By Ernie Palladino
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If nothing else, the Jets proved the meaninglessness of preseason games for the non-coach and player in Sunday’s 48-28 win over Buffalo.
So much for the zero touchdowns scored by the first-team offense. When the Bills came to town, the vanilla ice cream of the preseason went out the window, the playbook opened and, voila, things happened.
Granted, things are going to settle down as the season wears on. Whatever you do, don’t take up the belief that this offense is going to set scoring records. It won’t. The tape collection will grow, and defenses are bound to become a bit less flustered at the sight of Tim Tebow running in for Mark Sanchez, or Sanchez flaring out to a wing to set up the run-pass Wildcat option Tebow is expected to operate so well.
But for an afternoon — the first afternoon — all those Jets fans who worked their worry beads into tiny piles of sawdust or balls of melted plastic should rejoice.
How well? Mark Sanchez’ three touchdowns, two to rookie Stephen Hill, and Shonn Greene’s rushing touchdown were the driving forces behind the Jets setting a franchise scoring mark for a season opener. There was also Jeremy Kerley’s punt return for a touchdown, a first since 2002, and Antonio Cromartie running back one of their three picks off Ryan Fitzpatrick to the end zone.
Sanchez, the object of ridicule and doubt from the day GM Mike Tannenbaum brought in Tebow from Denver, had just a couple of glitches in his game. That first-possession interception undoubtedly had people wondering if he would go downhill from there. But after Darrelle Revis gave the Jets back the ball with his own pick, Sanchez shook off his own bad throw in a manner that would make Eli Manning smile.
A 21-yard throw to Kerley loosened up the Bills, and a 4-yard run by Tebow led to enough defensive confusion that Sanchez had ample time to find Kerley on a 12-yard touchdown toss.
Then came Kyle Wilson’s interception, another taste of the Wildcat, and a 33-yard rookie-on-rookie assault as Hill victimized Stephon Gilmore for six more.
Recalling the Jets of 2011, one had to think this game wasn’t over.
But you know what? It was.
The Bills simply were not coming back after Kerley scored his second touchdown on a 68-yard punt return to put the Bills down 21-0.
Oddly enough, the Jets’ defensive front didn’t record a sack. But LaRon Landry and Yeremiah Bell showed they were both certainly worth an offseason contract when they teamed up on a second-quarter fumble recovery. That brought a field goal and a 27-7 halftime lead.
Cromartie’s touchdown return, Hill’s second touchdown set up by a pretty little flea-flicker from Sanchez to Greene and back to Sanchez that went for 27 yards, and Greene up the middle after Tebow, as a member of the hands team, recovered an onside kick, finished out the Jets’ scoring.
The defense could have been a little better in the closing period, but that’s nitpicking at this point.
For a day at least, Sanchez looked like the quality quarterback he’s supposed to be in going 19-of-27 for 266 yards, three TDs and just one interception. Tebow, by virtue of the quick-change chaos he can inflict on a defense, looked enough like the multifaceted athlete he’s cracked up to be with 11 yards on offense and an onside recovery on special teams.
The best part was that Sparano didn’t make Tebow throw, a move that will always be considered a dangerous proposition until the young man proves otherwise.
The usual cautions apply. It’s only the first game…It’s a marathon, not a sprint…There’s still plenty of time for Sanchez to blow like Vesuvius…yadda-yadda-yadda.
For this day, though, Rex Ryan’s clown car looked more like a Cadillac.
With bulldozer hydraulics.
So much for preseason scoring stats.
Jets fans — who was the best player on the field Sunday? Be heard in the comments below!