One moment, Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez was leading his offense to a seamless touchdown drive. The next, he was throwing a costly interception with his team just three yards away from the end zone.
Allow Sanchez to reintroduce himself.
At this point in his career, this is just who he is: flashes of his potential greatness, followed by reminders of his lingering limitations.
For three throws on the opening drive, he was untouchable.
He fired hard on his first pass, a 10-yard out to wide receiver Stephen Hill, and was able to thread the needle between three defenders reaching for it.
He put just the right amount of touch on his second pass, a 10-yard in to Jeremy Kerley between the hash marks, that it stayed out of the reach of the defensive back that had dropped underneath in coverage.
On the third throw? Please, when a player is this wide open close to the end zone, that's an easy decision for any quarterback, and Sanchez made a throw to match, hitting tight end Jeff Cumberland in stride as he peeled his route in front of the safety. The defensive back fell down, but Cumberland would have been open either way.
Sanchez celebrated. Fans cheered. It was like the beginning of the 2009 season. For a minute, the woes were forgotten. We had now seen Sanchez put together two solid drives in the preseason, capping both of them with touchdowns of 20-plus yards to Cumberland.
He came back down to earth a bit after that, but even in doing so, he continued to make smart decisions with the football.
He checked down to fullback Tommy Bohanon when his receivers were covered. He even dirted the ball on a screen pass that got snuffed out by the defense, which drew cheers from Jets fans in attendance who remembered his brutal pick-six from the week before.
Those cheers quickly turned to jeers when the drive ended with Sanchez throwing an interception in the end zone.
It looked like Sanchez was expecting tight end Kellen Winslow (circled in yellow) to get into and out of his break a bit more quickly, but Winslow was fighting through the traffic of the defensive back and couldn't get through.
Either way, it's hard to expect your receiver to make a catch when he's being boxed out by a defender.
Sanchez is as Sanchez does.
That's Mark Sanchez for you. He's like a game of duck, duck, goose: Good, good, bad. Good, good, very bad.— Seth Walder (@SethWalderNYDN) August 18, 2013
The difference is, Sanchez will sometimes call "duck" once in between each "goose," and sometimes he'll call 30 "ducks" in a row.
He rebounded in the third quarter against the Jaguars second-team defense, but much like last week with his insta-pick-six, it's hard to reconcile the good for the bad.
He just can't seem to find a stroke that works consistently. With a 71.7 passer rating since 2009, Sanchez ranks 31st out of 32 quarterbacks to start at least 24 games. Needless to say, he is not in good company.
If Geno Smith hadn't injured himself in last week's game against the Detroit Lions, Sanchez may not have been given the opportunity to remove himself from that company. It may not matter, at this point; with his performance Saturday night, he came one step closer to proving once and for all that he wouldn't be able to do that anyway.
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