In a sideline interview with Michelle Tafoya, Mark Sanchez said that he guessed the offense was saving all its touchdowns for the regular season. We sure hope so, because it's now three weeks when the offense for the New York Jets couldn't punch it in.
The offense actually moved the ball better, and the defense continued its incredible play, but once again the touchdown drought will get all the attention in New York.
What should also be of concern are injuries to Dustin Keller, David Harris and Josh Baker.
With the bulk of preseason gone and the Jets' starting offense on the shelf for next week, nothing else will really matter until opening day. That being said, let's take a look at this week's Instant Impact.
Champ of the Game: Kenrick Ellis
This was Ellis' best performance as a Jet. He made plays all over the field and the Panthers had no answer for him whatsoever. Early on, Ellis knocked a ball free that was being bobbled by James Stewart for a forced fumble. He then teamed with Jay Richardson for a sack. Ellis later recovered a fumble caused by Quinton Coples inside the 15-yard line late in the second quarter.
If Ellis even has half of this production during the season, it will be a huge boost to an already elite defense. Ellis' production continued into the second half as he was coming in hard on Derek Anderson, forcing a bad throw that was picked off by LaRon Landry.
Chump of the Game: Stephen Hill
Hill did well for a majority of the game, but his worst play lands him as the team's chump. Hill's drop bounced right in the hands of Panthers defensive back Captain Munnerlyn and eventually led to a Panthers touchdown. It was the third straight week a costly Jets' mistake was converted into a touchdown in a close game.
Defensive Star: LaRon Landry
Landry again was all over the field on defense; Jets fans better pray he stays healthy, because he is a force. Landry made big hits on runs, big hits on passes and intercepted an Anderson pass early in the third quarter. He looks like he could be the best all-around safety the Jets have had since Victor Green. According to the Jets' Twitter feed, Landry joined Jim Leonhard and Hank Poteat as the only players since 2007 with two interceptions in a preseason.
Offensive Star: Austin Howard
While the uninformed fans were waiting to watch Tim Tebow, all the eyes that mattered were on Howard, who was replacing Wayne Hunter. Howard came through with flying colors, as the Panthers couldn't generate any pressure from the left side of their defense.
Howard did a lot of work against Charles Johnson, who has racked up 20.5 sacks in the past two seasons for the Panthers. Johnson not only didn't record a sack, but he didn't pressure Sanchez and didn't even record a tackle.
Special Teams Star: Nick Folk
Folk was 3-for-3 on field goals, converting from 46, 30 and 22 yards. He has out-kicked Josh Brown since July, and with Brown's missed field goal tonight, don't be surprised if Folk is announced as the kicking-competition winner as early as tomorrow.
Dustin Keller injured his right hamstring hauling in a 24-yard reception. He was able to lightly amble off the field on his own power. Keller returned to the sidelines in full uniform and appeared to be fine, but he was kept out for precautionary measures.
David Harris left the field in the first quarter with an ankle injury. X-rays on Harris' ankle were negative. He has been diagnosed with a sprain. Not a high-ankle sprain, though, which is good news.
Josh Baker looked to suffer a severe knee injury and was down on the field for a lengthy period of time. Baker had been performing well in training camp and in preseason action. He needed to be helped from the field.
Hill left the field with a hip injury in the third quarter after a nine-yard catch.
Turning Point of the Game
The fact that the Jets haven't scored a touchdown is something that the team is patently aware of. When Coples forced a fumble that was recovered by Ellis, it gave the Jets phenomenal field position inside the 20-yard line.
If the Jets could have punched it in there, it could have buoyed the offense and given it some swagger. Instead, the Jets failed to score once again and the monkey on the back of the offense became even bigger.
Revis Island Report
Newton didn't look Revis' way a single time. He didn't have Steve Smith active, and the Panthers don't have another receiver on the roster who could get open on Revis.
The Rookie Report
Stephen Hill and Mark Sanchez showed great chemistry as Sanchez recognized Hill was going to break off his route and threw a back shoulder pass to Hill for a 32-yard gain. Hill later made a big rookie mistake, dropping a good pass by Sanchez with acres of open land in front of him.
Coples made another big play in the backfield, forcing a fumble on Newton. That's three straight games with a big play in the backfield.
Antonio Allen was beat for a 43-yard reception by Gary Barnidge.
Best Coaching Move
The best thing the Jets coaches finally decided was to take some shots down the field, as they completed and attempted numerous plays of over 20 yards. For the ground and pound to work, they have to at least take some shots to keep the defense honest. It was good to see them finally do so this game.
NFL Personality Tweet of the Game: Roddy White
@roddywhitetv There (sic) red zone problems would be over wit plaxico cause he is great down there and 2 veteran guys can always help young guys along.
Joe Namath's Tweet of the Game
@RealJoeNamath #6 throws 2 passes, One dropped, the other in & out of 84s hands for Int. #6s pays in stats dept. Is that fair?
Great Quote From the Booth
"If you're a Jets fan and you want to feel good about something, the last time a team did not score a touchdown in its first two preseason games, 2003, Kansas City, Dick Vermeil was the coach, Trent Green, Priest Holmes, they ended up leading the league in scoring in the regular season," Al Michaels, NBC booth.
