The kid is all right.
A week after Rex Ryan admitted that he thought of pulling his second-year quarterback in a loss to the Dolphins, the Jets’ 24-year-old franchise signalcaller rebounded with championship mettle as the Green & White ended a two-game losing streak with their first ever win at Pittsburgh — a 22-17 heart-stopper in the Steel City.
“That was about as gutsy a performance as you’ll find. The numbers —19 of 29 for 170 with an 81 rating — doesn’t speak of the type of game he played,” said Ryan. “He was absolutely outstanding. I knew he’d respond. He’s tougher than nails and that’s the competitor in him.”
Sanchez was the king of response. When the Steelers tied things up at seven in the second quarter, Sanchez answered with the prettiest ball on this wintry Pennsylvania December day. After he got 7 to Braylon Edwards on a third-and-2, he threw a 38-yard strike up the right sideline to No. 17 two plays later. That got the visitors in position to take a 10-7 advantage on a short Nick Folk field goal.
The game Steelers followed with a 10-point run sandwiched around the halftime gun and New York’s AFC representative faced an uphill climb at 17-10. But Sanchez went to TE Dustin Keller for 11 on a third-and-1 to keep the ensuing drive going early. Then the Sanchez-Edwards duo combined for 30 on a 15-yard connection plus an unnecessary-roughness penalty on Ryan Clark.
“Mark read it today,” said Edwards, who totaled a season-high eight receptions for an even 100 yards. “They played off of me and gave me some wiggle room to work with, they pressed Tone on some plays, and Mark took advantage. Whenever he saw No. 20 [CB Bryan McFadden] in off coverage, he took a chance and we made it work.”
Later on that same possession, facing a fourth-and-1 from the 7, coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called on Sanchez’s wheels to even things up. The tens of thousands in Heinz Field were glued to Shonn Greene, but No. 6 was all alone on the naked boot for the easiest 7-yard jog of his life.
“It was a gutsy call, great execution,” said Sanchez of his sixth career rush TD.
Stabilized in the third quarter, the Jets got the game-winning points early in the final stanza. Sanchez completed three of five for 32 yards and also ran twice for 8 yards on a 13-play, 6:47 drive before Folk gave the Jets a lead they would never relinquish on a 34-yard boot.
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger played very well, but Mark Sanchez did more than hold his own. He came into Pittsburgh and led his team to its 10th win of the season, taking a huge leap toward a postseason berth for the second consecutive year in the process.
“We just bounced back really well and Schotty called a great game,” Sanchez said. “The most important thing is we executed the game plan really well, up front especially. They didn’t get a ton of pressure and when they did, I got rid of the ball and the running game really took off and helped us a lot.”
There is a reason No. 6 is the quarterback of this ballclub. He rolls with the punches and can counterpunch with the best of them.
“Mark showed up today. He did everything he was supposed to,” said former Steeler Santonio Holmes, who added six receptions for 40 yards. “He was hearing it from the fans, hearing it from the media, hearing it from his coaches, but us as players — we kept his spirits up all week.
“I continue to keep telling him, ‘Just believe. We have guys who you can trust. Just get us the ball and we’re going to make everything happen for you and just go out and have fun.’ I saw him having fun today.”
Tags: Braylon Edwards, Mark Sanchez, PIttsburgh Steelers, Rex Ryan, Santonio Holmes
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