Sanchez’s numbers better, but Jets QB struggling

Mark Sanchez remembers bouncing off his offensive lineman’s
backside, dropping to the turf and wondering what hit him.

The New York Jets quarterback certainly knows now.

He has been, well, the butt of jokes on sports radio shows and
blogs all over the internet. Especially since the replay has been
shown countless times since he ran into Brandon Moore and fumbled
last Thursday night in a 49-19 loss to the New England
Patriots.

”I guess (I was) more stunned than anything,” Sanchez said
Wednesday. ”Just like a car accident. I was like, `Whoa. What just
happened?’ Then, the ball’s gone. It was weird.”

It was a broken play in which Sanchez tried to make something
happen, but instead made all the blooper reels. And the fumble led
to a touchdown in the middle of a 35-point second quarter for the
Patriots.

”It’s embarrassing,” Sanchez said. ”You screw up the play and
I’m trying to do the right thing. It’s not like I’m trying to force
something. I start to slide and I slide right in the worst spot I
possibly could: right into Brandon Moore.”

Sanchez said his teammates have been cool with him about the
play, keeping the razzing to a minimum. After all, in many ways,
the play epitomized the season for the Jets (4-7) and their
struggling quarterback.

”Hopefully,” Sanchez said, ”we’ll laugh about it later.”

Sanchez’s overall statistics have been a bit better the last few
weeks than they were earlier in the season. He has completed more
than 72 percent of his passes in two straight games and has a
300-yard passing performance. But the numbers don’t tell nearly the
whole story.

Sanchez is still making crucial mistakes in games, just as he
did last week, and the question remains as to whether he’ll ever be
better than he is now. Four of his 10 interceptions this season
have been in the red zone, or within the opponents’ 20-yard line.
Six of the 10 have come from inside the 35.

”We’ve made mistakes in the red zone and it hasn’t just been
Mark Sanchez making a mistake,” coach Rex Ryan said. ”There’s
been other mistakes as well. Is it a route? Is it a dropped pass? A
protection error? Sometimes a lot gets blamed on the quarterback,
but sometimes there are other things involved as well.”

Ryan dodged questions about Sanchez’s struggles specifically,
pointing to everyone needing to improve – including himself.

”If we could just say, `Stop. Just don’t do it,’ I think we’ve
said that a bunch,” Ryan said. ”I don’t think that’s going to fix
it. Clearly, you have to, I think, look more into why the mistakes
were made or whatever.”

It’s true that the Jets’ offensive woes can’t be entirely pinned
on Sanchez. New York ranks tied for 16th in the NFL with 20 dropped
passes. The running game has failed to be consistent for a
prolonged stretch this season, and the offensive line has also had
its share of troubles protecting the quarterback.

But Sanchez has failed to become the franchise-type player the
Jets expected him to be when they drafted him in 2009, the type of
quarterback who can take an offense on his shoulders and make
everyone around him better. He has 41 turnovers in the last two
seasons – 28 interceptions and 13 fumbles lost.

Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon had a one-word description of Sanchez
on CBS Sports Network’s ”NFL Monday QB” earlier this week:
”Lost.”

Phil Simms followed that up with his own critical
assessment.

”I think that really sums up everything for the New York
Jets,” the former Giants quarterback said. ”I live up here in the
New York area, so I read it every single day. Tim Tebow brought in.
A different offense. All of the injuries to skill players. Very
tough for a quarterback to get firm footing and show what kind of
talent he has.”

There have been plenty of excuses made by many people, but to
Sanchez’s credit, he has never pinned any of his struggles on
anyone other than himself – no matter how justified he might be in
doing so.

”They can’t happen,” Sanchez said of his mistakes. ”I just
have to do a better job of protecting the football.”

He has five games left in the regular season to try to do that,
and to firmly establish himself as the future of the franchise and
not just a player who peaked in his first two seasons while helping
the Jets to consecutive AFC title games.

Ryan and his staff have put together videos of how to limit
turnovers, especially since the Jets rank tied for fifth in the NFL
with 22.

”We have clips of every single player we have – how to hold it,
what the opponent’s seeing, everything,” Ryan said. ”You name it,
we’re trying to find answers to it, solutions to it.”

All five of the Jets’ opponents – Arizona, Jacksonville,
Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo – have records under .500, and
Ryan has said the goal is to run the table, go 5-0 and see what
happens from there.

”It’s important for all of us,” Sanchez said. ”Being the
quarterback of a team, there’s always more pressure and attention
at that position. I don’t treat it as anything else. We just need
to win some games here. We’ve done it in the past and hopefully
we’ll do it again.”

NOTES: Ryan faces Arizona’s Kerry Rhodes for the first time
since he called him ”selfish” in his book last year after the two
clashed at times while the safety played for the Jets. ”That’s in
the past,” Ryan said. ”I’m not going to get into it.” …
Sanchez on fan Ed Anzalone ”retiring” from being Fireman Ed,
partially because of increasing ”confrontations” at MetLife
Stadium stemming from him wearing the quarterback’s No. 6 jersey:
”He’s been really supportive. Obviously, I appreciate that. He’s
been around a long time, seen the ups and downs of our team.
Obviously, if his safety is in jeopardy here, then maybe it’s a
good move.”

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