New York Jets: The 10 Best Moments of Mark Sanchez's Tenure as a Jet

Rocco Constantino@@br_jets_reportContributor IDecember 20, 2012

New York Jets: The 10 Best Moments of Mark Sanchez's Tenure as a Jet

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    After the events and performances of the past month or so, it looks like the Mark Sanchez era is coming to an end for the New York Jets.

    Sanchez was benched in a loss against the Arizona Cardinals, survived a poor performance in a win against the Jacksonville Jaguars but then threw away the Jets season and his starting job in a disgusting loss against the Tennessee Titans

    With Sanchez down for the count, everyone has now been lining up to kick him.

    Fans and the media have been relentless, former teammate Kris Jenkins has taken the chance to knock him and he's even received death threats from some kook via Twitter.

    It's easy to beat someone while they're down, especially with a five-turnover game against a poor NFL team fresh in everybody's minds.

    But there were good times too.

    In fact, Sanchez has given Jets fans some of the greatest moments in franchise history.

    From their back-to-back AFC Championship game runs to a number of late-game rallies, if you view Sanchez's tenure as a Jet as a whole, the Jets have had much, much worse from the quarterback position.

    If Sanchez never plays another down for the Jets, he will leave the team with a 33-28 record.  By comparison, Chad Pennington was 32-29 and Vinny Testaverde was 35-26.  The only difference is that Sanchez also had a winning playoff record while the other two didn't.

    In fact, Sanchez's four playoff wins are twice as many as any Jets quarterback in their history, including Joe Namath.

    Sanchez's place in Jets history will be tough to judge.  If you flipped his career around and he finished with two AFC Championship game appearances instead of starting with them, he'd go down as one of the best Jets quarterbacks in their history.

    But that's not how things work.

    Things are ugly now and the good times seem long ago.  However, there are a number of franchises around the NFL who could only wish to have the success the Jets did with Sanchez at the helm.

    Such as the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns or Jacksonville Jaguars.

    Sanchez has taken a beating for most of this season and the vitriol reached its maximum this week, and deservedly so.  

    But when you take a step back and look at the good times from the past four years, things weren't always that bad.

    Here's a look at Mark Sanchez's ten best moments as a Jet.

Honorable Mention

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    Win over Houston Texans in NFL debut (2009)

    Sanchez made his grand entrance into the NFL with an 18-of-31 performance in a 24-7 win against a Texans team that would go on to a 9-7 finish that year.

    Five-game winning streak (2010)

    After a 10-9 loss to the Baltimore Ravens on opening day in 2010, Sanchez played his best streak of regular season football as a Jet over the next five weeks.  He led the Jets to five-straight wins, throwing nine touchdowns and just two interceptions over that span.  He beat all three AFC East teams in that stretch and had a 90.4 passer rating over those five games.

    Comeback win vs. Detroit Lions (2010)

    Trailing 20-17 with just 1:40 left against a bad Lions team, Sanchez got the ball back on his own 22-yard-line and had to make something happen to avoid an embarrassing defeat.  He then completed 5-of-6 passes for 60 yards leading the the game tying field goal at the end of regulation.  On the Jets' first drive of overtime, he hit Santonio Holmes on a 52-yard bomb to set up the game-winning field goal and another improbable win.

    Comeback win vs. Cleveland Browns (2010)

    The week after their dramatic win against the Lions, Sanchez and the Jets found themselves in overtime once again against the hapless Browns.  In overtime, Sanchez completed nine of his 13 passes, including a 37-yard game-winning touchdown to Holmes with just 24 seconds left in the extra period.

    Opening day win vs. Dallas Cowboys (2011)

    The atmosphere was electric at MetLife Stadium as the Jets opened the 2011 season with a Sunday night tilt against the Cowboys on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  After an emotional ceremony, the teams traded blows early, but a Felix Jones touchdown gave the Cowboys a 24-10 fourth-quarter lead.

    The Jets answered right back on the next drive as Sanchez completed 4-of-5 passes on the drive for 78 yards and a touchdown pass to Plaxico Burress.  A blocked punt for a touchdown and a Nick Folk 50-yard field goal with 32 seconds left capped the comeback win. 

    Sanchez finished 26-of-44 for 335 yards and two touchdowns.  It was his third-highest yardage total as a Jet.

10. Win over the Patriots in Week 2 (2009)

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    Jets fans were certainly feeling good about the future of Mark Sanchez after his first two NFL games.

    In his debut, he beat a good Houston Texans team that would go on to finish 9-7 that year.  However, in his next game he really endeared himself to Jets fans.

    In that game, he led the Jets to a 16-9 win over the New England Patriots.

    It wasn't Sanchez's best statistical game, but he was sharp when he had to be in leading the Jets to the come-from-behind win.

