Mark Sanchez turned 26 Sunday, but he had little to celebrate after the Jets offense produced not a single point in a demoralizing 28-7 loss to the Seahawks in Seattle.
"It's got to turn and it starts with me," he said after finishing nine-of-22 for 124 yards with two turnovers.
The Jets were in good position early in the second stanza as the defense was humming, having already scored points on Muhammad Wilkerson's 21-yard fumble return and getting a second takeaway as Calvin Pace recovered a Marshawn Lynch fumble. It was 7-7 at CenturyLink field and Sanchez reached his high water mark, hooking up with Jeremy Kerley for a 43-yard gain to the SEA 7.
But after a false start on Dustin Keller pushed the Jets back, Sanchez was victimized by his fourth red zone INT of the season. Throwing all the way across the field to Keller on third-and-6, CB Richard Sherman easily stepped in front to take points off the board.
"Strung the play out too long. Got greedy," Sanchez said. "That kind of stuff happens when you do that. So it's my job to move on to the next play and kick a field goal, get us some points and get out of there. That was the start of the turn of things going bad and I got to play better than that. So that's on me."
Trailing the 'Hawks 14-7 at the half, the Jets had just 112 total yards and five first downs at the break. After the offense got nothing rolling in the third quarter, Sanchez hit Keller for a 32-yard gain to get the Jets moving early in the fourth. They faced a 21-7 deficit and needed a TD to have any realistic comeback hopes, but Sanchez was sacked by Sherman and Jason Jones recovered a fumble.
"I'm trying to get rid of it and the ball's getting wet toward the end of the game, so I've just got to go down. When the play's over, it's over. We had something going and you know I'm competing my butt off to just trying to get rid of it and dump it at the back's feet and hopefully get back to the line of scrimmage for the second down," Sanchez said. "But once again, I need to make better plays than that and we can't win with the way I played today. I've got to take care of the ball better and help us."
After the Jets fell to 3-6, Rex Ryan repeated his belief that Sanchez gives his team the best chance to win.
"That never really crosses my mind. I'm too confident for that. We've won too many games together," said Sanchez, who is the fifth QB in Super Bowl era to earn 30 victories in his first three NFL seasons. "We've had some great success here, so I don't expect anything different. So it's my job to keep playing and playing hard, make better decisions and help this team win."
The Jets gave no indication of a splintered locker room following their fifth loss in six games.
"Mark can give us a spark. We can care less about what the outside says. Mark is our quarterback and he's going to continue to be our quarterback for the rest of the season," said CB Antonio Cromarite. "We believe in him. We believe in what he has — his athletic ability and his talent. We have to make sure we give him the opportunity to get the ball down the field, get the ball to open receivers and the receivers have to make sure they get open."
"We all believe in Mark 100 percent," added LG Matt Slauson. "He gives us the best chance to win."
Backup Tim Tebow got in a handful of offensive plays, completing all three of his pass attempts for eight yards while running four times for 14 yards.
"We've had some of that stuff in a little while, but most of it was this week. I felt great (about the changes). I thought it was effective," he said. "I thought we were spreading the defense out. I think we had opportunities for even bigger plays."
But it appears Sanchez will remain the starter. The fourth-year pro has completed 52 percent of his passes in 2012 with 10 TD, nine INT and four fumbles lost.
"Don't dance around the problems. The red zone turnovers are hurting this team, so I have to be better," he said. "Sack fumbles are hurting this team, so I have to eliminate those."