Mark Sanchez's numbers have spiraled in the wrong direction.
The Jets' rookie quarterback has tossed 10 interceptions in his last five games compared to only four touchdowns, and his 20 INTs tie him with Detroit's Matthew Stafford for the second-most in the NFL. Only the Bears' Jay Cutler, who's tossed a whopping 25, has more.
When you factor in the Jets boast the league's top rushing attack and also have the top-ranked defense -- though we know it hasn't always seemed that way at the end of games -- the Jets probably have a better record than their current 7-7 mark. Sanchez knows as much and understands that he's letting his teammates down because he's turning the ball over way too much.
"Just feeling like some of my mistakes have really hurt us and coming into the locker room the next day, stepping into the huddle, it takes a lot to just try to move on and convey to these guys, 'Hey, look, I’ll be all right. Just give me a shot here, I’ll be fine,' " Sanchez said. "I think I’ve done that. They’ve seen it too in flashes. They seem my leadership come across, they’ve seen me be very accurate, they’ve seen me throw the ball way, check it down. So they know it's there, but just getting it to happen on a constant basis is overall what we are searching for."
Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer took the hit for Sanchez's lack of progress of late, indicating it's all on him.
"I haven't done a good enough job," Schottenheimer said. "I will say that, I will take responsibility for that. He knows what to do. Instinctively, he still lives in that mindset of, 'I can make that throw, I can do this.' And what we are trying to do is clean up his decisions, to have him realize that we are a good football team. He's got really good players on the outside of him, he's got a really good player in the tight end, he's got really good players up front. He doesn't have to do this himself. And that's what's been missing. So we'll continue to try to say it. The thing you do as a coach is you try to say the same thing different ways."
Sanchez, though, refused to blame Schottenheimer or the coaches for his lukewarm play.
"I think the coaching is getting there," Sanchez said. "It's just a matter of getting through this growing phase. I mean, there's no excuses for making these decisions because I've shown that I can play smarter than this earlier in my career and at SC and high school. Sure, it's a different level but at the same time those decision making skills need to be sharp and show up on game day. So it's just a matter really of understanding the situation we are in and I'm really trying to focus hard on it.
"But it's frustrating at times because I'm working so hard. And then to go out on Sunday and whatever it is, lose it for three plays, that could cost you a ball game."
Crazy thing is, despite Sanchez's penchant for turning the ball over during the second half of the season and especially of late, the Jets are still alive in the playoff hunt.
"That's another encouraging thing," Sanchez said, "is just knowing that even if 10 of the 20 interceptions were just incompletions, I mean who knows? Who knows? Not even complete the ball. But if it's just you don't give it to them, we've got another play. We'll punt it. We'll kick a field goal. That's just frustrating and encouraging at the same time, which is kinda weird. But just keep working and get better."