    The Jets were trailing 9-3 in the third quarter when Leon Washington set the team up in good field position with a 43-yard kick return to start the half.

    Sanchez then hit Jerricho Cotchery with a 45-yard pass on the first offensive play of the half.  Two plays later he found Dustin Keller for a nine-yard touchdown to give the Jets the lead.

    He then led the Jets to field goals on the next two drives and the defense hung on for the seven-point win.

    The young Sanchez was 14-of-22 for 163 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.  The efficient Sanchez had a passer rating that day of 101.1. 

9. Opening Day Win over the Bills (2012)

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    Even before the Jets stunk in 2012, the media tried to paint them to be a laughing stock.

    They snickered when Tim Tebow was brought in and ridiculed the Jets and Mark Sanchez for not being able to get into the end zone during the preseason.

    Then on opening day, Sanchez and the Jets gave one big Bronx cheer to the haters with a 48-28 win over a Buffalo Bills team that many were picking to finish ahead of them in the preseason.

    It was a satisfying a win for all of the Sanchez supporters and of course for the team itself.

    Sanchez hit Jeremy Kerley for a 12-yard touchdown on the team's second drive and then led the Jets to 20 points in the second quarter behind two more touchdowns.

    Sanchez led the Jets on a quick-strike score at the start of the third quarter when he connected with Stephen Hill for a 17-yard touchdown to make the score 41-7.

    It was Sanchez's best statistical game of the season as he completed 19-of-27 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns despite taking his foot off the gas for the fourth quarter.

    Sanchez's 123.4 passer rating was the second-highest rating of his career during the regular season. 

8. Late Three-Game Winning Streak (2011)

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    After 10 weeks of the 2011 season, the Jets stood at 5-5 and needed to make some quick headway to make a serious run at the playoffs.

    They were just coming off a heartbreaking loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos and the fanbase was down on the franchise and it's quarterback once again. 

    Sanchez then led an offensive outburst in which they scored a combined 99 points in three straight wins over the Bills, Redskins and Chiefs to move their record to 8-5.

    Over the stretch, Sanchez was 48-of-88 for 526 yards, seven touchdowns and just one interception.  He also ran for two additional scores as it looked like Sanchez was going to will this team into the playoffs.

    However, the Jets went down to Philadelphia after that stretch and were handed a 45-19 beating at the hands of the Eagles to grease the skids towards an 8-8 finish.

7. Four-Touchdown Performance vs. Bills (2011)

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    After losing to the Bills the first time he faced them in his career, Sanchez never lost to them again and usually victimized pretty badly.

    In Week 11 of the 2011 season, the Bills came to MetLife Stadium to face the 5-5 Jets in a game that would be famous for Stevie Johnson's "Plaxico" touchdown celebration.

    The final result was a 28-24 last-minute Jets win that temporarily boosted the Jets back into playoff discussions and sent the 5-5 Bills down a slippery slope to a 6-10 finish.

    In the game, the Jets got the ball on their own 18-yard line down 24-21 with 5:44 left to go in the game.  Sanchez led the Jets on a methodical 82-yard touchdown drive capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes with 1:06 left on the clock.

    Sanchez completed seven of the nine passes he threw on the drive and his touchdown to Holmes capped the only four-touchdown performance of his career.

6. Win over the Patriots in Week 2 (2010)

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    After an amazing run to the AFC Championship Game in 2009, the Jets and Mark Sanchez looked to prove that their success was no fluke.  

    After being physically beaten in a 10-9 loss on opening day against the Ravens, the Jets had the unenviable task of taking on the Patriots in Week 2.

    Mark Sanchez responded with what was perhaps his best regular season game as a Jet and led the team to a 28-14 win.

    Sanchez ended the game 21-of-30 for 220 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.  His 124.3 passer rating was the highest regular season rating in his career.

    The Patriots built a 14-7 lead, but the Jets came back and scored 21 unanswered points to win going away.

    Trailing 14-13, the Jets got the ball back at their own 30 with 3:40 remaining in the third quarter.  Sanchez then led them on a quick scoring drive to take the lead.  Sanchez was 4-for-4 on the drive for 35 yards including a two-yard touchdown pass to Jerricho Cotchery and a successful two-point conversion to Braylon Edwards.

    Sanchez then would give the Jets some insurance on the next drive when he took five minutes off the clock on another scoring drive that was capped by a short touchdown pass to Dustin Keller.

5. Fourth-Quarter Comeback Win Against the Texans (2010)

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    During Mark Sanchez's second season in the NFL, a common refrain among Jets haters was that he was the luckiest quarterback in the league.

    This was spurred by the way they made the playoffs in 2009 and then a number of fourth-quarter wins in his sophomore year.

    Perhaps the most dramatic of the come-from-behind wins was a 30-27 Week 10 win against the Houston Texans.

