He was once nicknamed "The Sanchize" during his rookie season because of his importance to the team. Now, the New York Jets might just want to sanitize themselves from third-year quarterback Mark Sanchez after another mistake cost them a win on Thursday night in a 17-13 loss to the Denver Broncos.
As big as Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow's 20 yard touchdown run with just under a minute to play was to the game's final score, it was Sanchez's third quarter interception that was the turning moment in the Jets loss. Holding a 10-3 lead midway through the third quarter, Sanchez dropped back on third-and-6 and locked in on wide receiver Plaxico Burress, whom he tried to find on the previous play.
Sanchez thought he had Burress open for a first down, but anyone watching his eyes knew where the ball was going and Broncos cornerback Andre Goodman was waiting underneath, stepping forward for the interception:
"I gave them a touchdown, gave them a free play. The guy made a pretty good play on it, but the pass wasn't open," Sanchez said. "I shouldn't have thrown it. It's an embarrassing play on my part; I hurt the team and lost the game."
The interception tied the game but it was endemic of Sanchez's struggles this year. Consistently, he has been a one-read quarterback who locks in early on his favored target and then forces the ball in that general direction. Two weeks ago, Santonio Holmes hinted at this tendency of Sanchez, saying that when his quarterback can't connect with his receivers, he will tell them on the sidelines "I got you next time, I got you this time."
Sanchez has shown some improvement this year, with his completion percentage and quarterback rating both up slightly over his first two seasons and while his 14 touchdowns are on pace to eclipse last year's mark, so is his interception number. Through 10 games, Sanchez has thrown 10 interceptions, not a startlingly number but certainly a sign that he has made little to no progression. Sanchez threw just 13 all of last season when he managed games effectively and limited errors.
And much like Sanchez as a first-read quarterback has become predictable, so too has the defense of head coach Rex Ryan in excusing the performance of a player who should be much further along in his development right now.
"You don't just place it on Mark. It's a combination of things," Ryan said. "We've got to get open on our routes. We've got to protect the quarterback and he's got to make the throws and then we've got to be able to run the football. So it's a combination of things."
Pin it on Sanchez, pin it on the Jets receivers or simply chalk it up to a little divine intervention from Tebow and the Broncos, the Jets are currently 5-5, already reaching their loss total from last season. In a season where they brought in veteran talent to make a run at the Super Bowl, no one imagined that the Jets would be teetering on the brink of missing the playoffs in Week 10.
"We're digging ourselves a hole, that's for sure. We're not making things easy on ourselves," Sanchez said. "We have playmakers, we have the coaching, we have the leadership, we have the ability to play better than this; we just haven't and I haven't. It starts with me; we have a long weekend to take a good, long look at yourself in the mirror and figure out the player you want to be the rest of the season and move on, but it starts with me and winning these games you feel a lot better."
And right now, Sanchez has Jets fans feeling not so great.
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer