We join Joe Namath and Daily News writer Gary Myers in applauding the debut of Mark Sanchez (18 of 31 for 272 yards) in the Jets’ rousing 24-7 opening day victory over Houston.
We would, however, take a little issue with Namath’s pregame inspirations words to “The Mark” — “It’s about you today. It’s about you playing for these guys.” It was far from being just about Sanchez: like Namath and the Jets’ victory over Baltimore in the 1969 Super Bowl, this game was also about sensational defense. The Texans were in fact picked by Sports Illustrated to win the AFC South and win more games than the Jets this season (they picked the Jets to finish third in the AFC East). Daily News scribe Hank Gola had picked Houston to win 26-20.
As great as Sanchez and the offense were — 462 yards — the most important thing to note is that Rex Ryan’s revamped D never let Houston, playing on their own home field, into the game. The numbers were absolutely awesome: the Texans had just 183 total yards and just 38 yards rushing while averaging a miserable 2.9 yards a try. (If the Texans had run the ball three straight times, they would, on average, have still been almost four feet short of a first down.
The revitalized Gangrene sacked Houston quarterback Matt Schaub twice, knocked him down on three other pass attempts, and held him to a net 145 yards passing. Houston’s time of possession was a ridiculous 21:14, 17:32 less than the Jets. The bottom line is that for all Sanchez’ sparkle, the Jets would almost certainly have won this game easily with a second string QB.
What to look for next week? Well, the Jets have got to improve on their penalties — the total of ten flags for 80 yards against Houston will be unacceptable against the Patriots next Sunday. But then, six of those penalties were on the defense, and as John Madden always reminded us, offensive penalties are a sign of sloppiness, but defensive penalties are often a sign of aggressiveness.