East Rutherford, NJ – It was all there for the taking and Mark Sanchez gave it right back.

Tonight was Sanchez’s big chance to wow the coaching staff, ingratiate himself to the fans and put this quarterback competition to rest and for the first two drives that’s exactly what appeared to be happening.

But of course the metaphorical clock predictably struck midnight and the fifth-year quarterback turned back into a mistake making pumpkin.

Sanchez started out with a great, productive and mistake-free opening drive, six plays for 59 yards and a touchdown. He showed good composure throughout the drive and managed to find a wide open Jeff Cumberland for a 23-yard touchdown to give the Jets a 7-0 lead. After the Jaguars responded by quickly matching the Jets touchdown Sanchez lead another solid drive, this one six plays for 53 yards, before stalling and having to settle for a field goal.

Then those tricky wheels fell off that damn wagon.

Sanchez starts strong, before struggling in typical Sanchez fashion (JetsInsider.com photo).

After starting the third drive on the Jaguars 44-yard line, Sanchez led the offense down to the three-yard line only to make a terrible decision trying to force a pass to Kellen Winslow which got picked off by Marcus Trufant in the end zone.

“It was a tight lane. Looking back on it, probably watching film, I might want to wait for Stephen (Hill) on the outside.” Sanchez said of the pick, “I think assessing the throw, I should’ve put it out in front of Kellen (Winslow) a little more and gave him a chance to make a better play on that one. So we’ll clean that up.”

Before the pick Sanchez was six-for-eight for 70 yards, one touchdown, one field goal and no picks and was knocking on the door for touchdown number two, then came the pick and everything unraveled like a ball of yarn in a clowder of cats.

After the first two drives some were already speculating that Sanchez might have just won the starting job with his performance, but Geno Smith not being able to play tonight due to a bum ankle may have backfired on Sanchez and possibly hurt him in the long run. Had Smith been able to play tonight there’s a good chance Sanchez takes a seat after those first two drives, going out on a high note like George Constanza, instead Sanchez played three entire quarters with a steady decline after the interception.

Sanchez finished the game, 13-23 for 169 yards, one touchdown and one pick, he was also sacked six times as he continually hesitated too much.

After the second drive Sanchez had a 155.4 QB rating, after three quarters that number was basically cut in half as he ended the game with a 76.2 QB rating.

In Sanchez’s first two seasons he had a knack for being able to bounce back from early game mistakes, but for the past two years it’s been the same old story, one simple mistake blows the entire dam open and sends him into a tailspin that he can’t recover from.

And there in lies the rub.

It matters not if Sanchez shows improvement if he can’t stop committing ridiculous turnovers and compounding those mistakes by making more and more of them.

“Just eliminate a couple of mistakes.” Sanchez said when asked what he feels he needs to do to win the starting job. “For the most part I feel like, numbers wise as an offense in general and personally, we’re so much better than we were last year. But we just need to keep building on it and take the next step forward. (I) have total confidence in this thing and get rolling. (I’m) happy more or less with the first two games. Like I said, we’ll clean up a couple of things and move on.”

Tonight Sanchez had a chance to take advantage of Smith’s injury and put a stranglehold on the starting gig, but in typical Sanchez fashion he hit the self-destruct button and Smith may have managed to gain ground in the competition without playing a single snap.

Smith will need to win this job on his own merit in order to open the season as the starter, but if the veteran quarterback continues his tradition of committing costly turnovers the rookie, Smith, could very well get the nod by default.
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