In the immediate aftermath of Sunday afternoon's 28-14 win against the Patriots, it was hard to feel anything but thrilled about Mark Sanchez's performance. Three touchdown passes will do a lot to make a man forget about the abject disaster that was the Week One game against the Ravens.
With a new day comes a more measured look and nagging questions about that first game of the season. How could the guy who outdueled Tom Brady and led the Jets to one of the most impressive halves of football in recent memory be the same guy who couldn't complete half his passes or top 75 yards against Baltimore?
Some of the answer lies with the defenses. The Ravens are definitely better up front than the Patriots and play a more aggressive style as a result. They do have some issues in the secondary, but nothing quite as bad as the Pats are experiencing right now. Another part of the answer has to do with the playcalling. The Jets treated Sanchez like he was toxic on Monday night and he responded with a toxic performance. Sunday brought a return to the more open system used in last year's playoff run and they got a performance right in line with the ones he turned in during those three weeks in January.
The biggest part of the answer, however, is that Sanchez is a second-year quarterback who is going to have a hard time some weeks and great success in other weeks. The opposing defenses and the coaching staff are going to do a lot to determine which weeks are which, but there might also be games -- think about last year's home loss to the Bills -- when Sanchez simply fails to get the job done despite having everything going for him.
Sanchez is on such a pedestal in this town right now that these truths seem to make him some kind of unique breed of quarterback that must be treated like a curiosity. More than that, he's treated like a guy who is the biggest liability for the Jets going forward. In actuality, he's got a lot more in common with other NFL quarterbacks than anyone would like to admit. Joe Flacco ate up the Jets underneath in Week One and kept the ball moving enough to escape with a 10-9 win. Against the Bengals on Sunday, however, Flacco threw four picks and destroyed his team.
Matt Hasselbeck, Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Aaron Rodgers are four other starters who have turned in wildly different results through the first two games of the 2010 campaign. Over at Shutdown Corner, MJD compares Sanchez to Carson Palmer of the Bengals as a guy who will take what the defense gives him and have numbers that predictably vary from week to week as a result.
That seems pretty apt and it raises an important question: Would people be more likely to believe in the Jets if Carson Palmer were their quarterback? The guess is that they would because everyone knows you can win and win big by teaming an average quarterback with a killer defense and running game.
The Jets, then, can win with Sanchez, even if Sunday afternoon winds up being as big an aberration as Monday night.