The quarterback then looked directly at the guy everybody had been clamoring to finally see in a game, and he unleashed a throw to Plaxico Burress. The wide receiver raised up from the wet New Meadowlands Stadium turf after a 20-yard gain. He started slowly walking toward the south end zone while looking into the stands, letting everyone know he was back in the house.
"It's big," Burress said after the Jets' 27-7 preseason victory over the Bengals Sunday night. "You always want to try to catch your first ball as a wide receiver, and just try to get into a rhythm."
What a rhythm it was. Burress was sensational in his Jets debut, playing in all six series with the first-team offense. He made three catches for 66 yards and had a gorgeous 26-yard touchdown reception with 51 seconds left in the first half, putting the final touches on an impressive night.
"He's something, great route runner," Rex Ryan said. "He's got that mismatch every time he goes up. I don't care who you are playing corner. You can be Willie Brown or Darrelle Revis out there. That's going to be tough."
Sanchez found that out but also made sure he whipped the ball around to others, hitting five receivers. He completed 12 of 20 for 173 yards and had a second TD pass, a 16-yarder to Santonio Holmes in the first quarter.
But Sunday night was all about the guy who was playing for the first time since 2008, the one who was forced to sit out two seasons while serving time in prison for a weapons violation.
"It's a nice bit of insurance there, having a big target like that and a big body," Sanchez said. "He's a great target."
The Jets' first-team offense ended on a positive note after producing only 88 yards and 10 points on five possessions. With the Jets backed up at their 1-yard line, Ryan sent the starters out for one final drive.
The Jets moved to Cincinnati's 26 and faced a third-and-10. Sanchez lofted a pass along the left side that Burress fielded in over-the-shoulder fashion, beating cornerback Fred Bennett and getting his feet inbounds as he slid to the ground behind the front pylon.
"It was a good thing to make it seem like slow motion because that means the game is still slow to me," Burress said. "Nothing is moving fast. Everything just feels normal. It felt like football and to be honest, it just feels like I never left.
"To have that ball hanging up there in the air, I just trusted myself making an over-the-shoulder catch and tried to bring it in."
The Jets didn't run the play relayed by offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. Sanchez changed part of it at the line of scrimmage once he noticed what the Bengals were about to do.
"It was an adjustment on his route and [Burress] knew exactly what was coming with the pressure," Sanchez said. "He picked up the offense fast. He's been doing this so long, he knew exactly where to go."
Burress also thinks he knows where this revamped offense is headed: to unparalleled heights.
"I think this offense can really be special," Burress said. "We have a great defense, we all know that. And I'm challenging our offense to score 28, 30 points a week. We definitely have all the weapons to do so.
"I want to make the guys around me better, and just go out and dominate my position. That's what I want to do."