The Jets may have ended their 2010 season in exactly the same spot as 2009, but the same can’t be said about their quarterback.
In last season’s run to the AFC championship, Mark Sanchez minimized mistakes and managed the offense as a highly-touted rookie. He was merely a pivot in their efficient offensive machine. In his second year with the team, though, he was asked to be a star, and he almost played that way. Sanchez quickly developed into the team’s catalyst and a playmaker during crunch time.
Such was the case in Sunday’s loss to the Steelers, when Sanchez mounted a furious rally that saw the Jets score 19 unanswered. The 24-year-old outplayed Ben Roethlisberger on the stat sheet, just like he bested Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
“The game started to slow down,” Sanchez said yesterday. “At this point, we’re right there. We’re so close.”
Coach Rex Ryan thinks so, too.
“The great thing about [having] a great quarterback is then you can have a heck of a football team and have a heck of a run,”?Ryan said. “That’s obviously what we plan on doing.”
Sanchez’s role in the plan will only increase after producing huge spikes in his touchdowns, yards and passer rating from a season ago.
Sanchez took advantage of all the added parts around him, including Santonio Holmes and LaDainian Tomlinson. The talent surrounding him helped produce a better quality player, with Sanchez at one point in the season orchestrating three game-winning drives for the Jets on their last possession in as many weeks.
Sanchez has grown into a more confident player over the past year, leading Ryan to say that he believes that his young quarterback would have been able to orchestrate a game-winning drive on Sunday if given the chance.
He’ll have plenty of chances down the road.
“I’m proud to be a Jet. I’m proud to be in this building and come to work here every day,” Sanchez said. “There is nothing to hang our heads about. It’s a tough way to go out, but we have a great group and we’ll be right back next year and, hopefully, we’ll be a little better.”