It’s been more than three weeks since Mark Sanchez’s face felt a razor. It has been just as long since the Jets have felt the sting of a loss. Coincidence? Maybe not.

 

Now looking like a mountain man with a surfer’s haircut, the unkempt rookie quarterback leads the Jets into Sunday’s divisional playoff game against San Diego with some momentum and confidence, not to mention a scraggly mess on his face.

 

“It’s been [growing] since Atlanta,” Sanchez said yesterday of the Week 15 loss, where Rex Ryan declared their season over. “I’ll just keep it growing.”

 

In a season that already birthed “Hot Dog Gate,” when Sanchez was caught snacking on a frankfurter during an October blowout of the Raiders, Nick Mangold has proclaimed his quarterback in the center of another controversy.

 

“When in doubt, go beard,” the shaggy center said. “That’s what I say. If it does become ‘Beardgate’ — well, I am 100 percent behind him. I’m on the record about that.”

Mangold has had a front-row seat to Sanchez’s maturation. He’s only averaging 117 passing yards and has thrown for just one touchdown over the team’s three-game winning streak, but more importantly, he’s without a turnover. And with the Jets’ top-ranked defense and power running game, that’s all they may need out of him on Sunday.

“They’ve minimized the number of times you get a chance to rattle the quarterback,” Chargers coach Norv Turner said. “He’s playing with great poise.”

As for the beard, it’s gotten mixed reviews from his teammates, but there is no denying the fact that as the beard grows longer, so does the Jets season.

“It must have a little luck in it,” said receiver Danny Woodhead. “Even if it doesn’t look that great.”

Sanchez, just feet away, fired back at Woodhead.

“It is full and manly and sophisticated,” said Sanchez, stroking his bushy cheeks. “Danny can’t grow one because he is too immature. He hasn’t gone through puberty yet, apparently.”