Sunday, August 26, 2012

Jets fire blanks once again, yet to score touchdown in preseason

AP Photo- Mark Sanchez and the Jets offense failed to score a touchdown for the third time in three tries this preseason.


EAST RUTHERFORD — The Jets offense showed some life early in Sunday’s 17-12 preseason loss to the Carolina Panthers, but the game came with a cost.

With Austin Howard in the starting lineup at right tackle instead of Wayne Hunter, quarterback Mark Sanchez finally had some time to operate in the pocket, and responded with his best game thus far this preseason. He was able to stretch the field vertically, and would have thrown his first touchdown of the year in the opening half had a pass not gone through rookie Stephen Hill’s hands late in the second quarter.

“The guys played well today,” Sanchez said. “There was just one sack, and that was really a coverage sack. I thought there was a great improvement up front.”

Unfortunately, tight end Dustin Keller (hamstring), linebacker David Harris (ankle) and fullback Josh Baker (knee) all were forced to leave the game with injuries.

Sanchez also threw an interception, but that pass also bounced off Hill’s hands. He finished the game 11 for 18 with 123 yards. Three games into the preseason, the Jets are the only team in the NFL yet to score a touchdown.

“I told him to get on the jug machine, first and foremost,” Sanchez said, relating his message to the young receiver.

On the Jets' first two offensive plays, Sanchez delivered  his best two throws of the preseason, hitting Keller for a 24 yard gain, then connecting with wideout Patrick Turner for 20 more. He nearly connected on a bomb to Santonio Holmes, and found Hill a few drives later for a 30-yard pickup.

AP Photo - The Jets' offense hasn't looked good this season, but the Flight Crew has maintained its fine form.

“We moved the ball pretty well,” said running back Shonn Greene, who finished with 47 yards on 13 carries. “We just have to finish.”

That momentum, however, stalled whenever the Jets got close to the red zone. Their best chance to find the end zone came in the second quarter, when a Sanchez pass bounced off Hill’s hands. The team settled for five field goal attempts, with Nick Folk going two for two and Josh Brown two for three.

“We’ll take what the defense gives us, but we need to execute better than that,” Sanchez said. “We need touchdowns.”

The Jets also did a decent job containing Carolina quarterback Cam Newton. The second-year phenom finished the game 6 of 15, for 60 yards and a touchdown.

One of the bright spots on that side of the ball was second-year nose tackle Kendrick Ellis, who was able to get consistent pressure on Newton. Linebacker Aaron Maybin also broke free into the Carolina backfield on more than one occasion, flushing Newton from the pocket. LaRon Landry picked off Carolina backup Derek Anderson.

Rookie Quinton Coples forced a Newton fumble deep in Panthers territory with six minutes left in the first half. That play set up another field goal, this one from Brown.

“We have a lot of talented young guys, and great chemistry,” veteran linebacker Bart Scott said of the defense. “We didn’t have OTAs last year, and know guys are really getting the opportunity to work together.”

Carolina’s only touchdown of the first half came after Sanchez’s hard-luck pick, which gave the Panthers the ball on the Jets' 31 yard line. The five-play drive was capped off by a three-yard touchdown strike to Louis Murphy.

Tim Tebow relieved Sanchez one drive into the second half, and was his typical erratic self, looking great evading the rush but telegraphing his throws and badly missing receivers. In the fourth quarter, he pulled off a Madden-esque 20-yard scramble through the Panthers’ defense, drawing a halfhearted “Tebow!” chant before throwing an ugly interception two plays later. He finished 4 for 13 with 55 yards and a pick.

Anderson threw what proved to be the game-winning touchdown to Gary Barnidge at the start of the fourth.

The Jets' final preseason game will be against the Eagles at 6:35 p.m. Thursday in Philadelphia.

“The way I see it, we’re saving all our good stuff for the regular season,” Sanchez said.

— For complete Jets coverage this season follow Nick Peruffo on twitter @jetssmart


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