Sanchez turns in ‘rookie’ performance in Big Easy
NEW ORLEANS, LA – After a week of devising ways to stop the prolific offense of their opponent, the New York Jets were beaten by their own quarterback.
For the first time this season, Mark Sanchez appeared like a rookie out on the gridiron. Sanchez threw three interceptions and fumbled a ball in his own end zone, as the Jets fell to the Saints 24-10 Sunday at the Superdome in New Orleans.
“It’s tough when the rest of the team plays well enough to win and their quarterback doesn’t play very well,” said Sanchez. “I just feel like I let these guys down and I need to prove to them that I can bounce back from some costly mistakes.”
The Jets’ defense came to play once again Sunday, limiting Saints’ QB Drew Brees to only 190 yard through the air, with no touchdowns. The Saints’ league-leading offense was limited to ten points, with their two other scores coming off turnovers.
But for the first time this season, the Jets defense was exposed in spurts for being “too” aggressive. Rex Ryan’s blitzing attack left the middle of the field exposed, where it was exploited by New Orleans’ backfield duo of Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush.
Thomas and Bush combined for 223 yards on the ground, shedding a number of tackles from a Jets defense which had a number of missed tackles on the evening.
Despite the relatively strong performance by the Jets on the defensive side of the ball, DE Shaun Ellis made it clear that it’s hard to talk about positives in a losing effort. “There’s some positives,” said Ellis. “But in the end, we didn’t get the win. It’s a team game. We would’ve loved to come out of here 4-0, but we didn’t, we’re 3-1. We left a lot of plays out there.”
“It’s frustrating,” said safety Kerry Rhodes. “We fully expect for us to win every game and come out to win every game but we didn’t get it done today. That was a complete team effort, we didn’t get it done as a team.”
But the story of the game was the ineptitude of the Jets’ offense, featuring a poor performance from the offensive line, questionable play-calling in third down situations, and four costly turnovers.
The offensive line was unable to protect their quarterback as Sanchez faced multiple defenders in his face all day, leading to four sacks and the three turnovers from Sanchez.
The Jets offense, which had shown an innate ability to convert on third down in their first three games, was unable to do so on Sunday, converting only three of 12 third down attempts.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan expressed after the game, that the play of the Jets’ offensive line needs to improve.
“We’ve got to do a better job of protecting (Sanchez),” said Ryan. “I’m sure that once we see film, our guys will agree that we can play better in a lot of phases of this game.”
After winning the toss and electing to receive the opening kickoff, New Orleans wasted no time in going to work on the offensive end.
Drew Brees marched New Orleans down the field on a 13-play, 60-yard opening drive, keeping the Jets defense off-balance with a mix of short passes and runs from both Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas.
On third-and-4 from the Jets’ 16, Brees fired a pass towards the end zone that was deflected by Kerry Rhodes, who made a great play on the ball. The Saints were then forced to settle for an opening drive field goal by John Carney, going ahead 3-0 on a drive that chewed up over six minutes.
It marked the first time this season that the Saints did not score a touchdown on their first possession.
The Jets came right back on their first possession, as Mark Sanchez completed consecutive passes to Dustin Keller and Jerricho Cotchery to jump-start the drive.
However, the drive came up short as Cotchery was unable to hold onto a third down pass from Sanchez.
The Jets weren’t any more successful on their second drive, which featured an 18-yard run by WR Brad Smith on a hand-off from Leon Washington out of the “Seminole” formation.
Just when it seemed that the Jets were ready to pounce on their first red zone opportunity of the game, Sanchez was picked off by Saints’ safety Darren Sharper at the 1 yard line. The future Hall of Famer, took the interception 99 yards down the right sideline for the score, extending the New Orleans lead to 10-0.
After going three and out on their next possession, Saints’ safety Chris Reis appeared to get a hand on Steve Weatherford’s punt, which traveled a putrid nine yards to the Jets’ 37, adding insult to injury.
The Jets caught a break though, as New Orleans was assessed for an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty, setting them back ten yards.
On second-and-10, Brees completed a screen pass to Pierre Thomas who shed multiple tacklers in route to a 36-yard gain, bringing New Orleans down to the goal line.
