Bills' errors help mask Sanchez's struggles in Jets win

Posted Nov. 28, 2011 @ 3:30 p.m.
Posted By Kevin Fishbain

The Jets have a lot to be thankful for after their 28-24 win over the Bills on Sunday. Mainly, Buffalo's mistakes, which the Jets took full advantage of to overshadow another poor passing day by Mark Sanchez and a surprisingly weak pass defense.

With the win, the Jets remain one game back of the Bengals for the final wild-card spot in the AFC entering a three-game stretch against teams with a combined record of 12-21: the Redskins, Chiefs and Eagles.

Like other Jets wins this season, there were still a lot of concerns with the play on the field. The secondary gave up 264 passing yards and three TDs to Ryan Fitzpatrick and did not force a turnover. Sanchez had one of the worst four-touchdown, one-interception performances imaginable.

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To begin with, the Jets were playing a Bills team that has its three best players — NT Kyle Williams, C Eric Wood and RB Fred Jackson — on injured reserve. It is a reeling Bills team that has unraveled since it lost to the Jets in Week Nine.

In Week 12, the Bills came out attacking through the air, and Sanchez's inaccuracy didn't allow the Jets to expose the Bills' defense like they had in the last meeting.

Buffalo did everything it could to give the Jets a gift win, and it was epitomized by the sequence of events to end the first half:

Stevie Johnson, following a five-yard touchdown catch with 2:09 to go, mocked Plaxico Burress in his celebration. He received a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, assessed on the kickoff. Dave Rayner appeared to attempt to drive a squib kick to avoid setting up a return for Joe McKnight. Instead, he mishit the ball, which went 16 yards.

A personal-foul penalty on Marcell Dareus set the Jets up at the Buffalo 14-yard line, and a miscommunication in coverage allowed for Sanchez to hit Burress for the game-tying touchdown.

The Bills finished with nine penalties for 85 yards, and Johnson was unable to make a touchdown catch in the Jets' endzone in the final seconds of the game.

The Gang Green escaped.

This wasn't a game that should have come down to the final possession. With Shonn Greene not at 100 percent and LaDainian Tomlinson inactive, the Jets had to rely on their signalcaller, and Sanchez had his second-lowest throwing accuracy of the season (48.6 percent).

When Greene did get touches, he made the most of them with a 6.0-yard rushing average, but he only had 13 carries. Sanchez aired it out 35 times, and the Bills' defensive backs got their hands on the ball often, defending six passes.

Credit Sanchez for taking advantage when his receivers got open and finally relying on TE Dustin Keller, who had four catches or 61 yards and two scores. Once again, we saw Sanchez come through in the clutch, as he completed 6-of-8 passes for 59 yards on the final drive, including the 16-yard game-winner to Santonio Holmes. He continues to excel in that setting; it's the first 3½ quarters that remain a problem.

Nothing has changed since earlier in the season. The Jets can't pin their hopes on Sanchez's arm — they need to rely on the run game and defense, which is why it's important to get Greene and LT healthy.

In games in which Sanchez has thrown the ball at least 35 times, the Jets have a 2-4 record. In the five games in which he has attempted less than 35 throws, the Jets are 4-1. The formula to get the Jets to the playoffs is right there, and the schedule is favorable, but they can't expect to get as many gifts as they received from the Bills on Sunday.

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