(Long Island, N.Y.) All eyes may have started on Tim Tebow, but Mark Sanchez made short work of that activity by dominating the Buffalo defense early and often in the New York Jets’ season opener on Sunday. The fourth-year quarterback also erased all of the preseason questions about the team’s offense and looked sharp in leading them to the end zone in all four quarters.
Things may have appeared bleak when Sanchez threw an interception on the opening offensive drive, an ill-advised flip on the run that was deflected and picked off near the Jets sideline. But that was the only blemish on a day where the USC product went 19-for-27 for 266 yards and four touchdowns, along with a QB rating of 123.4.
“I had a pretty good feeling that we were going to play well,” Jets head coach Rex Ryan said. “When Mark has the time to throw the football, he can throw it with anybody.”
There were so many positives to take away from the 48-28 home win over the Bills, one being that it set a new team record for the most points scored in a season opener. Heading into the game, it was thought that the Wildcat formation and the possible presence of Tebow on the field would have been the difference maker, but it turned out to be the exact opposite.
Although the versatile backup quarterback was lined up as a wideout on the first offensive play from scrimmage, it was not a sign of things to come. Tebow was on the field for only 12 total plays, including eight as a Wildcat quarterback. He attempted no passes and had only 11 yards on five rushing attempts. Tebow also logged four special teams plays, the most important being the onsides kick recovery at the Buffalo 49-yard line late in the fourth quarter.
Although it didn’t seem to work on paper, Ryan felt that the Wildcat did have some effect on the way the Bills came into the game. “Sometimes it’s about that preparation,” he said. “As much time as that team spent on the Wildcat, it maybe it took away some preparation. We have that ability and certainly we can do a lot more out of it, as well.”
Keeping teams on their toes may be one thing, but it also helps when your starter can make it all happen without having to rely on trickery to result in points. Sanchez also had a number of weapons to choose from, something that injuries during the summer did not allow. He spread the ball around to seven different receivers, with rookie Stephen Hill being his favorite on the day with five catches for 89 yards and two touchdowns. Hill also set a new team record for the most receiving yards in a Jet rookie debut.
So the feel-good attitude is present, at least for this week at the Jets training facility in Floral Park, New Jersey. The stakes get a little higher next weekend in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers and their strong defense will be looking to redeem themselves after getting picked apart by Peyton Manning.
But if Sanchez can show some of the accuracy that he did against the Bills, he buys some time for himself and the impatient fans that will be looking to chant Tebow’s name before too long.