Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens defense made sure Mark Sanchez remembered his first NFL start.
Sanchez’s first passing attempt of the night was intercepted by Baltimore NT Haloti Ngata and returned 25 yards for the score. Sanchez was blitzed and dropped to the turf by Baltimore LB Ray Lewis on the play.
The rookie’s next attempt nearly yielded the same result. The rookie’s second pass of the night was dropped by Ray Lewis, who had a clear, unobstructed route to the end zone.
Behind a beat-up offensive line, Sanchez took his licks early against the aggressive Raven defense, making several bad throws while struggling to read the Baltimore linebackers.
It was a rather bittersweet performance for Sanchez, who finished the night completing 3 of 8 passes for 43 yards, with a touchdown and an interception in five offensive series, as the Ravens defeated the Jets 24-23 at M&T Bank Stadium Monday night.
The rookie was also sacked once and fumbled a handoff attempt to RB Leon Washington, which Sanchez recovered.
“You put a young guy like Sanchez in there and you see our defense, it can be difficult,” said Ray Lewis. “You saw his eyes get big, and he was jumping around in the pocket. Bottom line, we gave a lot of looks and disguises and we confused him a little bit.”
While the former Trojan did not totally implode against the feared Baltimore defense, Sanchez’s performance in his second preseason game should certainly stave off the Namath comparisons for now.
“Not the best start on Monday night, but I learned quite a bit,” said Sanchez. “I just want to get better.”
The Jets finally got on the scoreboard late in the first half, as Sanchez engineered an eleven-play, 64-yard drive.
Sanchez, escaping pressure and setting his feet, fired a 19-yard missile downfield, hitting Leon Washington on the goal line for his first NFL touchdown pass with 5:57 to go in the second quarter.
“That’s the way you want to respond,” said Sanchez. Washington added that Sanchez “made a great throw.”
Washington had an impressive evening, rushing for 48 yards on 8 attempts, with two receptions. The Pro-Bowler, also had an electrifying 52-yard kickoff return.
The Ravens jumped out to an early 14-0 lead, behind the strong play of QB Joe Flacco. On 3rd and 7 from the Jets 46 yard line, Flacco connected with WR Derrick Mason down the right sideline for 43 yards, setting up a Ray Rice touchdown with six minutes to go in the first quarter.
Flacco, coming off the heels of an impressive rookie season, displayed great confidence against the Jets defense. The second year quarterback out of Delaware completed 8 of 18 passes for 120 yards.
QB Kellen Clemens also started poorly but bounced back. In his second series, Clemens was picked off by Baltimore LB Jameel McClain, who returned the pass 16 yards for a touchdown, extending the Baltimore lead to 21-7, before the end of the half.
Like Sanchez, Clemens redeemed himself for his pick-six. Clemens opened up the second half by connecting with WR David Clowney on a fade route for a 28-yard touchdown, Clowney’s second of the preseason.
Clemens finished 5 for 10, passing for 60 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan, who had hoped to name Sanchez the team’s starting quarterback following a strong performance, was noncommittal after the game.
“I knew it would be tough, but I don’t think you’re going to get tougher than what you just saw.”
Notes: CB Marquice Cole intercepted Baltimore QB Troy Smith in the third quarter, his first of the preseason.
K Parker Douglass, kicking for the injured Jay Feely, turned in a solid performance. Douglass was perfect on extra point attempts and converted his only field goal attempt of the night, a 26 yarder.
Injury Update: CB Darrelle Revis (hamstring) CB Donald Strickland (toe), RT Damien Woody (head), FB Jehuu Caulcrick (knee), and NT Kris Jenkins (calf) sat out the game with injuries. Also, K Jay Feely, still nursing an injured groin did not make the trip to Baltimore with the team.
LG Alan Faneca, who missed the team’s first preseason game with a finger injury, was in uniform against the Ravens, and got the start.
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