It was a must win Monday Night and Mark Sanchez and the Jets just didn't have enough answers in a four-point loss to the Titans at LP Field. The Green & White had half as many turnovers (5) as points (10) in a crushing defeat that dropped New York's AFC representative to 6-8 and out of the postseason for a second consecutive season.
Three weeks after being benched for not taking care of the football, Sanchez was victimized by four interceptions. And if that wasn't a bitter enough pill to swallow, he couldn't handle a low snap from All-Pro C Nick Mangold when the Jets amazingly had a chance to win this game in the final seconds.
"We turned it over five times," said Jets head coach Rex Ryan. "We converted 42 percent on third-down, ran the ball for a 4.9 (yards) a carry, but obviously the five turnovers absolutely killed us."
"It doesn't feel good — hurting your team like that," said Sanchez, who has been charged with 50 turnovers since the beginning of last season. "That's not a winning formula, so that never feels good. Where it ranks on the scale, I don't know."
The opening minutes started smoothly enough for Sanchez. He led the Jets right down the field on their opening possession, but they had to settle for three points when his 4-yard scoring connection with TE Jeff Cumberland was ruled incomplete following a replay reversal.
Unfortunately Nick Folk's subsequent 22-yard field goal were the only points the Jets registered in the opening half. Over the last seven games, the Jets have totaled just 16 offensive points in the 1st Half.
On the Jets' third possession, Tim Tebow got his first full drive as a QB and the turnovers would start the next time Sanchez took a snap.
With the Jets trailing 7-3 late in the second, Sanchez went on a bootleg right and fired up the right sideline for Jeremy Kerley. But Jason McCourty intercepted for the Titans and the Nashville night was getting ugly.
"It's a comeback route on a naked. He is running the comeback and trying to cut the guy off, and that's what I'm expecting him to do," Sanchez said. "Just make a good throw, so it's pretty much bad luck."
Early in the third, Sanchez badly overthrew Cumberland up the seam and McCourty collected his second INT.
"The one down the middle to Jeff was a great read," Sanchez said. "I just missed the throw."
Sanchez and Cumberland got it right late in the third against the Titans blitz, hooking up for a 17-yard TD. The Jets had the lead at 10-7 with three minutes left in the third, but it would be short-lived.
Midway through the fourth, Sanchez made a poor decision and went for the long ball to Braylon Edwards. Not only was Edwards covered, but safety Michael Griffin read the play early and made his first INT of the night.
"I still see the same old Mark. He does make a mistake here and there. He's not perfect," Edwards said. "But I think he just has to trust himself. I'm not trying to say anything controversial. This is the new Braylon. I'm trying to stay away from those. But he has to trust who he is. He knows the offense, he knows the system. The stuff he's doing, he has to trust himself more. I stand by Mark, not just because of friendship. I still see talent there."
Griffin wasn't done though — he intercepted Sanchez again near the end zone after the two-minute warning. Cumberland again was the target, but there were more Titans in the area. It was Sanchez's 17th INT and his final stat line was: 13-28-131-TD-4INT
"I just threw it a little late to Jeff," said Sanchez of the final pick. "I should have put it on him earlier, should have aborted the fake. We had a fake on the play, fake handoff and it was a quick play action. And I should have aborted it based on the look."
Ryan, who deactivated Greg McElroy for a second consecutive game, said he is not ready to name a starter for next week's matchup with the Chargers. After having no offensive answers in Week 15, the Jets have a big question at QB.
"I just have to go in and play and prepare like the starter and see what happens," Sanchez said.