By Peter Schwartz
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“It’s set up for this team to have success playing the way Tim Tebow plays, not Mark Sanchez.”
— Kurt Warner, Sunday on NFL Network’s “Gameday Morning”
I’m guessing Kurt would like to have that statement back!
After the Jets’ season-opening 48-28 win over the Bills, I was standing in the Gang Green locker room waiting to speak to Nick Mangold when I felt someone smack me on the backside. Clearly startled, I looked behind, where I saw a laughing Mark Sanchez strolling past.
“I told you that we were saving our good (stuff) for the regular season,” Sanchez said as he walked away.
In the aftermath of the Tim Tebow trade, the offensive struggles of the preseason, and plenty of pessimism from fans and media, Sanchez was brilliant on Sunday, completing 19 of 27 for 266 yards and three touchdowns. The Jets’ record improved to 6-0 in games that Sanchez throws at least three touchdown passes.
Things didn’t start out that great for Sanchez as he tried a shovel pass on the opening drive that deflected off of the hands of Jeff Cumberland and was picked off.
“I was thinking we should bench him,” joked head coach Rex Ryan. “It’s just one of those things where you say, ‘Mark, we really don’t need it. Just protect the football.’ I wish we had that play back because with the kind of day he had, we’re still going to talk about that. It’s unfortunate. It’s part of the game, but its unfortunate it happened. It was a tremendous day for Mark.”
Although Sanchez took the blame for it, you could make the argument that it wasn’t his fault. Cumberland should have caught it. After that, Sanchez was in control and brilliant. He threw a pair of touchdowns to second-round pick Stephen Hill and one to Jeremy Kerley.
Was it sweet vindication for Sanchez and the offense?
“I don’t think so,” said Sanchez. “One game isn’t the season. It’s not to prove anything to anybody else other than our team. Regardless of what the opinions are outside of our building, they don’t affect us. I told the guys in the locker room, ‘Remember this because it took a lot of work to get here, so just don’t throw it out the window. It doesn’t just happen on Sunday. It takes six days to get here and a great day of execution to have this feeling.’ So, (there is) no vindication at all.”
But deep down inside, Sanchez had to be on cloud nine. All he’s heard since May is how the Jets brass was down on him and that it was just a matter of time before Tebow took his job away. Sanchez grew up a lot during the offseason. He put on some lower body weight and it certainly looked during training camp that his arm strength improved. Aside from the pick-six he through against the Giants, I thought Sanchez was terrific despite not engineering a touchdown drive during the preseason.
All he did on Sunday was help the Jets engineer a new franchise record for points in an opening day game.
“I knew we were just capable of scoring points,” said Sanchez. “I knew we had a great plan coming into the game. I had a good feeling about it all week, and I knew our shortcomings in the preseason were shortcomings in the red zone. There were penalties. (I) hit Stephen on almost the exact same route I threw to PT (Patrick Turner) for a pick six against the Giants. You throw it right, you throw it accurately and you score. I knew we were really close in the preseason. Did I know it was 48 points? No, I didn’t necessarily know that, but that’s just a great day of execution.
“We still left some plays out there so it wasn’t perfect. (We’ve) still got a lot of work to do but I’m really proud of our effort and the way we moved the ball today.”
There were plenty of people doubting Sanchez and the Jets heading into the season. It’s just one game, but those naysayers might be having second thoughts now.
Four Jets draft picks made their NFL debut on Sunday. They were first-round pick Quinton Coples, second-round pick Stephen Hill, third-round pick Demario Davis and sixth-round pick Josh Bush. Also, Konrad Reuland made his pro debut after he was claimed off of waivers from the 49ers.
After the Bills cut what was a 41-7 Jets lead down to 41-28, Tim Tebow recovered a critical on-side kick.
The Jets improved to 3-1 in season openers under Rex Ryan.
Sunday marked the 11th time that the Jets have faced the Bills in a season opener. Gang Green is now 8-3.
The Jets wore their road white jerseys for the home opener.
With his 12-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter and 68-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter, Jeremy Kerley became the first Jet to record a receiving touchdown and return a punt for a touchdown in the same game in team history.
Brandon Moore moved past Guy Bingham into seventh on the all-time Jets list for games played by an offensive lineman with 126. He is now two games behind Dave Herman for sixth place on the club’s all-time list. Moore has started 122 consecutive games dating back to the 2004 season.
NOBODY WILL EVER WEAR 28 AGAIN
At halftime, the Jets retired Curtis Martin’s No. 28. In August, the former Gang Green running back was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the highest individual honor that a player can receive. And now, he has been given the highest honor that a team can give to a player.
“Words can’t express (how I feel),” said Martin. “I almost feel like it’s the Hall of Fame. There’s a part of this that’s even bigger than the Hall of Fame because it’s the hometown, it’s the crowd that I’ve played in front of for all these years.”
Martin becomes the fourth Jets player to have his number retired joining Joe Namath, Don Maynard and Joe Klecko. He is also the 4th member of the Jets organization to be inducted in Canton (Namath, Maynard, and Weeb Ewbank).
In addition to having his number retired during the ceremony, Martin also received his Pro Football Hall of Fame ring.
Not a bad couple of months!
“Yeah, I mean everything surrounding this, the Hall of Fame, the retirement of the jersey, these are some of the highest honors that you can receive as an NFL football player,” said Martin. “Again, I never even thought I would even come close to anything like this. I’m just so humbled and appreciative that people think of me this way.”
It was a wonderful ceremony. It’s just a shame that so many fans chose to leave their seats at halftime. Shame on you!
The Jets’ list of retired numbers will grow to five later this season. On October 28, the Jets will retire Dennis Byrd’s No. 90 at halftime of their game against the Dolphins.
THE WEEK AHEAD
After reviewing the film of their win over the Bills, the Jets will take Tuesday off before returning to the practice field on Wednesday to begin preparations for next Sunday’s game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.
That’s all for now! Check back soon for more!
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