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Sanchez honeymoon is over as rookie struggles for consistency

By Jane McManus
JetsInsider.com Feature Columnist
November 1st, 2009
Mark Sanchez is not the reason the Jets lost to Miami on Sunday but the rookie's inconsistency it frustrating for many. (JetsInsider.com Photo)
Mark Sanchez is not the reason the Jets lost to Miami on Sunday but the rookie's inconsistency it frustrating for many. (JetsInsider.com Photo)
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - It was a dead-on fake. Mark Sanchez had the Miami defense going hard in a goal-line scrum after a ball that just wasn’t there. It was still in his hand, and the Jets quarterback was running left without a blocker in sight, leaping into the end zone and spiking the ball between his knees

It might have been one of those moments that the crowd at the Meadowlands erupts, but Miami still held a lead, and just a few plays earlier Jets fans had been booing the rookie quarterback for underthrown balls and a stagnant offense.

The cheers might have been louder.

The love affair New York is having with Sanchez has reached that stage where flaws become glaring. Did he really underthrow balls like that the first three games? Why did he backpedal so far on the final play of the game before overthrowing Jerricho Cotchery in the end zone? Has he always snored?

The 30-25 loss to Miami before the bye week was particularly tough.

“This is the best team ever I’ve been on that can’t find a way to win these kinds of games,” said wide receiver Braylon Edwards, brought in from Cleveland this year.

And Sanchez takes some of the heat. After the game he was asked about miscues and decisions, such as running back on the last play until an exasperated Sanchez responded, “Where should I have gone? Where did you want me to go?”

He was 20-for-30 for 265 passing yards and two touchdowns, and he didn’t throw an interception. Asked what he thought of Sanchez’ decision-making, Jets coach Rex Ryan equivocated.

“I thought he made a lot of great plays for us,” Ryan said. “We’ll have to see. It’s really hard to say right now specifically, ‘Hey, I thought it was great’ or ‘It wasn’t good.’ I’d rather just watch the tape and give a more accurate answer on Monday.”

The Jets have won just a single game in the last four after starting the season 3-0. Sanchez had developed a nice chemistry with Cotchery before the WR injured his hamstring, and the lack of that same kind of reliable connection with other receivers became clear soon after.

Despite missing most of three games, Cotchery still led the team in catches with 24 and passing yards with 360 going into the Miami game.

Sanchez is accurate, which works with a receiver like Edwards who likes a jump ball, or for Cotchery who like to run down the catch and of course with David Clowney when he is blazing a go route. It just hasn’t been working nearly enough, and timing issues have left some receivers a frustrated not so much with Sanchez, but with the situation.

If the Jets are looking for a positive to take away from the game, look to the connection forged between tight end Dustin Keller and Sanchez. Keller had eight catches for 76 yards and a touchdown yesterday.

“(The chemistry) has gotten better,” Cotchery said. “The great thing to see today was him and Dustin, who have been working together so hard.”

Sanchez can’t be responsible for everything. Not the moment the Jets sent 12 men out on the field, not the Shonn Greene fumble that was returned for a touchdown and certainly not the highly motivational speech that Ted Ginn, Jr. got, to the effect of, get better or get on the bench.

Sanchez is a smart kid, and he seems to have the stomach for the critique he is getting. The Jets defense is aware of the fact that they have to keep teams from scoring because Sanchez is going to make mistakes.

In a game where confidence is key, Sanchez seems steady despite fumbles, interceptions and turnovers followed by an inquisition.

He was even nonplussed when he looked up into the stands during the fourth quarter to see someone dressed as a hot dog and a companion dressed as — gulp — Sanchez himself.

“Oh my God,” Sanchez said.

With the second loss to Miami and a 4-4 record, the Jets may not be Super Bowl bound, but those dreams were premature with a rookie quarterback at the helm. Once he can improve timing with some of the receivers, protect the ball better and hone those instincts on critical plays, the Jets will have a quarterback for years to come.

“This is a team that’s capable of bouncing back and we know we have the talent,” Sanchez said. “We just have to put it all together on game day.”

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