By the time Mark Sanchez made his way to the podium, a red welt had formed under his right eye and stretched across the bridge of the Jets quarterback’s nose.
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There was no in-game snack on the sidelines for Sanchez this time at the Coliseum. He was having enough trouble just trying to breathe correctly after getting hit in the face and wasn’t even sure who smacked him.
”I have no idea,” said Sanchez after passing for a career-high 369 yards and two touchdowns in the Jets 34-24 loss to the Oakland Raiders on Sunday. ”I just came off the sideline and my nose was killing me.”
He was going to have X-rays to see if his nose was broken. It has been a rough start for Sanchez, who was tested for a concussion after the opening win against Dallas, and bruised his right arm against Jacksonville last week.
This time, Sanchez wasn’t the only one hurting in New York’s locker room.
Cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who drew four penalties and committed a costly turnover when he fumbled away a kickoff return late in the third quarter, suffered a rib injury and was taken for X-rays. The team had no immediate word on his condition.
The Jets defense could probably use some help, too, after giving up 234 rushing yards and blowing a 17-7 lead.
”I’ve never had that happen I don’t think in my life, but it just happened,” New York coach Rex Ryan said. ”This thing stings, there’s no question. You have 439 yards on offense and you lose the game. It’s unbelievable.”
Darren McFadden bullied the Jets on the ground and Raiders bloodied Sanchez in a most satisfying victory in their home opener.
McFadden ran for 171 yards and two touchdowns as part of the most productive rushing day against New York since Ryan took over as coach in 2009.
”McFadden is always a threat to anybody’s defense,” Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis said. ”He crushed us today. It was the little things that we didn’t focus on that caused us to fall behind, and we didn’t catch up.”
Denarius Moore scored on a 23-yard reverse and Michael Bush added a 1-yard TD run 42 seconds later as the Raiders (2-1) took control in a dizzying span beginning late in the third quarter to hand the Jets (2-1) their first loss.
Sanchez had a much rougher second trip to Oakland in his career, getting bloodied on one of Oakland’s four second-half sacks and needing a visor to protect a cut on his face. It was a far different end than his game here two years ago, when he was caught on camera eating a hot dog on the sideline in the closing minutes of a 38-0 victory that was the most lopsided home loss in Raiders history.
Ryan was miffed no penalty was called when Sanchez got hurt.
”He took a shot in the face, wasn’t called, so it must have been in the shoulder,” Ryan said. ”But something happened to his face.”
Sanchez completed 27 of 43 passes, cutting Oakland’s lead to 31-24 with a 16-yard pass to Plaxico Burress with 5:33 remaining. He also ran for one touchdown and had a second overturned by replay in the final minute, ending New York’s last gasp.
But a week after blowing a game defensively in the second half in Buffalo, the Raiders never gave New York a chance at a comeback. Campbell scrambled 10 yards for a first down and found Bush for a 28-yard gain after buying time with his feet to set up Sebastian Janikowski’s 49-yard field goal with 2:32 left to ice it.
”We all had our hand in this,” Sanchez said. ”We had momentum on our side, we let them hang around at halftime then they came and knocked us around a little in the third quarter.”
Campbell was 18 for 27 for 156 yards, but the Raiders won this game on the ground, putting up the most yards rushing (234) and the third-most points in a game against the Ryan-led Jets.
After Chimdi Chekwa broke up a fourth-down pass to Burress, Oakland used some trickery to go 63 yards in four plays to take a 24-17 lead in the final minute of the third quarter. The first deception came on a halfback option to McFadden. He wanted to throw back to Campbell, but that was covered so he ran 27 yards instead, faking a pass about 8 yards down the field.
On the next play, Moore took a reverse that the Jets appeared to have stopped. But Moore cut upfield to elude David Harris and Samson Satele flattened Jim Leonhard with a block, springing Moore for the touchdown that made it 24-17.
After coach Hue Jackson urged on the rare sellout crowd on the ensuing kickoff, Cromartie mishandled the short kick and Taiwan Jones recovered the fumble at the 13. Bush scored from 1 yard out two plays later to make it 31-17 one play into the fourth quarter.
The Raiders showed no hangover from last week’s second-half collapse against Buffalo. They took just five plays to drive 76 yards for the opening score against the Jets, with tight end Kevin Boss making a 28-yard catch in his Oakland debut to set up McFadden’s 2-yard run.
The Jets responded with the next 17 points as Sanchez took advantage of a secondary missing injured starting cornerback Chris Johnson (groin) and safety Michael Huff (head) and Tomlinson once again bewildered the Raiders.
Tomlinson broke a tackle from Rolando McClain and took a short pass 74 yards down to the 1 to set up Sanchez’s 1-yard TD run. Tomlinson then beat linebacker Quentin Groves on a slant for an 18-yard score that made it 14-7. That was Tomlinson’s 160th career touchdown, including 26 against the Raiders, joining Jerry Rice and Emmitt Smith in that exclusive club.
The Jets led by 10 before McFadden bolted around left end for a 70-yard run that doubled the longest against them since 1998.