By Kristian Dyer
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In a game that Roger Goodell should have called the mercy rule on shortly after kickoff, the Jets went on the road for an ugly and dreary 17-10 win over the Jaguars.
Now 6-7, the Jets are beginning to look like a team that can run the table and perhaps sneak into the playoffs.
A lot needs to go their way, as it had to in 2009 when a late season stretch of wins pushed the Jets across the line and into the playoffs. But like ’09, the formula is based on a stingy defense and an efficient run game. Notice that quarterback Mark Sanchez’s name isn’t being mentioned here as a key for their postseason chances, and the Jets need more games like Sunday’s where he isn’t the headline.
This must be the blueprint for offensive coordinator Tony Sparano from here on out.
The Jets need to KISS: Keep It Simple, Sanchez. And you thought an Eva Longoria or Kate Upton joke was coming.
For what Sanchez did on Sunday afternoon is exactly what he should do every game from here until the Jets are mercifully out of his contract via a buyout or a trade. Sanchez managed the game against a better-than-anticipated Jaguars defense and built up a 17-3 lead early in the fourth quarter. He didn’t make any major plays, but he also didn’t let their defense do the same and capitalize on his mistakes.
The numbers from Sanchez produce a collective shrug of apathy, with a rather plebeian (to put it nicely) 12-for-19 for 111 yards. There were no interceptions this time, an encouraging sign just a week removed from three interceptions in the first half of a 7-6 win over the Cardinals. And while there was a second-quarter blindside fumble, that play rests more on the broad shoulders of D’Brickashaw Ferguson, who was clearly beat off the edge.
Sanchez’s afternoon was rather boring and at times a bit ugly but it resulted in the Jets moving the ball effectively in the second half and wearing down their opponent. If the Jets want to put themselves in a position to make the playoffs, they need three more of these games from Sanchez.
It is underwhelming stuff but given a stable and relatively healthy rotation at running back right now and the injuries at wide receiver and tight end, the Jets must ground and then pound the opposing defense into submission. The Jets found success with this philosophy in 2009 and again in 2010 en route to consecutive AFC Championship game appearances. It can work again and things are certainly lining up for this team.
The Jets’ final three opponents have a combined 14 wins. None of them are significantly worse than the Jets (Jacksonville probably fit that definition best of their final four games) but not one can be considered better or even on par with New York. In other words, even if the Jets are battered, beaten and bruised they should be able to win if they can run the ball and control the tempo of the game.
That is unless Sanchez loses games for them.
To avoid that the ball must be taken out of his hands, never a bad idea when your quarterback has more interceptions (13) than touchdowns (12) on the season. It may be demeaning, but Sanchez should be nothing more than the mechanism to get the ball into the wrapped-up arms of running backs Shonn Greene, Bilal Powell and Joe McKnight. If he must pass, it needs to be short, simple routes – and by all means nothing over the middle.
More should be expected of Sanchez, a former No. 5 pick in the NFL Draft and the supposed face of the franchise, but the reality of the situation is that nothing more can actually be expected of him. He may not have regressed this year, but he certainly hasn’t progressed and he can’t be called on to step up and win games.
He can, however, very well lose them for his team, as has been seen this season.
It may be a waste of money to ask a player with an expensive cap hit this season to manage games. But if Sanchez wants to take the Jets to the postseason, he can’t be asked to make plays. On Sunday he played within himself. It may have been an ugly win but it inches the Jets one step closer to the postseason.
And that is one step closer to the playoffs than the Jets would be if they had asked Sanchez to win the game for them.
Kristian R. Dyer covers the Jets for Metro New York and also contributes to Yahoo! Sports. He can be followed on Twitter here for insight, news and snarky comments.
Do you buy into KISS? Let us know in the comments below…