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Sanchez Struggles, Jets Beat Panthers 9-3

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(AP Photo/Rick Havner)

(AP Photo/Rick Havner)

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By MIKE CRANSTON, AP Sports Writer

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Mark Sanchez was lucky to avoid two interceptions and failed to get the New York Jets in the end zone despite great field position.

And he still had the better night of the two starting quarterbacks.

Matt Moore couldn’t lead Carolina to any points on a night of bad passes, drops, penalties and dismal offense in the Jets’ 9-3 victory over the Panthers on Saturday.

Sanchez completed 5 of 10 passes for 12 yards, a setback after he recovered from an interception on his first pass Monday against the Giants and looked sharp. LaDainian Tomlinson’s 20-yard draw play was the Jets’ top offensive play.

The Panthers couldn’t even come close to matching that.

Moore, given the starting job when seven-year starter Jake Delhomme was released in the offseason, failed to lead a scoring drive for the second straight preseason game. He completed just six of 17 passes for 57 yards and an interception.

Rookie Jimmy Clausen wasn’t much better – 9 of 22 for 72 yards and a pick – and neither got much help. Carolina played without star receiver Steve Smith (broken arm) and the unheralded stable of receivers behind him did nothing to quell concerns Smith will be the Panthers’ only option.

Special teams gaffes twice gave the Jets great field position, but they still managed just a 6-0 halftime lead. The Jets started a drive at the Carolina 35, but the first of Everette Brown’s two sacks led to Nick Folk’s 43-yard field goal.

The Jets started another drive at the Carolina 12, but running back Shonn Greene lost seven yards on the first play and Folk booted a 36-yarder.

“We have to move the ball better,” Jets coach Rex Ryan said. “That was disappointing.”

Sanchez, who threw 20 interceptions as a rookie, saw Chris Gamble drop a sure interception. Another pass was deflected and nearly picked off by Jon Beason.

“We kept putting ourselves in third-and-longs, which allowed them to play deep and forced us to take the stuff underneath,” Sanchez said. “We need to be a little more efficient on first downs and score touchdowns in the red zone.”

But despite having minus-1 yard passing in the first half and not getting their receivers involved, the Jets looked better with the ball than the Panthers.

Moore badly overthrew rookie Brandon LaFell on a deep pass on Carolina’s opening possession and safety Jim Leonhard swooped in for the interception. Leonhard came in unblocked and sacked Moore the second time the Panthers had the ball.

LaFell, a third-round pick, had trouble holding onto passes after getting hit. Kenny Moore had some drops, while Dwayne Jarrett struggled to get open.

Playing their second game in six days, Ryan played the Jets’ starters a little over a quarter. Even that didn’t help Carolina’s sluggish offense.

The Panthers’ starting unit failed to pick up a first down in four series against New York’s second team in the second quarter, finishing with 45 yards on 33 plays in the first half.

It was such a sloppy game that one of the biggest cheers in the first half was a sarcastic one, after Captain Munnerlyn cleanly caught a punt for Carolina. He had bobbled one earlier, but he looked better than rookie Armanti Edwards. He fumbled away one and failed to run up and make a fair catch on another that bounced off Jordan Pugh and was recovered by the Jets.

Kenny Moore later fumbled away a punt return, too, in a dismal performance by Carolina’s special teams.

The defense, a big concern following Julius Peppers’ offseason departure, looked strong despite poor starting field position. Brown had two sacks against Jets left tackle D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Reserve defensive tackle Nick Hayden had a sack and recovered a fumble, and defensive end Eric Moore had two sacks.

Tomlinson’s shifty 20-yard run was the longest play from scrimmage in the first half for the Jets. Tomlinson had 26 yards on three carries, another strong sign for New York’s offseason pickup. But rookie Joe McKnight lost a fumble, leading to John Kasay’s third-quarter field goal for Carolina.

Kellen Clemens got the most time at quarterback after Sanchez, finishing 4 of 6 for 32 yards. Veteran Mark Brunell was 3 of 7 for 2 yards.

The Jets’ reserves, coming off a poor performance against the Giants, did little against Carolina. Chauncey Washington lost a fumble near the goal line after McKnight’s 67-yard punt return.

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