Despite struggling with his accuracy Saturday in Indianapolis, Mark Sanchez persevered to fight another day and his hurt right shoulder is improving as the Jets move closer to their third meeting with the Patriots.
"Honestly, it feels the best it's felt in three or four weeks," said Sanchez today. "I was full practice today for the first time in a while and that's huge. We know it's getting better and that's the most important thing."
Sanchez got better late against the Colts, completing nine of his 12 passes in the second half as the Green & White scored all of their 17 points. That followed a first half when Sanchez was often off target, hitting on just nine of 19, including a red zone interception in the final seconds of the half.
"I just wasn't as accurate as I needed to be. There was no way I was going to let it snowball and eventually avalanche," he said. "I just wanted to come back and get completions, be real smart, take care of the football, no more stupid decisions, especially in the red zone, let the running game work for us, get completions and build on that. Then when it comes down to make a play. You just have to make a play at times."
He made just enough of them, completing all three of his throws for 38 yards on the Jets' final possession before Nick Folk drilled a 32-yarder at the gun. But it figures to go a long way to victory this week if Sanchez can start fast at Gillette Stadium.
When the Pats drilled the Jets, 45-3, in their Dec. 6 matchup, the second-year passer completed just eight of 18 for 77 yards as the visitors fell behind 24-3 after 30 minutes.
"It was the perfect storm. We played very poor We started off slow, they started off fast," he said. "They kept rolling and we didn't bounce back. That's basically the way it went."
Sanchez threw three second-half interceptions as the Jets never closed the gap. Any chance of clawing back into the contest vanished when rookie ILB Brandon Spikes picked off a toss intended for Braylon Edwards, squandering a red zone opportunity on the first possession of the third quarter.
"When you get down like that, you start forcing some balls over the middle, you start throwing interceptions and they'll bury you," said No. 6. "That's where their team kind of makes their hay, that's what they do. They capitalize on your mistakes and you have to play mistake-free, and that's what we'll have to play on Sunday."
Even though Sanchez has a 2-2 mark against the Patriots in regular-season action, he has yet to perform well at New England. The two trips to Gillette Stadium have resulted in seven interceptions, a 46 percent completion percentage and defeats by an average of 30 points.
The Pats, who spent a lot of time playing from ahead this season, led the NFL with 25 interceptions. But the Jets don't have to put this game on Sanchez's improved shoulder, considering they ran for 169 yards against the Colts and averaged 144 yards on the ground against the Men of Belichick.
"I think honestly when we're the best — I've said it all year — is when we're balanced and we kind of feed off of each other," Sanchez said. "The completions come with good runs and the good runs come with some completions. I like being balanced."
Similar to the situation last weekend with Peyton Manning, Sanchez won't concern himself with Tom Brady on Sunday. Already equipped with more playoff wins than any other QB in franchise history, he has his eyes on a second conference championship appearance in as many years.
"If you focus on the defense the way you're supposed to, get completions and make good plays when you have opportunities, inevitably things will go right," he said. "So there is no way to really worry and track what Tom's doing. It's not even worth your time."