The Jets’ defense forced incompletions from Brees on third and fourth down, regaining possession while keeping New Orleans out of the end zone. But they wouldn’t be kept out for long.
Two plays later, Mark Sanchez’s ball security issues came back to bite him once again. The rookie was hit in the end zone by New Orleans lineman Will Smith, coughing up the ball, which was pounced on by the Saints’ Remi Ayodele, giving New Orleans a commanding 17-0 advantage with 9:09 remaining in the first half.
Sanchez stated that in situations like fumble in the end zone, he needs to get rid of the ball sooner. “I think it’s just a matter of getting rid of it sooner,” he said. “Whether it’s not feeling that rush from behind me or just holding onto the ball a little too long, I don’t know. I’ll watch it on film.”
The Jets finally got on the scoreboard with 1:48 left in the second quarter, as Jay Feely connected on a 38-yard attempt. Feely’s 20th straight successful attempt, trimmed the New Orleans lead to 17-3, heading into the half.
The Jets’ caught their first big break of the second half as LB Bryan Thomas knocked forced Reggie Bush to fumble the ball following a three-yard gain with nine minutes remaining in the third. The fumble was recovered by Dwight Lowery, giving the Jets offense great field position at the New Orleans’ 34-yard line.
For the first time of the night, the Jets offense took advantage. On third-and-six, Sanchez completed a short pass to Leon Washington, who took it to the outside for 15 yards. On the very next play, Thomas Jones awoke with a 15 yard sprint into the end zone, cutting the New Orleans lead to 17-10, with the momentum swinging in Gang Green’s favor.
On the Saints’ ensuing position, Rex Ryan’s defense came up huge once again. After holding Reggie Bush inches short of the first down marker on third down, the Jets held strong on another fourth down. Shaun Ellis and Kris Jenkins helped push the pile and stuff the line of scrimmage as Pierre Thomas was tackled by DT Sione Pouha on fourth down.
After going three and out on their next possession, the Jets defense was called on once again, with the secondary answering the call this time.
Darrelle Revis nearly came away with the interception on a pass to Marques Colston on first down. Then on third down, CB Dwight Lowery tackled WR Devery Henderson just short of the first down marker.
New Orleans next possession would ultimately decide the game. Beginning on their own 26, Brees helped engineer, an 11-play drive, seven minute march to the end zone. The drive was encapsulated by a 1-yard run at the goal line by Pierre Thomas, extending the lead to 24-10 with just over six minutes remaining in the ball game.
The drive’s key play came on a fourth-and-1 from the Jets’ 43. Coming out of a timeout, Kris Jenkins was drawn offsides on a hard count from Drew Brees, giving the Saints a first down.
On the Jets’ next possession, Sanchez was picked off on third down by Sharper for the second time, dashing any hopes of a last-gasp comeback.
Greene impressive in debut
Rookie RB Shonn Greene turned some heads in his first regular season appearance. Greene came out of the gates sprinting, with a nine-yard gain on his first carry, finishing with 23 yards on only four carries.
“I think this kid can play,” said Rex Ryan. “You’re never gonna find out until you throw him in there. I thought he made a good account of himself.”
Welcome to “Revis Island”: Marques Colston
Add Marques Colston to the list of star-receivers that have been blanketed by Darrelle Revis throughout the 2009 season. The Saints’ receiver was limited to a meager 33 yards on only two catches.
Jones makes history
Thomas Jones became the 40th running back in NFL history to gain at least 8,000 yards rushing. Jones accomplished this feat in the first quarter of Sunday’s game. Jones ran for 48 yards on 13 carries with a touchdown.
In honor of the NFL’s league wide campaign in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, the Jets and Saints were both decked out with accents of pink Sunday. Players wore pink wristbands, armbands, gloves and shoelaces while sporting breast cancer ribbons on their helmets. Jets’ C Nick Mangold even rocked a pair of shiny pink cleats.
No “Easy” task
With the loss Sunday, the Jets fall to 5-6 all time against New Orleans, losing two straight.
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