Mark Sanchez could do a dozen more photo spreads in fashion magazines. New York Jets fans can keep calling him the “Sanchize.” He could even show his tough side and battle through a sore arm and a broken nose like he’s done in recent weeks.
The one thing he won’t currently do for the Jets: win football games with his arm. Not Sunday as the Baltimore Ravens showed in a 34-17 victory at M&T Bank Stadium and, maybe, not even against less-accomplished defenses around the league.
“When you get into situations like this, guys get so frustrated and they start missing some easy stuff,” Sanchez said. “I’m as guilty of that myself. I was missing some easy throws at the end of the game. We have all the ability in the world on offense, and now it’s time to put it together.”
The Jets’ pass-heavy game plan — necessitated in part because of the injury of center Nick Mangold — set Sanchez up for failure, and the former USC starter did so spectacularly in prime time. Sanchez turned the ball over four times, and three were returned for touchdowns. He finished 11 for 35 with no touchdowns, one interception and three fumbles lost. That’s a passer rating of 30.5, the equivalent of just signing your name and walking out of the classroom on your SAT exam.
The only thing uglier than those stats was how bad he looked as the game moved into the fourth quarter. Sanchez became increasingly tentative as he eyed his first feasible option and dumped into the clear when even that wasn’t open to him.
That’s what happens when you get sacked twice and get hit eight more times by a defense that pretty much knew what was coming: anything but a running play.
“I think we wanted to get him to try to beat us,” said Ravens defensive tackle Haloti Ngata, who unleashed a brutal blindside hit of Sanchez in the second quarter that resulted in a fumble and a 26-yard TD return by linebacker Jarret Johnson. “Once we knew they were going to start passing, we just pinned our ears back and tried to get to him as fast as we could. I think we rattled him and got him off his game.”
Sanchez denied Ngata’s observation.
“I don’t think I was rattled,” Sanchez said. “I just needed to get the ball out quicker. We couldn’t get the running game going. When that happens, we became predictable.”
New York gained 38 yards on the ground on 19 carries, the franchise’s fewest rushing yards since Nov. 26, 2006, against the Houston Texans. (The Jets had 27 yards on the ground in an offense, like Sunday, that was led by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.) The Jets actually lost a yard rushing overall in the second half on six carries.
“This football team cannot be successful when we’re rushing for 38 yards,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “There’s no chance. You’ve got to give Baltimore credit. They always do a great job stuffing the run, and they did tonight. Thirty-eight yards. I don’t know how many teams can win with 38 yards rushing.”
The team’s top rusher, Shonn Greene, had 23 yards on 10 carries. Ladainian Tomlinson was minus-3 on three carries. No matter how many free-agent wide receivers like Plaxico Burress are signed in the offseason, there’s no hiding the lack of a rushing attack. That ground game, by the way, slipped to 29th in the league with Sunday’s effort.
“We never got it going tonight,” Tomlinson said. “You never want to see your quarterback on the ground. It’s a reflection of your offense when your quarterback is on the ground. It’s not fun. It’s not a good night.”
Had Sanchez and the Jets’ offense as a whole not flamed out like they did, the focus would be on Ravens QB Joe Flacco to a greater degree. Facing a pass rush that isn’t nearly to the level of what the Ravens’ defense provided, Flacco was 10 for 31 for 163 yards with one interception that linebacker David Harris returned for a 35-yard TD in the second quarter.
“It wasn’t too pretty, but anytime you get a win in the NFL it’s a good one,” Flacco said. “Our defense really showed up today.”
A 3-yard TD run by Ravens running back Ray Rice was the only offensive touchdown by either side and equaled as many as special teams provided, as New York’s Joe McKnight had a 107-yard kickoff return, the longest play in Jets history.
After consecutive losses to the Oakland Raiders and the Ravens, the Jets next face the league’s lowest-ranked defense in the New England Patriots. Maybe that, along with a less-gimpy ankle on Mangold, will be the remedy for the Jets.
“This is a very capable offense,” Sanchez said. “I know that. I can see it in these guys. We are better than what we showed tonight.”