Jets' Sanchez taking lumps from defenses, critics
Mark Sanchez looked into the mirror and carefully thought about his last performance.
It was awful, and he knew it. So, the New York Jets quarterback scribbled some notes into a pad, and then took out an erasable marker and wrote a few things on the glass in front of him.
''It's to remind yourself,'' Sanchez said Wednesday, ''to never let that happen again and move on.''
He has written some ''good stuff,'' but would rather keep that between him and, well, the man in the mirror at home.
''That's for me,'' Sanchez said.
It's been a rough start to the season for the young quarterback, who has been knocked around by defenses that have left him bruised and battered, and critics who have questioned his abilities. Sanchez is coming off a miserable game at Baltimore in which he was 11 for 35 for 119 yards and an interception, and he vows to bounce back. He'll certainly need to be a lot better Sunday, when the Jets (2-2) play the Patriots (3-1) in New England.
''If it never happens again in my career, I'd be pretty lucky, but there is a chance that could happen again at some point,'' he said. ''To come back on Wednesday and work through it and show these guys, `I'm the man. I don't care what anybody says. I'm the man in this building. We're going to win this game,' that's how I have to be. That's what I have to exude. That's the confidence I need to have, and that's the way I felt this week.''
And, it has shown to his teammates, who insist their faith has not wavered in Sanchez.
''He didn't come in here with his head down,'' center Nick Mangold said. ''He didn't come in here moping around. He came in ready to work.''
At least Sanchez is healthy, something that has been far from guaranteed this season while working behind an offensive line that has been subpar so far and contributed to him being sacked 11 times in four games. Sanchez was tested for a concussion after the season opener against Dallas, bruised his throwing arm the following week against Jacksonville and then suffered a broken nose at Oakland two weeks ago.
Sanchez acknowledged that he takes some of the blame for the injuries, trying too hard to make things happen. But, it was clear against the Ravens that if he continues to take such hard hits, he's not going to last the entire season.
''Under that kind of pressure,'' coach Rex Ryan said, ''Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, whoever would've had a rough day.''
After the 34-17 loss, wide receiver Santonio Holmes was critical of Sanchez and the rest of the team, saying they all need to play better if they are going to succeed. Holmes' comments got lots of play in the media, and seemed to hint at the possible beginnings of dissension.
Not so, Holmes insisted.
''If anybody feels bad about that then I'm sorry, but as a captain, that's my job to point it out amongst ourselves,'' Holmes said. ''And if the media took it the wrong way, I apologize for it. But as far as meaning it to dictate anything negative on my team, I would never do that. I didn't sign back here to be that guy.''
Hall of Famer Joe Namath didn't like that Holmes went public with his thoughts on the team's struggles but has been one of the team's most vocal critics.
''Joe Namath doesn't work for the New York Jets,'' Holmes said. ''He doesn't coach here. He doesn't have anything positive to say about us. We can't feed into what he says.''
Sanchez said moving forward, comments such as Holmes' will not go outside the players' meetings and their own conversations. After all, there are plenty of others offering their own criticisms, including the quickly growing number of fans and media saying Sanchez should be a lot better in his third season.
He has six touchdown passes and five interceptions, but his 75.9 quarterback rating is among the league's worst. Sanchez's decision-making has also been questioned and his ability to actually be the franchise-type quarterback the Jets still insist he is.
''He'll be just fine,'' wide receiver Plaxico Burress said. ''This is a town where you just have to put everything aside and not pay attention to what everybody's saying outside and just focus on your job and go out and play. He's coming in and doing everything he needs to do and we've got to help him, everybody: the offensive line, myself, the running backs. ... It's not just him out there playing by himself. We all have to look ourselves in the mirror and be accountable also.''
Tight end Dustin Keller, one of Sanchez's best friends on the team, said he and his teammates reassure their quarterback, but it's not necessarily needed.
''He kind of lets all the outside stuff go in one ear and out the other,'' Keller said. ''He knows what he has to do and I think that's part of the reason they brought him in. He had to deal with similar things at USC, you know, a big market, especially for college. He's done a great job of letting those things pass. He knows we have all the confidence in the world in him, and that's all that matters.''
Seattle's Pete Carroll, Sanchez's coach in college, has seen him make progress from afar since his rookie season, and likes how the quarterback has toughed things out during times like this.
''The other night was a ridiculously challenging defense that they went up against,'' Carroll said. ''I thought he was battling like crazy and I know he wants to be cleaner in the numbers and they start to add up a bit, but just like he has in the past, he will bounce back and be the guy everybody is counting on.''
Notes: CB Antonio Cromartie didn't back off his comments from last season's playoffs when he called Patriots quarterback Tom Brady an expletive. ''Nah, I don't have anything to add,'' he said. ''My feelings are still the same. Nothing is going to change.'' Cromartie said he respects what Brady has accomplished on the field, but ''I've never backed down. I'm not going to change how I feel about Tom Brady from what I said last year.'' As for the Jets' game plan against the Patriots' offense? ''To beat the hell out of their receivers,'' he said, adding that he hopes he's targeted by Brady and New England.