FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Mark Sanchez refused to be sucked into the back-and-forths of yet another Jets-Patriots week, preferring instead to focus on the task at hand.
"To me, it's just not worth saying too much before the game. Even after the game," the second-year quarterback said. "You respect those guys as competitors, so I don't really get into the bulletin-board material stuff. But, you know, that's just me."
For Sanchez, there are far more important things to concentrate on this week, and none more important than his own play. He completed 17 of 33 passes, with no touchdowns and three interceptions, in the Patriots' 45-3 rout Dec. 6 on Monday Night Football. And his paltry quarterback rating of 27.8 looked even worse next to Brady's 326 passing yards and four touchdowns.
Sanchez, however, is optimistic the results will be different this time. He said his sore right shoulder is not an issue - "It feels the best it's felt in three, four weeks," he said - and he's excited for Round 3 vs. the Patriots.
"All we could ever ask for is to play them one more time," he said. "We've got our chance this week. Last game, I didn't play well, but we didn't play well in all phases. That led to the ultimate outcome and we're going to have to play well - offense, defense, special teams - and it starts with the quarterback."
The Jets struggled to generate any offense against the Patriots last time, when Sanchez's inaccuracy and poor decisions handcuffed the running game. And as turnovers mounted for the Jets, Brady put on a clinic.
It was "the perfect storm," Sanchez said. But the Jets have learned their lesson, he said. And most notably, he said he has matured.
"It's going to be imperative to start fast, bounce back from little bits of adversity in this game,'' he said, "and the most important thing is winning the turnover battle."
Getting the run game going early also will be key.
"Honestly, I think we're the best - and I've said it all year - when we're balanced," Sanchez said. "And we kind of feed off each other. The completions come with good runs and the good runs come with some completions."
In back-to-back weeks, Sanchez will have faced Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, personifications of excellence. But Sanchez said he no longer is concerned about how he stacks up to opposing quarterbacks.
"Maybe my first year I thought about that a little more; about how the other quarterback was doing and trying to match him and have better stats," he said. "But if you play the way you're supposed to play . . . then, inevitably, things will go right. So there's no reason to worry and track what Tom's doing. It's really not worth your time."
Even in the face of another major challenge - on the road, against football's best - Sanchez he wouldn't script it any other way.
"That's playoff football at its best."