- Rich Cimini, ESPN Staff Writer
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FLORHAM PARK, N.J. -- Things change quickly in the NFL. A week ago, the big story was the lack of chemistry between Mark Sanchez and Santonio Holmes, whose on-field communication in the Pittsburgh game was awful. It was akin to two people talking through tin cans, connected by a string. Now, after a big game in Miami, everything supposedly is cool between them.
"There were some connections in that game that reminded me of a couple of years ago," Sanchez said Wednesday.
There was a stretch in the 2010 season when Sanchez-to-Holmes won a few games in the fourth quarter and overtime. In overtime of Sunday's 23-20 win over the Dolphins, Sanchez hit Holmes for 38 yards to set up the game-winning FG. Their problems from last season -- they barely talked over the final 13 games -- seemed a distant memory.
Sanchez said there was one play in Miami -- he wouldn't say which one -- in which Holmes adjusted his pass route for a key reception. The scripted route wasn't good for that particular coverage, Holmes said, so he did a little freelancing -- and Sanchez made the sight adjustment. Coordinator Tony Sparano didn't love the two-man ab lib, but he understood the circumstances.
"Coach Sparano, he’s like, 'This isn’t just free-wheeling zone. You guys don’t go out there (and do what you want), this isn’t street football, run to the blue Cadillac and turn right,'" Sanchez said. "He’s like, 'At the end of the day, you guys are making a play, and I appreciate that. Let’s not make a habit of it on every single play.'"
For all the talk of great chemistry, the Sanchez-Holmes completion rate is no better than last season's league-low for a quarterback-wide receiver tandem. So far, they've connected 16 times in 33 attempts, virtually the same percentage as a year ago.
Holmes tied a career high with nine receptions for 147 yards. Clearly, Sanchez needs to develop a rapport with his other receivers because a 50.5 completion rate (worst in the league) isn't going to get it done. Sanchez said he missed some throws, but he also blamed drops and miscommunications with receivers.
"If we pick up half the misses and half the drops, we're in the mid-60s (percent) and nobody is saying a word," he said.
FLAG MAN: Holmes has demonstrated an uncanny ability to draw penalty flags -- a total of eight in three games. Frankly, he'd rather have the receptions and the TDs, saying, "You don’t want that running back to be on the one-yard line and steal your touchdown." He was laughing. But he added:
"It’s really messing with my catches, I can honestly say that. It’s keeping them down by having the penalties drawn. If we can keep stats on penalties per game, per player, I think those yards would add up. We can add them to our receiving yards ... They hurt the receivers’ average and how they play and their performance. When you’re drawing so many penalties, you don’t get opportunities to get any catches."
3dField Yates and Rich Cimini