The Hall of Famer and The Kid embraced in the tunnel before the first game in the new place. Then before No. 12 received his latest honor for a game and a career well done, No. 6 put on a show that was a little reminiscent of the tanned old man.
Mark Sanchez put on a pretty good opening-night show tonight in the Jets' 31-16 loss to the Giants to open New Meadowlands Stadium. But before he did, he emulated Joe Namath in at least one undesirable manner — by throwing an interception on his first pass of the game to set up the game's first touchdown.
But then Sanchez roared back with some fancy passing against the Giants' first defense, producing three consecutive scoring drives and a 13-10 halftime lead over Big Blue.
"I don't think you could script a worse start on your first play of your second season," Sanchez said at his postgame news conference in the Toyota Coaches Club. "But you know what? Sometimes those things happen.
"It was poor accuracy but we battled back and I'm proud of our effort. I think maybe last year I would've been really upset, down in the dumps, but this year it's no big deal, let's get back some."
Sanchez got back with some Namathian numbers for his full first half of work: 13-for-17 passing for 119 yards, a short touchdown pass to Brad Smith, the lone INT and three scores in his five drives. Of course the interception counts, too, but factor out that batted slant pass and Sanchez put up a 118.5 passer rating on his last 16 passes.
All of this came perhaps an hour and change after Namath, on hand to be one of the six men inducted into the Jets' new Ring of Honor at halftime, came out of an interview room — and almost ran into Sanchez, who simultaneously was just coming off the new FieldTurf after pregame warmups, headed for the Jets' new locker room.
The men embraced and exchanged a few pleasantries. And why not? Namath says Sanchez "is ready to go." Sanchez says, "In my career, I want what Joe has."
The Jets got the first home game in their new office, but by the end of the game they would have liked to have what the Giants had, the first win in NMS. And head coach Rex Ryan, in the first game of his second season leading the Green & White, also had some things he liked and some he didn't about the Jets' performance.
"I thought our starters played about the way we expected them to play," Ryan said. "But as happy as I was with the way our ones played, I was totally disappointed with the twos. These are guys we're counting on to give us good depth, and we got whipped by 'em."
The numbers were as ugly in the second half as they were good-looking in the first. After a 154-97 yardage advantage in the first half, the Jets lost the second half, 256-208. In turnover margin, the home team was minus-1 in the first, minus-2 in the half. And on every one of the four giant videoboards, the Jets lost the second half, 21-3.
But after a day of travel back to central New York on Tuesday, the coach will make his points and run four more practices at SUNY Cortland before the Jets take their second summer step when they play at Carolina on Saturday night.
The Green & White defense was slightly ahead of the offense at the start of this game, but the O caught up pretty quick.
The first D pitched three-and-outs in two of their first three series as the Giants ran 9 plays and gained 0 yards.
Unfortunately for the home team, the Giants gained one of those yards on Brandon Jacobs' 1-yard TD run shortly after Sanchez's first pass of the game was deflected, intercepted by new Giants S Antrel Rolle and returned 59 yards to within the shadow of the Jets' goalposts.
But Sanchez and the offense responded sharply and positively with three scores on their next four possessions. First came the touchdown after a 14-play, 68-yard drive to tie it at 7-7. Sanchez hit Brad Smith, unguarded on the left flank, for the 4-yard score shortly after Sanchez hit LaDainian Tomlinson in stride over the middle and LT turned on the jets to beat CB Terrell Thomas and gain 14 yards on third-and-13.
Then the sides exchanged field goals. Nick Folk, whom holder Steve Weatherford said has been successful "on more than 90 percent of his field goals this camp," hit his first game-conditions FG as a Jet from 36 yards out late in the first quarter. The Jets' 10 points were their most against the Giants in any opening quarter of this preseason rivalry since it began being played in the Jersey Meadowlands in 1977.
Lawrence Tynes tied it 4:20 into the second quarter. Then Folk put the Jets back up, 13-10, with 3:55 left in the half after a 10-play march that featured some more Sanchez accuracy: he went 6-for-6 for 70 offensive yards on the drive, including two hookups for first downs to Jerricho Cotchery and two more to Braylon Edwards.
The Jets' first defense played virtually the entire first half and finished well with three three-and-out drives and 97 yards allowed. with 51 of those yards coming on some quick thinking by Eli Manning after he was nearly sacked twice in the pocket — the Giants QB shoveled to Ahmad Bradshaw, who juked his way to the Jets 14 to set up that Tynes FG.
"Eli did a great job," Ryan praised. "He avoided the sack, then he was able to throw one of those backyard things on us."
But Manning also felt the wrath of the Jets rush after he felt a gaffe from behind. Brandon Jacobs ran into his QB as Manning was dropping to pass, forcing the ball loose. Then as Manning tried to get the handle on it, he was crushed from behind by Calvin Pace. The Giants recovered but Manning left the game with a 3-inch gash on his head that would require stitches.
Manning also took the blame for the play, saying it was a run play with an option for a fade pass that he thought he'd put up. "Sometimes you make a mistake," the Giants QB said, "and you get hit in the head."
The Jets were sitting pretty late in the third until Folk missed his first field goal in four tries from 46 yards out. Then it was time for the Victor Cruz Show. The UMass rookie wideout became the first opponent in at least 20 preseasons to score three touchdowns on the Jets.
His first, a 64-yarder, came on a great throw from Jim Sorgi and a great one-handed catch despite the coverage of Dwight Lowery. That gave the Big Blue visitors a 17-16 lead.
His second, 34 yards, also from Sorgi, came on a busted coverage elsewhere that left Drew Coleman trailing badly. His third, a 5-yard throw from Brett Bomar, was at Marquice Cole's expense and made it 31-16 with 2:24 left.
Kevin O'Connell, the Jets' fourth QB of the night and their third of the second half, scrambled for what was called a 9-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left but then was reversed into ball at the Giants 1 by a booth replay challenge. After a grounding call, O'Connell rolled and threw his second interception, into the end zone with 14 seconds left.
Tomlinson carried eight times for 17 yards and had the one reception for 14 yards in his half of work. His nine offensive touches were the second-most in a preseason game in his 10-year career, just one shy of a 10-touch game with the Chargers last summer. ...Rookie RB Joe McKnight had 13 second-half carries for 32 yards to lead all ballcarriers. ... Danny Woodhead's five catches, all in the second half, led the Jets.
Eric Smith was bringing the heat. In the first half he had a block of punter Matt Dodge that set up Folk's first field goal. Then Smitty came on the blitz to force Sorgi into a hurried incompletion and give the D its fourth 1-2-3-punt of the game.
New Jets starters who held their own: LG Matt Slauson (who had one hold but otherwise held up well) and three new guys in the secondary — CB Antonio Cromartie, first-round CB Kyle Wilson and S Brodney Pool.
Rob Turner started at C for Nick Mangold, who did not dress. No reason was immediately given for Mangold but he took a blow to the temple during a practice last week. Also not dressing were LBs Josh Mauga (concussion) and Brashton Satele (ankle). ... Attendance for the game: 67,511.
**[See Photos of Preseason Week 1 against the