different ways; try to trick you with different formations, reverses, reverse passes. There probably isn’t a formation they don’t use.”

But the diverse looks won’t mask Sanchez’s struggles, which might be compounded Sunday by him playing with an injured throwing shoulder. Despite torn cartilage in his throwing shoulder, Sanchez plans to start Sunday against the Bears.

The Bears won’t try any funny business, like targeting the quarterback’s shoulder, they said.

When asked about how the team -- knowing about Sanchez’s injury -- will attack the quarterback, Briggs tossed in a couple of questions of his own, drawing laughter from the media assembled at Halas Hall.

“[Will we] try to take his shoulder out, give him an extra ummph when I hit him?” Briggs asked. “Which shoulder is it, just so I know? No, we don’t do stuff like that. I don’t do stuff like that, personally.”

Sanchez’s injury combined with his struggles against fewer rushers -- which equates to better coverage on the back end -- are certainly worth keeping an eye on in this matchup.

Over his past four games, Sanchez has thrown five interceptions and only one touchdown, with two outings in which he registered passer ratings of 27.8 and 45.3. Sanchez threw for eight touchdowns and no interceptions in the first four games.

“Obviously, we’re not scoring touchdowns,” Sanchez said. “There just wasn’t a good flow to our offense, a rhythm. It’s clear when you watch film from those games, and then all the other games it looks like a totally different team. We just need to be consistent, play like we did against the Steelers, and you don’t want to let a guy like [Julius] Peppers, Urlacher, and those guys affect the game. It’s going to take a lot because that’s a really good defense.”