BALTIMORE (AP) — Mark Sanchez kept giving the ball away, and the Baltimore Ravens were only too happy to take it the other way into the end zone.
The Ravens scored three touchdowns on defense, all off turnovers by Sanchez, and cruised to a 34-17 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday night in a bizarre game that featured an NFL-record five returns for scores.
Baltimore’s three touchdowns on defense were the most in franchise history. Jameel McClain took a fumble by Sanchez 6 yards for a score on New York’s first offensive play, Jarret Johnson scored on a 26-yard fumble return and Lardarius Webb put the Ravens up 34-17 in the third quarter by taking an interception 73 yards into the end zone.
It was a performance that would have made Rex Ryan proud — if he was still Baltimore’s defensive coordinator. Unfortunately for Ryan, he is now New York’s head coach.
The three touchdowns on defense equaled Baltimore’s output for the entire 2010 season. The Ravens also held the Jets to 150 yards and seven first downs in taking over sole possession of first place in the AFC North.
New York (2-2) has lost seven straight to the Ravens (3-1), the last two with Ryan on the Jets sideline. New York’s touchdowns came on a 107-yard kickoff return by Joe McKnight and a 35-yard interception return by David Harris.
The Ravens got 17 points off three fumbles by Sanchez to take a 27-7 lead in the second quarter, and although the Jets cut the gap to 10, they were unable to complete the comeback.
Down 27-17, New York got the ball on the Baltimore 27 after Joe Flacco fumbled when Jets linebacker Aaron Maybin picked up his first career sack.
On the next play, Webb picked off a pass by Sanchez intended for Santonio Holmes on the right sideline and sprinted into the end zone with 8:49 left in the third quarter.
A week ago, the Jets gave up 234 yards rushing in a loss to the Oakland Raiders. This defeat can be attributed to Sanchez, who threw an interception and fumbled four times, losing three. He went 11 for 35 for 119 yards, and the only score he produced until the fourth quarter was a field goal by Nick Folk after a 25-yard drive.
It was 20-7 before Johnson scored after Sanchez fumbled when hit by Haloti Ngata. After a replay, the officials ruled that Sanchez’s arm was moving forward, but he did not have the ball in his hand, confirming the touchdown call.
Ryan was so angry he called a timeout to vent his frustration. After speaking his mind and getting no satisfaction, Ryan stalked the sideline and threw his arms up in a display of angst.
Minutes later, though, the Jets got their own defensive score. Harris picked off a pass from Flacco and took it 36 yards for a touchdown, and New York added a field goal to close to 27-17 at halftime.
But the Jets got only two first downs in the second half.
The Ravens fumbled the opening kickoff and Flacco was called for intentional grounding on the game’s first offensive play, but the Jets got off to a far more horrid start. After New York was called for holding on a punt return, Sanchez fumbled on first down when hit by Ed Reed on a safety blitz and McClain took the loose ball into the end zone.
The crowd was still buzzing when McKnight went on his 107-yard jaunt, the longest play in Jets history and the longest ever against the Ravens. McKnight ran up the middle without being touched until Chykie Brown grazed his arm on the Baltimore 2.
After a field goal by Billy Cundiff, the Ravens forced a punt and Flacco scrambled right, then to his left before completing a 12-yard pass to Ray Rice on a third-and-8. Following a 28-yard pass to Anquan Boldin, Rice ran in from the 3 for a 17-7 lead.
The Jets’ misery wasn’t close to being done. Sanchez couldn’t handle a high snap from Colin Baxter, starting for the injured Nick Mangold, and Ravens defensive end Paul Kruger recovered at the New York 23 to set up another field goal.