Mark Sanchez had the stage to himself for three quarters Saturday night in his bid to secure the starting job as the New York Jets quarterback, but the reviews are mixed following a 37-13 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium.
The fifth-year quarterback, whose job looked in jeopardy after the Jets drafted Geno Smith of West Virginia and opened the competition to include former Alabama star Greg McElroy, started well but had an uneven effort after that as he played nine series.
Smith and McElroy did not play because of ankle injuries, leading Coach Rex Ryan to say after the game that no decision has been made about a starter at the position.
"We're not willing to name a starting quarterback right now," Ryan said. "Will we name one before the Giants game? I don't know. But right now we're not comfortable making that decision." The Jets and Giants meet Saturday at MetLife Stadium.
Sanchez led the Jets down the field in six plays on a 59-yard scoring drive during their first possession against the Jaguars, completing all three of his passes and connecting with Jeff Cumberland for a 23-yard touchdown. He completed 13 of 23 passes for 169 yards, with the one touchdown and an interception, in the game.
Two possessions later, Sanchez forced a pass to tight end Kellen Winslow that was intercepted by Jaguars bcornerback Marcus Trufant, and with six seconds left before halftime, Sanchez failed to complete a passing play that left no time on the clock for a field-goal attempt. Jacksonville went into the intermission with a 13-10 lead.
Sanchez took the blame for his misfire into the end zone. "I should have put it out in front of Kellen a little more and give him a better chance to make a better play," he said.
Ryan said the final play before halftime might have been an ill-advised call.
"I will take the blame for that," Ryan said about the clock running out. "I knew it was risky when I called that. And obviously, we never executed it very well. It wasn't designed that way, but those things happen."
A pair of touchdown drives in the third quarter ended with former UCLA running back Khalil Bell scoring on runs of one and five yards to give the Jets a comfortable 24-13 lead. The first drive covered 50 yards and Sanchez completed both of his passes for 26 yards. The second came off a turnover and covered only 14 yards.
Finally, Sanchez moved the Jets into Jaguars territory for a field goal with three seconds left before the fourth quarter by completing a 31-yard pass to Konrad Reuland, providing the final margin of victory. Fourth-stringer Matt Simms played the fourth quarter, completing all five of his passes for 73 yards with no interceptions.
"At times, when the protection really held up well for us, Mark did a nice job throwing the football,'' Ryan said. "When we got in the red zone, it was tough sledding down there. Obviously, we need to do a better job."