FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - Mark Sanchez paid no attention to the detractors who criticized him for his lack of consistency and those who doubted his mental fortitude within the walls of Gillette Stadium.
Despite his history of inefficiency in Foxborough, the Jets' second-year quarterback never wavered yesterday. Entering the game, he had thrown one touchdown pass and seven interceptions in two games on the road against New England. But he was effective this time, completing 16 of 25 attempts for 194 yards and throwing three touchdown passes in the Jets' 28-21 victory.
The most important Sanchez stat of all: zero picks.
"I needed to be smart," said the quarterback, who had a 27.8 rating in the Jets' 45-3 loss to the Patriots on Dec. 6 (his rating was 127.3 Sunday). "Take what they gave me and not get caught up in 'Oh, you can't win up here.' Use that as fuel."
The competitor in him did just that, connecting with LaDainian Tomlinson for the Jets' first score in the second quarter and later Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes, who provided the dramatic game-changer in the left corner of the end zone to give the Jets a 21-11 lead.
Sanchez hasn't had the career (yet) of Tom Brady (29-for-45, 299 yards). But on this particular day, he was plenty good enough.
"The thing with this young man is, he is just getting better," Jets coach Rex Ryan said. "He's not going to be looked at as the weakness of the team but as the strength. And I think we are seeing that right now. He did a tremendous job."
Sanchez's teammates, particularly his receiver corps, said they take exception to those who don't give their quarterback his due.
"He's a great player," Jerricho Cotchery said of Sanchez, who completed 17 of 33 passes for 164 yards and was intercepted three times in their meeting with the Patriots last month. "Everyone, they don't want to give him credit for making plays, but hey, we love him. We're glad he's behind the center and we'll have him leading us any day."
Said tight end Dustin Keller: "When we absolutely had to have the big plays, he made them."
Asked to compare yesterday's win with all the others, Sanchez said: "It's another playoff win and it feels good."
He also said his veteran teammates already have reminded him that this type of postseason success doesn't happen often.
"These playoff wins, they're not easy to come by," the quarterback said. "That's what all the older guys have told me - L.T. and Jason Taylor - you don't get these playoff wins like this in your first two years. It's pretty unorthodox.
"I'm proud of the fact that I got drafted to a great team, that I've had the opportunity to play in these big games, and I'm using this experience as we go into next week. But we can't let up right now. It's not time to get nostalgic and sit back and start thinking about this game. We've got to move on."