Mark Sanchez is not thinking about revenge as the Jets prepare for Thursday night's meeting with the Buffalo Bills.
"That's not good for a quarterback to think like that. You just have to play these plays smart like I did last game and take care of the football," Sanchez told reporters today. "It's not 'This guy intercepted me last time. I'm not throwing at him.' It's not like that at all. It's just about winning the game, whether we throw it or run it or I have to run — whatever we have to do. Just win the game and put the other one behind us and learn from it and move on."
Sanchez was visibly shaken after throwing five interceptions in the Jets' ugly 16-13 overtime loss to the Bills on Oct. 18. But he'll enter Week 12 with confidence after completing 13 of 17 passes for 154 yards and rushing three times for 27 yards in the Green & White's 17-6 win over the Panthers on Sunday. His 76.5 completion percentage was the best mark of his young career as the rookie didn't force the issue downfield and often elected to check down.
"Those underneath passes really got us some yards yesterday and TJ [Thomas Jones] did a heck of a job just fighting for extra yards after the catch. It really hurts the defense when they cover everything and you throw it underneath," Sanchez said. "It's kind of a backbreaker for them. That was important for our offensive attack. That's something I haven't done previously. It's important to remember those guys underneath."
Head coach Rex Ryan, who took a more active role in the offense last week, was pleased with the rookie's post-Thanksgiving performance. Wearing a color-coded wristband to help remind him of game situations, Sanchez was solid and only a Chris Gamble interception in the fourth quarter ruined a mistake-free day.
"You saw the ball to Gamble, I missed that by a fraction of an inch and this guy makes an awesome play," he said.
Acknowledging that "the room for error has decreased quite a bit" since college, Sanchez will be tested by a Bills team that paces the NFL with 21 interceptions.
"They've been moving guys around," he said. "[Jairus] Byrd has played well the entire time. Both corners look good. Depending on whether the other cornerback [Terrence McGee] comes back, we'll see. It's a great defense and their D-line just seems to put a lot of pressure on their quarterback. They are relentless up front. They won't take downs off. They play to the whistle and are a well-coached group. We have to be ready to play our best."
Byrd, a rookie who actually played Sanchez in the Pac-10 while at Oregon, collected two interceptions and broke up a third pass against him back in Week 6. But the Jets' signalcaller, whose left knee felt fine this afternoon after a brief scare against the Panthers, is placing a heavy emphasis on ball security.
"Your confidence grows as the year goes on. You get more reps, you see things more, and you feel more comfortable with disguises and blitzes and all of our reads and our offensive package," Sanchez said. "This is a great team. We played these guys down to the wire and we gave up the ball six times. Without those interceptions, you'd think we win the game. That's the way we need to play, mistake-free and just go into this game with confidence and momentum from this week."
The 23-year-old seemed more at ease today — a far cry from the shaken 22-year-old who addressed the media after that first meeting with the Bills. He's embracing this moment, a Southern Californian ready to warm up as December commences.
"I don't know how to say it — this has been the coolest year of my life," Sanchez said. "Running around with these guys and being in a great organization, fighting for a chance at the playoffs here, fighting for another win. This is what you always dream of doing. Learning along the way, learning on the fly has been fun at times and difficult at times. It is a learning process and you're growing this entire year. I've really enjoyed it, but it's everything I've expected and more."