A tipsy night for Sanchez
October, 9, 2012
By Rich Cimini | ESPNNewYork.com
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mark Sanchez said the situation was "eerily similar" to Nov. 21, 2010, the day he pulled out a miracle win over the Texans. That day, he got the ball with less than a minute remaining and threw a game-winning touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes. This time, he got the ball with 3:28 left in the game, needing 84 yards and a touchdown.
But the injured Holmes was a spectator Monday night at MetLife Stadium, and Sanchez was out of miracles. Fittingly, his night ended with a tipped pass that was intercepted by the Texans, sealing a 23-17 loss.
It was a tipsy night for Sanchez, whose fate was determined by three tipped passes -- one by TE Jeff Cumberland, the intended receiver on the final interception, and two by Texans DE J.J. Watt.
Statistically, it was another bad game for Sanchez, who was held under 50 percent for the fourth straight game -- 14-for-31, 230 yards, one touchdown pass and two interceptions. His passer rating was 54.5, his fourth straight sub-67 rating. This might be the worst slump of his career, but Rex Ryan cut his quarterback some slack after the game.
"I think his day, minus those tips, obviously it looks a lot better," Ryan said. "The numbers would be nice. I think he played better than the numbers indicate."
Easy translation: He's still the starting quarterback heading into next Sunday's home game against the Colts. But the Tebow clock is ticking.
Over the last four games, Sanchez is 58-for-132 -- a 44 percent completion rate -- with only three touchdown passes and five interceptions. It doesn't look good, but it's important to remember the circumstances. Against the Texans, the top-ranked defense in the league, he played with a patchwork receiving corps and managed to hit a few big plays, including a 27-yard scoring pass to Cumberland.
Again, he was undermined by the tips.
Tip No. 1: Driving toward a potential tying touchdown late in the second quarter, Sanchez was intercepted in the red zone -- a deflating momentum swing. He looked for WR Jeremy Kerley on a quick slant, but Watt got a hand in the passing lane, with CB Brice McCain grabbing the deflection. It was the second straight week that the Jets were staggered by a turnover late in the first half.
Sanchez didn't own up to it, saying, "We have to find a way to keep the defensive lineman's hands down." He added, "It was going to be a bang-bang play, and JK was going to catch it. The ball's going to be right on him and he's going to have a chance on the safety there, put us in tight and maybe run one of our red-zone plays. ... It's really too bad."
Tip No. 2: This occurred early in the fourth quarter, with the Jets -- down nine -- at the Texans' 3-yard line. The Texans busted a coverage, leaving WR Chaz Schilens wide open in the end zone. Sanchez made the throw and ... up went Watt's hand again.
"They blew a coverage, they got lucky," Schilens said. "I was so open, no one was within 10 yards of me. They got lucky."
Tip No. 3: On a 3rd-and-18 from his 32, with just over two minutes left in the game, Sanchez threw to Cumberland. The throw was high, but catchable. It went off his hands to CB Kareem Jackson. Game over.
"Could it be more in front of him? Sure, but it's third down and a half-mile, or whatever it was," Sanchez said. "So we have to get some yards and put us in a position to go for it on fourth down, and that would've been it. But Jeff made some great catches for us tonight. He's not going to make them all, nobody is."
Said Cumberland: "I could've caught the ball."
You could say the Jets were unlucky. Schilens did, claiming, "It's just not going our way right now. The turnovers ... unbelievable turnovers, B.S. ones. Tipped balls and stuff like that? Give me a break."
Maybe the Jets were unlucky, but good teams make their own luck. That's what the Jets did in 2010, when they found ways to win.