The Arguing Army Says
"I'm patiently waiting for Tebow. I'm obsessed with the Jets. I can admit it. Even if nobody else will," Rob C., Cowboys fan.
The Refs Blew This One
Cris Collinsworth said he thought it was a good call, so that should have been your first hint it was wrong. Slauson was flagged for a personal foul for joining in a scuffle between Patrick Turner and Haruki Nakamura. Nakamura was let off the hook despite grabbing Turner's facemask and also removing his helmet.
At worst, the call should have been offsetting penalties. The correct call probably should have been offsetting personal fouls on Slauson and Nakamura, with Nakamura then picking up a flag for removing his helmet and keeping it off.
The flag set the Jets back to a 2nd-and-20, and the drive ultimately resulted in a missed field goal by Josh Brown.
Did You Notice
The Jets introduced the offense before tonight's game. Austin Howard got a nice ovation...Shonn Greene, Bart Scott and Revis are game captains...Antonio Cromartie was credited with a forced fumble, but it was really Ellis who saw the ball came loose...Calvin Pace had two chances to stop the first drive single-handedly but failed to pick up a fumble and then missed a third-down tackle on Newton.
Jay Richardson, who is expected to be on the roster bubble, got time with the first-team defense and contributed a half sack...Josh Baker had a fantastic block to spring Joe McKnight on a 30-yard kick return...Austin Howard stood up tough Panthers defensive end Charles Johnson on his second play to allow Sanchez to complete a 29-yard pass to Patrick Turner.
The first sack the Jets allowed was a simple matter of numbers. The Panthers sent one player more than the Jets had available blockers...T.J. Conley boomed a punt 68 yards in the air late in the first quarter. Conley later blasted a punt from his own 2-yard line that didn't stop rolling until it stopped at the Panthers' 25.
Ellis batted a pass at the line of scrimmage; that doesn't happen to often to the 6'5" Newton...Greene had a great blitz pickup to spring Sanchez for a seven-yard run and a converted third down...Al Michaels pointed out that the non-replacement referees make $8,000 per game, but later said the referees disputed that fact in a number of texts to him in the booth.
Sanchez was victimized by drops from Holmes and Hill late in the first half. Both plays could have gone for huge yardage...Harris led the Jets with four tackles in the first half, and he spent most of it in the locker room with an injury...Matt Slauson and John Conner were the lead blockers as the Jets tried to convert a 3rd-and-1; Greene chose to follow neither and was stuffed.
Isaiah Trufant was flagged for a holding penalty, which was the better option as he was beat on a double move. Trufant has experience with the team, but he could be a cut possibility. He hasn't played well all preseason...Wayne Hunter threw a great block to spring Tebow on an incredible 20-yard run to convert an improbable 3rd-and16.
NBC ran a graphic in which they measured Sanchez's release time as .37 and Tebow's as .47. They ran a similar graphic on Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Newton earlier in the game, and Sanchez's release time was similar to all three...The final pass of the game sailed just out of the reach of Hayden Smith, the Australian rugby player who just might get some extra action this week if Keller's injury lingers and Baker's injury was as serious as it looked.
What This Means Now
This means that questions about the offense are going to linger until at least opening day, as the starters won't play next week. The Jets moved the ball better today, and they took more shots down the field. But when push came to shove, the Jets first-team offense couldn't get the ball in the end zone.
During the first two games, the Jets fell back on the excuse that they didn't game-plan and kept the offense vanilla. They don't have that excuse tonight. The Jets prepared for this game as if it was the regular season, game-planning and all. It's true they kept the Tebow package on the shelf, and there were opportune times to use it, but they just didn't produce the points they should have.
On the bright side, the defense continued to be outright dominant. Ellis, Coples, Landry and Cromartie made plays all over the field, and so did Harris before his injury. The first-teamers gave up their first touchdown of the preseason after being given a short field after the Sanchez interception off the Hill drop.
Rex Ryan has said the team's offense is a work in progress, and it looks like he is right about that. The defense is going to have to continue its white-hot performance while the Jets figure things out on offense.
Next week there will be a whole lot of nothing. No Jets starters, no Tebow and no Instant Impact. The starters and Tebow will be on the sidelines resting up for the Bills on opening day, and I will be away on my honeymoon. If it was up to me, I would be watching the game anyway, but I am not sure the Jets' broadcasts are picked up in Antigua.
The Jets have a quick turnaround next week when they take on the Eagles in a Thursday night matchup. The game is in Philadelphia and slated for a 6:35 p.m. ET start. There isn't much to expect from the game, as not many players of any significance will see the field for either team. If you're interested to see players battle it out for practice-squad spots, this is the game for you.
Like Sanchez, Tebow and the rest of the Jets starters, Instant Impact will return immediately following what hopefully will be an opening-day win over the Bills.
Writer's note: New York Jets Instant Impact is something I hope to be able to do immediately following every Jets game. My aim to is give the Jets fans an instant look at some of the details from the game without having to wait for longer production pieces. Visit Bleacher Report's page for the New York Jets immediately following the game.