What happens when it's all on Mark Sanchez
Is it even worth noting that the Jets technically top the standings when their tie-breaking 2-0 divisional record is factored in?
The answer is: No.
The 2012 Jets' chances of contending depended on several things breaking right, each of which has gone spectacularly wrong in the first four games.
First and most obviously, the Jets needed to stay healthy. But last week, their best player suffered a season-ending injury. Darrelle Revis’s torn ACL represented The Unthinkable, a possibility too horrible to be grappled with earnestly before it happened. Nobody quite knew what horrors would visit the Jets without him.
As it turned out yesterday, there were plenty, starting with the poor play of Kyle Wilson, Revis’s replacement in the starting lineup, who stood out even on a day where all facets of the Jets broke down.
Wilson’s rough day started when he was flagged for a pass interference call on the game’s first play from scrimmage. It continued on the 49ers’ first score of the game, a run by backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick on which Wilson made what Daily News Jets reporter Kevin Armstrong aptly called “a brief frisk attempt” in lieu of a tackle.
Before and after that were many completions, and, more incriminatingly, at least three near-completions that would have gone for big yardage if not for overthrows by 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Wilson’s reactions to these near-death experiences was surprising: He wagged his finger after one of them (“Don’t you dare test me!”) and made the popular spoon-to-mouth “Keep feedin’ me!” gesture after another.
In reality, testing Wilson was exactly what the 49ers did all game and what other teams will surely do for the rest of the season. His displays of misplaced bravado did nothing but feed the narrative about the Jets’ deluded conception of their own abilities.
So the pass defense is in trouble. More worrisome yet, the run defense is in bigger trouble. After giving up 245 rushing yards yesterday, the Jets are giving up an average of 173 yards per game, ranking 31st in the league.
REVIS' INJURY PRETTY MUCH REMOVES the possibility that the Jets will be as good on defense as in years past. So the burden shifts to the offense to improve upon its below-average performance of the past several seasons.
We all know how that has gone: The offense was shut out yesterday, and has just one touchdown in its last 34 possessions.
Mark Sanchez, playing in an era in which quarterbacks complete 62 percent of their passes, now has a 49.2 completion percentage, after three straight games in which he has failed to top 50 percent.
Yesterday was the nadir. The Jets’ 30 passing plays resulted in 100 yards for them, and an interception and a fumble recovery for a touchdown for the 49ers. Whether or not Sanchez “regressed” last year is subject to debate over which statistics mean more, but it’s incontrovertible this year.
What’s most worrisome about Sanchez is that no facet of his game seems to have improved. His accuracy has been terrible this year, a fact reflected not only in his numbers but also the visuals of him missing wide-open throws. He’s still prone to the blooperish catastrophic mistake, like his interception on a screen pass yesterday that otherwise was destined for big yardage and a chance for the Jets to get back into the game. Worse yet, his pocket presence is no better now than it was when he was a rookie, making it hard to imagine that he'll ever harness his above-average athleticism for his position.
Three seasons and four games into his career, Sanchez has been close-to-average at best and terrible at worst. About the only thing he has going for him now is that it appears the Jets don’t take backup Tim Tebow seriously as a quarterback, and have no interest in inviting any more controversy about Sanchez’s job security.
So his job is probably secure for the next twelve games. But this is officially a crisis now. There are no more “young quarterback” excuses.
And Sanchez’s uphill task of saving both the Jets’ season and his job got a lot harder on the first play of the fourth quarter yesterday, when Santonio Holmes sustained a foot injury that, pending an MRI, appears that it will sideline him for multiple games.
The Jets have leaned heavily on Holmes this year: He practically won their Week 3 game against Miami himself with a 147-yard outing, and was sixth in the N.F.L. with 11 targets per game going into yesterday.
All of that from someone everyone thought the Jets would love to get rid of if only his prohibitive contract didn’t make that next to impossible. But it’s been that kind of year for the Jets: First they want to get rid of him, then they find out he’s indispensible, and now he’s gone.