The New York Jets have a lot to prove this season, to say the least. After their 48-28 Week 1 victory, perhaps the sky isn’t falling after all.
Sunday against the division rival Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium, they made a statement. A statement that the Jets will be taken seriously, regardless of the media hoopla surrounding them.
The Bills had aspirations about ending their long playoff drought, and to be fair, they still have 15 games to get back into the hunt.
However, the Jets outclassed them in every facet of the game, dominating them on offense, defense and special teams.
Nobody was more impressive than Mark Sanchez, who often times looked like the best player on the field.
The 25-year-old quarterback is well aware of what’s at stake this season, and Sunday’s opener was an important first step for him as he attempts to answer his critics and solidify his status as the Jets’ franchise quarterback.
Tim Tebow? He played, too. He saw eight snaps, gaining 11 yards on the ground without a pass attempt. He also recovered an onside kick at the end of the game.
But Sunday was the Mark Sanchez show, through and through. He completed over 70% of his passes, and the Jets were 10 of 14 on third downs, an outstanding turnaround from years past.
Did the acquisition of Tebow motivate Sanchez to reach new heights? It’s impossible to know, but I doubt it.
Sanchez is intrinsically motivated. Failing to make the playoffs last season is motivation enough.
Tony Sparano deserves a ton of credit for establishing a strong bond with Sanchez and tailoring his offense to Sanchez’s strengths, but it’s Sanchez who deserves the most credit for his improved play.
Of course, one game does not make a season. Especially a game in September. But it was everything that fans needed to see to be able to breathe and realize that this team is far more talented than many gave them credit for.
Meanwhile, Sanchez is taking it all in stride, making sure that he and his teammates stay focused on the task at hand.
“One game isn’t a season. It’s not to prove anything to anybody else other than our team,” Sanchez said. “Regardless of what the opinions are outside of our building, they don’t affect us.”
“I told the guys in the locker room, ‘Remember this because it took a lot of work to get here … It doesn’t just happen on Sunday. It takes six days [of preparation] to get here and a great day of execution to have this feeling.'”
Next week, they’ll have a huge test when they go on the road to face the Pittsburgh Steelers. It doesn’t get any easier in the NFL. The Jets know that. They were humbled last year, but their goal remains the same as it ever was.