By Mary Paoletti
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- After an abysmal performance in a loss to the Ravens in Week 1 (10-for-21, 74 yards, 0 TD), conventional wisdom was that Mark Sanchez needed to get something going early against the Patriots this Sunday.
He didn't, and he didn't record a first down until midway through the second quarter.
The Jets quarterback had just one drive in the first quarter and he opened it with a near-interception. He sandwiched a five-yard hand-off to Shonn Greene between another incompletion for a more underwhelming start than even imagined. Total time of possession? 62 seconds. It wasn't all Sanchez' fault; the Jets defense couldn't get off the field.But in his limited time on thefield,Sanchez looked as inept as he had against Baltimore.
But, slowly and surely, he shook it off.
The difference in Mark Sanchez between the first and second quarters was obvious. Example? At one point, the Patriots had nine first downs to New York's zero. At the half it was 12-10, Pats.And Sanchez enteredhalftime with respectable numbers: 12-for-16 for 121 yards and a touchdown, brought in by Braylon Edwards.
Some of the passes were still subpar.A second-and-8 ball he threw at LaDainian Tomlinson's feet when the running back was wide open in the flat inside the Patriots 10. Both of the sacks -- the first inflicted by Gerard Warren, the second by Tully Banta-Cain -- were probably avoidable.
But Sanchezmovedthe chains. His confidence grew. On a different second-and-eight in the same drive, the Patriots defensive line flushed Sanchez out of the pocket and he was forced to scramble. Instead of looking skittish as he so often did against Baltimore, he kept his head and created,shoveling a throw toTomlinson for nine yards and a first down.
Tomlinson and Shonn Greene were there for Sanchez on what running game the Jets attempted. But it was Edwards and Dustin Keller who helped Sanchez get the offense in gear and develop the passing game. The receivers shared 7 of their quarterback's 16 completions for 42 and 47-yards, respectively.
What they did was give Sanchez reliable options. The plays weren't big and they weren't sexy, but they added up to 10 points to keep the Jets in the game. And they gave something, finally, for Mark Sanchez to build on.
And build he did. The quarterback completed 21-30 passes for 220 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions in New York's 28-14 win over the Patriots.
"This is just the beginning,'' Sanchez said. "It's still a long season. It's just tough when you lose that first game and it feels like you're 0-10. It's nice that it was a short week.''
A victory and some confidence were not his only gains. It sounded like Sanchez also gained some perspective.
"It was great, coming out this week and being myself and having fun. I told guys after the first drive of the game, 'Smile, have a little fun. Get animated out here,'" he said. "We're playing a kids game. We're grown men but we're playing a kids game and to treat it like that. Be smart, but have fun."