Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sanchez mutes critics with stellar showing in opener


Mark Sanchez entered the New York Jets' season-opener with arguably more pressure on him than any other quarterback in the league.

He handled it just fine.

The Jets' fourth-year signal-caller took immediate command Sunday, tossing two touchdowns in the first half and another in the second to lead Gang Green to a victory over the divisional foe Buffalo Bills.

"It was a tremendous day for Mark," Jets coach Rex Ryan said, according to the team's website.

The Jets blew out the Bills, 48-28, in a game that was not nearly as close as the score indicated. New York set a franchise record in points for a season-opener.

"I really felt we were going to have a big game," Ryan said. "It was really just the work I saw during the week and everything leading up to this point. I felt very confident. When Mark has time to throw the football, he can throw it with anybody. We have plenty of weapons."

Sanchez, who completed 19-of-27 passes for the three touchdowns and a pick, connected with rookie receiver Stephen Hill on two of the scores and second-year wideout Jeremy Kerley on the other.

Gang Green's starting field general was unable to generate a single touchdown in appearances in three preseason games, and neither was his backup Tim Tebow.

"I knew we were just capable of scoring points," Sanchez said. "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."

The Jets' struggles in exhibition play combined with what some in the media described as a "circus" situation among the franchise, including the hype surrounding Tebow, added up to a whole lot of weight on Sanchez's shoulders.

It didn't seem to phase Sanchez, who looked poised throughout the game, even when he was called to the sidelines to make room for Tebow's work in the Wildcat package.

"... that’s just a great day of execution," Sanchez said. "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."

Follow Nick @NickStDenis
Follow AFC East Daily @AFCEastDaily