After four straight weeks under 50 percent completions, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has finally started to hit stride, averaging over 60 percent completions in two consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3 of the 2011 season.
One of the reasons for his increased success might be the diminished number of blitzes he has seen, and subsequently the decreased amount of pressure that's been in his face.
He dropped back just 19 times against the Indianapolis Colts, but was blitzed on eight of those snaps. The Patriots defense, among the most conservative in the league in terms of blitzing (or not blitzing, in their case), only sent extra defenders after Sanchez on six of his 45 drop-backs.
Over the past two years, Sanchez has performed better against the blitz than against a rush of four or fewer defenders.
This year, however, that is not the case. He is completing a lower percentage of his passes and has thrown more interceptions and fewer touchdowns with extra defenders coming at him.
The Dolphins had relative success with the blitz, sending extra defenders at Sanchez on 20 of his 47 drop-backs, according to ProFootballFocus.com. They nabbed a pair of interceptions, but gave up the game-tying touchdown on a blitz as well.
What's interesting to note, though, is that with these blitzes, the pressure wasn't getting home that often—Sanchez threw both of his interceptions and his touchdown with no pressure in his face, per PFF.
Sanchez was also able to pass the ball for a whopping 9.9 yards per attempt when blitzed.
So perhaps the best tactic isn't to blitz Sanchez.
They did get a fair amount of pressure on Sanchez over the course of the game, getting defenders in his area on 21 of his 47 drop-backs. It was one of the rare occasions, however, where Sanchez actually played better under pressure. He completed 12 of 20 passes with defenders in his face, piling up 194 yards in the process.
We know Mark struggles with pressure in his face—in fact, he's been one of the worst quarterbacks in the league under pressure his entire career. He's been under pressure on 31.3 percent of his drop-backs—the 13th-highest percentage of any quarterback in the NFL.
That's unfamiliar territory for Sanchez, who has been among the league's least-pressured quarterbacks in each of his first three seasons.
If the Dolphins are able to get pressure on Sanchez with just their front four, they could greatly improve their chances of winning. If not, though, they could try to send extra defenders at him to get pressure that way, but they must be sure that the blitz will be effective in not only creating extra pressure, but also in getting the pressure there more quickly and disrupting pass plays in doing so.
Erik Frenz is the AFC East lead blogger for Bleacher Report. Be sure to follow Erik on Twitter and "like" the AFC East blog on Facebook to keep up with all the updates. Unless specified otherwise, all quotes are obtained firsthand.
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