Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
Another game without a touchdown. The Jets' offensive futility is getting into historic territory -- at least by preseason standards. Not since the 1977 Falcons has a team played its first three preseason games without getting into the end zone once.
There were four more field goals for the Jets' offense in Sunday night's 17-12 loss to the Panthers, and plenty more questions about whether this team will be ready to compete when the games start to count.
Will the Jets reach the end zone when the Bills come to town Sept. 9 in the regular-season opener? Mark Sanchez chuckles and says not to worry. "We're saving our good stuff for the regular season," he cracked.
He'd better hope so.
That's 35 drives and 174 offensive plays without a TD. And with Thursday night's finale against the Eagles to be played without Sanchez or backup Tim Tebow, that's a wrap on the first-team offense for the preseason.
But as bad as the numbers look, the Jets did take some solace out of this loss.
They didn't get into the end zone, but they did look better. Sanchez was under much less duress because of better blocking by the offensive line, thanks mostly to the insertion of right tackle Austin Howard in place of the ineffective Wayne Hunter.
He was sacked only once -- a coverage sack he blamed on holding on to the ball too long after no receivers could get open -- and got into a rhythm more easily than in the first two games against the Bengals and Giants.
"I felt good. I felt like we were in a rhythm, tried to get our guys the ball out on the perimeter and watch them work," Sanchez said. "I was accurate for the most part. Just gotta keep improving. I'm doing my best to get the ball to our guys."
Was it perfect? No. But it was better than before, and that's what the Jets needed to see.
Playing with the starters into the third quarter, Sanchez was 11-for-18 for 123 yards, no touchdowns and an interception. But you need to look beyond the numbers to get a clearer picture of what actually happened.
The interception? Yes, it goes to Sanchez, but it was rookie receiver Stephen Hill's fault. On a short pass over the middle, Sanchez's pass was thrown right into Hill's arms, but the ball caromed off his body and was intercepted by Captain Munnerlyn.
Another of Sanchez's incompletions was a drop by Santonio Holmes. And still another could have been caught for a touchdown by Hill. On second down from the Panthers' 9, Hill ran an in-cut from the left of the formation. Sanchez delivered a pass that Hill had to leap for, and it fell incomplete. But the pass was there; a more experienced receiver usually makes that catch. "I mistimed my jump," Hill said.
There were other encouraging moments. Sanchez and Hill hooked up for a 32-yard completion in the second quarter to set up Josh Brown's field goal. And Sanchez did find Holmes, playing in his first preseason game after recovering from a rib injury, for their first completion of the preseason, an 8-yarder.
"Morale is high and it's still a good vibe," Sanchez said. "Guys are excited to play. We're steadily improving and now we'll need to make a big jump for this Buffalo game."
Legitimate confidence, or is he just whistling in the wind?
We'll find out a week from Sunday.