But for one pass, Mark Sanchez probably would have had reason to celebrate a near perfect Friday night here in Detroit.
The fifth-year signal caller, locked in a competition with Geno Smith for the starting job, completed 77% of his passes for 125 yards in just one quarter of work against the Lions defense. He ended his field time with a deft 26-yard touch pass to TE Jeff Cumberland for a score. That culminated a seven play, 80-yard march that saw Sanchez connect for three hookups of 20-plus yards.
Opening that possession, he was on the money to TE Kellen Winslow Jr. on a short pass across the field. But the result was 24 yards because the ball beat the defender and the veteran pass catcher had room to roll up the Jets' sideline. Then he also found a wide open Jeremy Kerley as the quick-footed wideout had fun running through the Lions secondary for 24.
Displaying moxie on his middle series, the USC product stood in there and welcomed a hit in order to find speedy Clyde Gates for 18. And he also did a nice job of surveying the field on his second throw at Ford Field, finding Ryan Spadola underneath for 10 to convert on third down.
But after committing an NFL-high 52 turnovers the past two seasons, Sanchez has to prove to QB coach David Lee, offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg, head coach Rex Ryan and GM John Idzik that he will protect the football.
Not even four minutes into a scoreless game, Sanchez was pressured up the middle by DE Willie Young and he retreated. The Jets attempted to set up a screen (which they figure to run a lot more in 2013) and Sanchez didn't have an open target. Blocked rookie DE Ezekial Ansah was the recipient of a summer gift and took the errant pass home for a 14-yard score.
"We had a pretty good plan on the screen," Sanchez said at the half. "They threw the back down as I was trying to throw it over to him. The next thing I know a defensive lineman jumps out and picks it off. Not the ideal start, but those things happen in the course of a game."
Sanchez appeared sharp most of the night, precise with the ball and comfortable. Instead of sulking following the early mistake, he rebounded like a true pro and got his team going.
"We moved on and came back to throw a touchdown pass. I thought we ran the ball well. I thought Marty mixed up the calls well," he said. "I thought the O-line looked great. We just have to eliminate some penalties but I like what we did."