After watching the New York Jets dominate the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday en route to a 35-9 win, I learned a few things about the injury-ridden Jets. They can still play defense despite losing Darrelle Revis, Tim Tebow is the best punt protector in the league and Mark Sanchez is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL at managing the clock.
People have been praising San Francisco 49ers quarterback Alex Smith but not for the same reasons that they admire Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees. Smith led the 49ers to a 13-3 record last season, winning the NFC West and bringing them within three points of a trip to the Super Bowl. While Brady, Rodgers and Brees all surpassed 4,600 passing yards and 39 touchdowns, Smith was finding success in a different way. Like Mark Sanchez, Smith is a game manager.
Smith threw just over 3,100 yards, and his 17 touchdowns were less than half of any of the three aforementioned quarterbacks’ totals. Instead of filling the stat sheets, Smith focused on his efficiency, only throwing five interceptions all season. Rather than calling pass plays all of the time, the 49ers used their offensive line and running backs to move the chains, allowed the defense to give them good field position and saved Smith’s passes for situations when play action and West Coast-style offensive schemes would be more effective.
What does this mean for the Jets?
Sanchez took control of New York’s offense on Sunday, controlling the pace with run play after run play and only throwing when the defense was set up for a rush. The Jets ran the ball 43 times on Sunday. Shonn Greene, their first-string running back who had over 1,000 yards rushing last season, had 32 of those carries for a whopping 161 yards and three touchdowns. It was his first 100-yard rushing game since Week 14 of 2011.
Mark Sanchez is certainly not great but he’s not awful, and he has proven that he can win games. Still, four years into Sanchez’s career, the Jets are unsure about how to use him. He can manage games better than almost anyone in the league. He can throw short, accurate passes, and he knows how to smoothly run play action.
If the Jets control the clock with their rushing attack, allow the defense to give them advantageous field position and put the ball in Sanchez’s hands to make just a few plays per game, they can be a successful team. On the other hand, if they force Sanchez to throw more than 30 times per game in situations that will likely result in three-and-outs or turnovers, they will be a bottom-dweller in the AFC East. The Jets have a real chance to make the playoffs this season, but they will only do that if they follow the game plan that has been beneficial before: running the ball to victory.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Oct. 17 print edition. Evan Kendall is a contributing writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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