    Sanchez and the Jets cruised to a 23-7 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, but then relaxed and let a dangerous Texans squad get right back into the game.

    In fact, a Neil Rackers field goal with 59 seconds left in the game looked like it would send the Jets to a 27-23 loss.

    However, Sanchez completed four straight passes that covered 72 yards in just 33 seconds to give the Jets an improbable three-point win.

    The big plays were a perfectly-thrown 42-yard bomb to Braylon Edwards and a six-yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes.

    Sanchez finished 22-of-38 for 315 yards and three touchdowns.

4. Playoff Win over the Bengals (2010)

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    The end of the 2009 season was the point where Jets and Mark Sanchez haters began to build a huge groundswell.

    Angered by the fact that the Jets got into the playoffs by beating Colts and Bengals teams who already had their fates sealed for the season, most thought the Jets didn't belong in the playoffs and would make a quick exit.

    They were proven wrong.

    In their first playoff game, Sanchez led the Jets to a 24-14 win in Cincinnati against the 10-6 Bengals.

    With the game tied at seven in the second quarter, Sanchez hit Dustin Keller for a 45-yard touchdown to give the Jets a lead they would not relinquish.

    He then managed the game efficiently and let the defense and running game take over to seal the road playoff win.

    Sanchez's 139.4 rating this game was the highest of his career.

3. Playoff Win over the Chargers (2010)

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    By this point in the 2009 season, the general consensus was that the Jets were lucky to get into the playoffs, lucky they played the Bengals in the first round and had no chance against the 13-3 San Diego Chargers in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

    Again, Jets haters were wrong.

    Sanchez didn't have the best statistical game and was buoyed by a 128-yard performance by Shonn Greene, but he proved to be an efficient field general in the 17-14 win.

2. Playoff Win over the Colts (2011)

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    If the Jets wanted to make any kind of noise in the 2010-2011 playoffs, they were going to have to run the gauntlet of Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger.

    Everyone knows the story by now that Sanchez and the Jets nearly completed the impossible run.

    It started on Wild Card Weekend in Indianapolis against the Colts.

    The Jets were trailing 10-7 when they got the ball with 4:49 left to go in the third quarter.  Sanchez then completed all five of his passes for 47 yards on a go-ahead touchdown drive to give the Jets a 14-10 lead.

    After two Adam Vinatieri field goals gave the Colts a 16-14 lead with 45 seconds left, Sanchez pulled out some more of his late-game magic.

    Antonio Cromartie gave the Jets life with a 47-yard kick return following Vinatieri's 50-yard field goal and the Jets took over at their own 46.

    Sanchez then completed a nine-yard pass to Braylon Edwards, an 11-yard pass to Santonio Holmes and then an 18-yarder to Edwards to the Colts 14-yard-line. 

    Nick Folk then converted a 32-yard chip shot to send the Jets to the 17-16 win in the final game of Peyton Manning's Colts career.

    Sanchez was just 18-for-31 but was at his best when the Jets needed him to be.

1. Playoff Win over the Patriots (2011)

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    For the second straight year, Jets haters were flooding social media and radio call-in shows saying the Jets were about to be embarrassed once again by Tom Brady in New England.

    Nobody beats the Patriots and Tom Brady at home in the playoffs, especially a team that just lost 45-3 to them five weeks earlier.

    Sanchez then made NFL history by becoming the first quarterback to win four road playoff games over a two-year span.

    Both defenses tried to rattle their opposing quarterbacks by bringing extra pressure consistently.  While Brady was rattled by five Jets sacks, Sanchez was blitzed on 40 percent of his dropbacks and flourished in those situations.  He went 6-of-10 for 108 yards and two touchdowns under pressure. 

    Overall, Sanchez finished 16-of-25 for 194 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 127.3 rating was the second-highest of his career, surpassed only by his rating in his first playoff win.  

    His two touchdown passes in the first half allowed the Jets to take a 14-3 lead but perhaps his biggest plays of the game came when the Patriots had crept back in the game.

    When Brady hit Alge Crumpler for a touchdown and Sammy Morris completed the two-point conversion to make it 14-11 going into the fourth quarter, it looked like the Pats were going to blow right past the Jets on the way to the win.

    However, Sanchez answered right back and led the Jets to a quick-strike touchdown to open a 21-11 lead.  The big play on the drive was a 58-yard completion to Jerricho Cotchery down to the Patriots 13-yard line.  He then connected with Santonio Holmes for a seven-yard touchdown.

    With the win, Sanchez tied Roger Staubach, Len Dawson, Jake Delhomme and Joe Flacco for the second-most road playoff wins in NFL history with four.

    The win was the most satisfying and improbable playoff win for the Jets since Super Bowl III.  

    It's amazing to think that the quarterback who outplayed Brady in every aspect of this game was the same player who floundered his way to the bench just two short years later.