Jets

Sanchez: TD-Less Jets Saving ‘Good Stuff’ For Regular Season

(credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

(credit: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — The Jets’ offense has been grounded for three games.

Whether it’s Mark Sanchez or Tim Tebow at quarterback, it hasn’t mattered. The Jets’ anemic offense just hasn’t been able to get into the end zone.

Three preseason games. Seven field goals. No touchdowns.

“We’ve got to score touchdowns instead of field goals to win,” Sanchez said after a 17-12 loss to Carolina on Sunday night. “We understand that. We’ll keep improving.”

They better, and soon because they’re running out of time.

“Well, I’ve said it before,” Sanchez said. “We’re saving our good stuff for the regular season.”

Sanchez, Tebow and most of the starters will not play Thursday night in the preseason finale at Philadelphia, so the Jets (0-3) certainly have a lot to work on before the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9. All of that sneaky wildcat stuff the Jets have planned with Tebow will have to wait a few more weeks — when the games actually count.

“When Week 1 comes around, all bets are off,” wide receiver Santonio Holmes said, “and the guns are firing.”

They sure weren’t in this one — for either team. But, Tebow almost got the Jets into the end zone with a late drive in the final seconds.

Almost.

The Jets (No. 17 in the AP Pro32) are the first team since the 1977 Atlanta Falcons, according to NBC, to go without a touchdown in its first three preseason games. That’s a span of 12 quarters, 35 drives and 174 plays.

“I think we’re making some strides,” said coach Rex Ryan. “By the time we get going, we’ll be a confident group. I don’t think there’s any doubt.”

Jets fans sure hope so because they haven’t seen much to be excited about so far — particularly from the offense. The Panthers, though, were pretty proud of themselves.

“Any time you can hold a team to field goals, I think you’ve accomplished something,” coach Ron Rivera said.

Tebow, who entered in the third quarter, got the fans at MetLife Stadium fired up with a dazzling 20-yard run in the fourth, but threw an interception three plays later.

Tebow faced a third-and-16 from the Jets 34 and ran around in the backfield, eluded Ryan Van Bergen and then took off and slipped through a few other tackle attempts by the Panthers (2-1) before being taken down for a 20-yard gain by Reggie Smith. Tebow pumped both fists and yelled at the crowd chanting “Tee-boww! Tee-boww!”

But three plays later, Tebow was intercepted easily by Smith.

“It was kind of good news, bad news with Tim,” Ryan said.

Tebow got the Jets in scoring position again in the closing moments, again with the fans chanting his name, but threw four straight incompletions from the Panthers 27 to end the game.

“I felt like we had it the whole time,” Tebow said. “I still feel like we should have had it. I feel like we just came up one or two plays short.”

Tebow finished 4 of 14 for 55 yards and the interception, but certainly had the Panthers (No. 20) nervous. He ran five times for 45 yards.

“It’s a nightmare,” Rivera said of facing Tebow. “Heck, I was in San Diego trying to stop him when he was in Denver. He’s an exciting football player. There are things he does that brings excitement and gets his teammates going. He’s a guy if you keep the game close gives you a chance to win. He’s a different type of football player, a different type of quarterback.”

Cam Newton was held mostly in check by the Jets, going 6 of 15 for 60 yards, but he got the Panthers (No. 20) into the end zone with a touchdown pass to Louis Murphy.

“Offensively, we have to do a better job sustaining drives,” Newton said. “We got some first downs, but we stalled at the end.”

Backup QB Derek Anderson put Carolina ahead to stay with a 1-yard touchdown toss to Gary Barnidge, making it 17-12 with 11:31 left.

Sanchez played well into the third quarter, going 11 of 18 for 123 yards and an interception, but got little help from his receivers. On consecutive plays in the third quarter, Sanchez hit Holmes in the mask and the receiver couldn’t corral the pass. On the next play, Sanchez hit Stephen Hill in the chest, but the rookie couldn’t control the ball and it bounced off his arms and into the hands of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.

“There’s work to do, clearly,” said Ryan. “I really think we’re going to get this thing turned by (the opener). Obviously we have to.”

The Jets lost three key players to injuries as tight ends Dustin Keller (hamstring) and Josh Baker (right knee) and linebacker David Harris (ankle) all left in the first half.

Baker appeared to sustain the most serious injury in the second quarter, when he was hit on the right knee by a Panthers defender while trying to catch a pass from Sanchez in the end zone. Baker stayed down for several minutes, was helped to the sideline and then carted to the locker room.

NOTES: While the Jets didn’t get into the end zone, two fans nearly did. Two men — wearing only underwear and sneakers — were tackled by security behind the end zone before they could get onto the field of play. … Josh Brown, competing with Nick Folk for the Jets’ kicking job, made a 34-yarder but missed a 45-yard attempt wide left in the third quarter. … Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum needed a few stitches after injuring an arm earlier Sunday while riding his bike with his family. … Panthers rookie LB Luke Kuechly was in on a game-high 10 tackles.

What’s your confidence level right now in the Jets’ offense? Be heard in the comments below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)