In the end, defense fails Jets – not Sanchez

All week, the game plan for the Jets was simple: Run the football, play good defense, and keep the game out of Mark Sanchez’s hands. In fact, that has been New York’s mantra all season.

But on Sunday, it was the defense that failed the Jets in their 30-17 loss to the Colts in the 2010 AFC Championship Game. They gave up a whopping 461 total yards, including 101 rushing yards to a team that can’t run the football. Peyton Manning threw for 377 yards and three touchdowns on 26-of-39 passing, while Pierre Garcon (11 receptions, 151 yards, 1 TD) and rookie Austin Collie (7 receptions, 123 yards, 1 TD) shredded New York’s secondary for big plays in the second half.

Outside of throwing an interception late in the fourth quarter in garbage time, Sanchez was pretty damn good. And not pretty damn good for a rookie – pretty damn good for any quarterback. He completed 17-of-30 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns, including an 80-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards early in the second quarter to give the Jets a 7-3 lead.

Sanchez was impressive. Several times throughout the game he used his feet to buy more time, threw the ball with confidence and took shots vertically instead of settling for the underneath pass. He played like a seasoned vet and although he couldn’t lead the Jets to a victory, he was also at disadvantage after rookie running back Shonn Greene left the game early in the third quarter with a rib injury.

Everyone knew that Sanchez wasn’t going to be able to beat the Colts with his arm. But the bottom line is that he wasn’t the problem – Manning shredded the Jets’ defense, which couldn’t limit the big play and didn’t make one clutch stop in the second half.

The one person everyone was worried about actually played pretty well. And had the Jets not gone with an ultraconservative to open the second half, then maybe Sanchez would have been able to lead them to Miami. Either way, at least this is a performance that Sanchez can build on heading into a promising second year.

Photo from fOTOGLIF

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