By Peter Schwartz
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It’s happening right before our eyes.
Mark Sanchez is turning into one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and with each and every win, the training wheels spin a little closer towards coming off.
The process continued Sunday night as Sanchez threw for 256 yards and three touchdowns in the Jets’ 31-23 victory over the Dolphins in South Florida. Sanchez has yet to throw an interception this season and his right arm has found the end zone three times in each of the last two weeks.
For the second straight week, he earns my game ball for another outstanding performance.
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Prior to the Jets’ back-to-back wins over the Patriots and Dolphins, Sanchez had never thrown three touchdowns in one game.
After struggling for most of his rookie season that included the implementation of a color coded system to keep things simple, Sanchez has grown into a player with the ability to guide the offense on a consistent basis.
On the game’s opening drive, Sanchez moved his team down the field and found tight end Dustin Keller for a 24-yard score. Keller would later haul in a 12-yard scoring strike, another indication of the wonderful chemistry that he has built with Sanchez. Keller had six catches for 98 yards.
Sanchez has demonstrated a great deal of poise over the last couple of weeks and continues to come up with some clutch throws, especially on third down.
With the Jets clinging to a 24-23 lead late in the fourth quarter, Sanchez connected with Braylon Edwards on a huge third down reception that went for twenty yards to keep the drive alive. It set the stage for LaDainian Tomlinson’s one-yard touchdown run that gave the Jets an eight-point advantage.
After the Jets fell behind 17-14 in the third quarter, Sanchez wasted no time in restoring Gang Green’s lead when he found Edwards for a 67-yard touchdown that put the Jets ahead to stay. Sanchez only completed two passes to Edwards but they were both huge. Edwards was benched for the first quarter as a result of his DWI arrest on Tuesday.
Before the season started, many people around the league felt that the Jets success or failure would rest on the shoulders of Sanchez in his second NFL season.
Things didn’t go well in the season opener against the Ravens, but over the last two weeks, Sanchez has grown up and has led the Jets to a pair of victories over AFC East rivals. He has guided Gang Green to a 2-1 record and a share of the division lead heading into next week’s contest up in Buffalo.
Sanchez no longer looks like the player who looked very immature on Hard Knocks.
He may have rolled his eyes at Joe Namath’s advice and paid more attention to the contents of his bag than listen to his coaches in a meeting, but Sanchez has come of age.
There’s still a long way to go, but Sanchez is following through on his training camp promise of wanting to take ownership of the Jets’ offense.
Judging by the past two weeks, it looks like Sanchez has closed on the mortgage and has begun making payments.
The offense is all his.