With apologies to a number of Jets, nobody had a more impressive regular season debut with the Green & White than offensive coordinator Tony Sparano.
"It felt really good obviously to get out there in a real game situation — it's been a long time for me," he told me on "Jets Replay" after the rout of the Bills at MetLife Stadium. "I was just pleased to see the smiles on the players' faces as the game was going on. You could start to feel this thing happen on the sideline and see them start believing in some of the things that were going on."
There was much to smile about as the Jets put up 48 points in their romp over the Bills — the largest total in franchise history for a regular season opener. And to think it all actually started slowly when Mark Sanchez rolled left, threw an errant toss to Jeff Cumberland and was picked off to end the Jets' opening possession.
"That interception was largely due to something we did — not something necessarily that they did," Sparano said. "You always want to give credit to the opponents, but that was just a play that should never happen. I think Mark knew we were moving the ball pretty well at that point. The key was to come right back the second time we had the football and to see how we answered. And I thought the guys did a good job of answering that way once that was over."
The Jets had four takeaways in all Sunday and they cashed in with 24 points. Antonio Cromartie took care of the scoring himself on a 40-yard INT return early in the third, but Sanchez's first two TD passes — a 12-yard strike to Jeremy Kerley in the first and a 33-yard heave to rookie Stephen Hill on the first play of the second stanza — came following interceptions from Darrelle Revis and Kyle Wilson.
"That was critical. One of the reasons in coming here to the Jets, I just always felt that these guys took the ball away at a high rate," Sparano said. "I felt like that would be an advantage for us at some point — to get the chance to play on a short field.
"We took a couple of shots and made some plays," he added. "Mark makes a deep throw to Stephen. He makes a great read. Really the play is called to try to get the ball down the field to Tone and they end up pushing the coverage, and he comes back side to Stephen and Stephen makes a great catch on the play. We did some good things that way after turnovers and of course the defense helped us. Cro put one in and Kerley with the special teams touchdown."
The Jets offensive line gave Sanchez plenty of time all afternoon and the Jets converted a ridiculous 71% (10 of 14) on third down.
"It's something we've been working really hard at. I've seen in little by little here in the preseason. I know no one else has seen it, but I've seen it little by little and I've seen these guys getting better and better particularly through practice," Sparano said. "And I think when you get all your weapons out there and you have a Kerley on the field, a Tone on the field, Dustin Keller is out there and those types of people — I think all those guys out there at one time and practicing the way we've practiced the last couple of weeks has been really good for us."
After a solid summer, Sanchez got off to a sizzling September start while completing 70 percent of his passes for 266 yards with 3 TDs. Backup QB/offensive specialist Tim Tebow, who was inserted as an H-back on the game's first play and played a few Wildcat snaps, finished with 11 yards on five carries.
"We got him involved right away and put him in there. We had a little bit of a package for him that way and we really didn't scratch the surface of the package today," Sparano said of No. 15. "Some of the things we did were just base things out there today because we got up in the game. We didn't have to go crazy with the whole thing."
For our full interview with Coach Sparano, you can watch all our "Jets Replay" archives on the site Monday. We will also feature our visits with S Yeremiah Bell, WR Stephen Hill and Jets Hall of Famer Curtis Martin. "Jets Replay", which is sponsored by BMW, airs live on newyrokjets.com 20 minutes after every home game.