The numbers don’t sound like someone who carried a team to victory — 19 completions, 170 yards, no touchdown passes.
Mark Sanchez, though, has never been a numbers guy at this level. What the second-year quarterback has been, at least if you ask his coach, is a winner. That’s something no Jets gunslinger has ever been in Pittsburgh.
“That was about as gutsy as a performance as you’ll find,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “The numbers … [don’t] speak of the type of game he played. I knew he’d respond, he’s tougher than nails and that’s the competitor in him.”
Sanchez responded from three straight subpar performances to record his first victory against a winning team since Week 3. Sanchez completed just 44 percent of his passes and had four interceptions in his last two games alone. But in the 22-17 win over the Steelers, Sanchez was cool and calm, reminiscent of his mistake-free form late last year that carried the Jets through the playoffs to the AFC Championship.
Sanchez threw the ball away under pressure and never forced things, willing to take incompletions over turnovers and lost yards. He also stepped up in the second half, making prudent decisions to keep drives alive after converting just one third down in the first half. Sanchez led his team to 5 of 9 third downs conversions after the break, a crucial stat as the Jets needed to keep the ball out of the hands of Pittsburgh’s methodical offense.
“He did everything he’s supposed to,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said.
As a team, the Jets responded after a long week of media scrutiny surrounding the suspension of strength coach Sal Alosi, who tripped a player on the sidelines against the Dolphins.
“This football team is resilient,” Ryan said. “This team had some adversity that we’re dealing with but we responded.”
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer dealt with his fair share of flak this week for abandoning the running game. Even though he chose to sit on the ball at the end of the first half, he more than made up for it with brilliant playcalls after the break, including a naked bootleg for the game-tying score. It was the first time Gang Green found the end zone on offense in 11 quarters.
“Schotty called a great game,” Sanchez said. “They didn’t get a ton of pressure and when they did I got rid of the ball.”