ST. LOUIS -- The quarterback who can't shoot straight found his target almost every time.
Emerging from a two-game funk, Mark Sanchez completed 75 percent of his passes -- his best percentage in nearly three years -- in leading the Jets to a 27-13 win over the Rams on Sunday at the Edward Jones Dome.
Sanchez completed 15 of 20 attempts, with two incompletions coming on drops by Stephen Hill and Joe McKnight. It was the second-highest completion percentage of his career (Sanchez was 13 for 17 in the 2009 wild card game against the Bengals). This from a quarterback who began the day with a league-low 52-percent mark.
"It was a great performance by him," Rex Ryan said. "It's what we needed."
It's what Sanchez needed, considering his highly scrutinized job security. He may not have lost the starting job with a terrible performance -- it would've been tough to prepare Tim Tebow on a short week for Thursday night's game against the Patriots -- but it probably bought him some time.
Sanchez had no turnovers for only the third time this season (he recovered his own fumble on a sack), and he did a good job of managing the Jets' ball-control attack. He wasn't asked the throw downfield that often, but he made the most of his chances -- a 25-yard scoring pass to Chaz Schilens and a 32-yard seam pass to Jeremy Kerley.
Could it be a coincidence that Sanchez played well on a day in which Tebow saw only three plays on offense?
Sanchez can be an effective game manager -- when he protects the ball.
"That was part of the emphasis coming into the game, taking care of the football and being in control of those situations down in the red zone," he said.
Sanchez began the day with three red-zone interceptions, tied for most in the league. Offensive coordinator Tony Sparano attacked that problem by taking the ball out of his quarterbacks' hands. He didn't want to take any chances, not even against one of the most benign defenses in the NFL. The Rams haven't forced a turnover since Week 5.
The Jets ran 11 plays in the red zone, but Sanchez dropped back to pass only twice -- a sack and a seven-yard check-down pass to Jeff Cumberland. On third-down passing situations in the second half, Sparano called running plays, catching the Rams by surprise. Bilal Powell scored on runs of five and 11 yards. In another obvious passing situation, they called a screen pass to Konrad Reuland that picked up 18 yards.
Afterward, Ryan was thrilled with Sanchez. The coach has received a lot of criticism for standing by his starter, but his patience was rewarded with a 118.3 passer rating.
"When you look at our quarterback rating, in the NFL now that seems to be a big statistic when determining wins and losses," Ryan said.
Sanchez's counterpart, Sam Bradford, recorded a 67.4 rating.