New York Jets: Why Mark Sanchez Is Not a Better Closer Than We Thought

Chris Dela RosaContributor INovember 28, 2011

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - NOVEMBER 27:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets reacts after being hit after a pass during their game on November 27, 2011 at  MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

On Sunday against the Buffalo Bills in a game to keep playoff hopes alive in New York, Mark Sanchez led the New York Jets on an 82-yard drive to edge Buffalo 28-24.

On the surface, the drive Sanchez put together is one that is very impressive.  He was able to make a clutch pass to Plaxico Burress on 3rd-and-11 to keep the drive alive and capped the drive off by finding Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone.

So, why is Sanchez being criticized if he led his team on a good comeback drive?

Let's take a look at the big plays that moved the chains.

Starting with Sanchez's pass to Patrick Turner to get a first down on 3rd-and-8.  The Bills were in basic man-to-man coverage with a safety in the area to help out if needed.  Like many of Sanchez's throws, he threw it into a somewhat covered area.  Not to discredit the Bills, they had good coverage and from what we can see on the film, Turner was the most open receiver.  So, props to Sanchez for getting the pass, but lucky for him the safety was paying more attention to the short out route (which would not have gotten the first down) instead of the deeper one, which resulted in the first down. 

I give Sanchez credit for that throw, but his decision to make that pass was very similar to the one he made earlier in the game, which was intercepted and led to Steve Johnson's touchdown celebration that included the mocking of Jets wide receiver Burress.

The next big play involved Burress who made an amazing catch on 3rd-and-8 to keep comeback hopes alive as the Jets needed a big first down.  Once again, it was basic man-to-man coverage, except this time the safety was over the top to prevent any deep passes.  Burress was able to break the man-to-man coverage, and since he was looking Burress' way the entire time, he threw it up his way.

There are two problems with Sanchez's process on this play.

From the very beginning, he was looking Burress' way the whole time.  Luckily for Sanchez, the safety could not recognize this and was not a factor on this play.  Somehow, that was not the large problem with Sanchez on this play, but the way he threw it was the issue.  Rather than setting and possibly throwing it earlier, Sanchez threw off his back leg.

If Sanchez were throwing to any other receiver on the Jets team, the pass would have been incomplete.  However, because Burress is 6'5", he was able to reach up and keep the ball from going out of bounds with one hand.  It is the kind of the help from his wide receivers that always makes Sanchez look good even when he did not do as well as it looks on the surface.

The same occurred during last year's late overtime victory against the Cleveland Browns.  Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer called for a slant play to Santonio Holmes with 20 seconds left in the game, and because of Holmes' quickness after catching the ball, the Jets were able to pull off a miraculous victory rather than leaving Cleveland with a tie.

Surprisingly, there was nothing wrong with Sanchez's touchdown pass to Holmes.  He made a good decision to leave the pocket, but all the credit should not be given to Sanchez, and this is the true reason why he is not a better closer than we thought.

The blocks were there as his offensive line was finally able to put together a complete game up front, and he had one of the most clutch receivers in the National Football League today.

Without the teammates Sanchez has had over the last three years that have helped him make several comeback victories, he would be a much worse quarterback as time winds down.

Jets fans caught a glimpse of this against the Broncos nearly two weeks ago.  Most of the time when Jets receivers come up with big plays like the one Burress had to get the first down or Holmes' touchdown catch, it is because Sanchez is able to get it in their vicinity and not directly to them like Tom Brady or Drew Brees would.

Against the Broncos this was evident as Sanchez's big interception that went for a touchdown in the third quarter foreshadowed the Jets' collapse at the end of the game.  Sanchez blatantly missed his receiver and gave the ball right to Andre Goodman.

Sure, the pick-six came in the third quarter, but when you think about the situation, it was almost like it was the ninth inning and the Yankees brought in Mariano Rivera with a three-run lead.  All Sanchez had to do was not screw up and put together a decent scoring drive that would put the Broncos away because the Jets were already winning 10-3.  Instead, Sanchez gave up the interception and it changed the entire game.

The Week 11 loss to the Broncos was not the only situation where Sanchez failed to help his team win a game late.  All in all, without the help of his teammates, Mark Sanchez would not be where he is in terms of all of the comeback victories without the help of the rest of his offense.