Going into the 2010 season, expectations were high for the Jets, who had just made a phenomenal playoff run with a rookie quarterback in the 2009 season. The team had some additions including Santonio Holmes, LaDanian Tomlinson, and Antonio Cromartie. Holmes gave the Jets some depth at the wide receiver position alongside Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery. Tomlinson was a future hall of famer who replaced Thomas Jones and would backup Shonn Greene. He also gave the Jets depth at the running back position, and was a great receiving back. Cromartie would be a great number 2 cornerback, alongside the best cornerback in the league at that time, Darrelle Revis.
The regular season was one of the better regular season’s the team has had in some time. They finished the season 11-5, and were the second Wild Card in the AFC. Mark Sanchez still didn’t impress in the regular season statistically, but he did limit the interceptions to just 13, and he also threw 17 touchdown passes for 3,291 yards. He absolutely improved as quarterback of the New York Jets.
One of the more notable games of the 2010 regular season was the Jets’ week 11 matchup with the Houston Texans. The Jets were up 23-7 in the 4th quarter, but then the Texans went on to score 20 unanswered to take a 27-23 lead. The Jets would get the ball back with less than a minute, in need of a touchdown with no timeouts left. At this time in his career, Mark Sanchez had established himself as a clutch quarterback. For some reason you just knew if they had the ball to end the game, they had a really good chance of winning. Sanchez did just that, including a big time 42 yard pass to Braylon Edwards to put the Jets deep in Texans territory. The next play, a 6 yard touchdown pass to Santonio Holmes, was the game winner for the Jets, winning 30-27, leaving the Meadowlands rocking. That was the Mark Sanchez we loved to see. Clutch.
So come playoff time, we know the Jets made it to the AFC Championship game the year before, so the goal of the team was to reach the Super Bowl. They had a great defense, playmakers on offense, and a clutch young quarterback. During Wild Card weekend, the Jets got a rematch of the team that spoiled their hopes in the AFC Championship in the 2009 season, the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts, led by Peyton Manning had just taken a 16-14 lead with under 1 minute to go. The Jets received the ball, and Sanchez came through again. The biggest play of the drive was a 2nd and 8, in which Sanchez put the Jets in field goal range with a big time completion to Braylon Edwards. With 3 seconds left, Nick Folk gave the Jets the 17-16 victory, nailing a 32 yard field goal. Revenge was so sweet, and the Jets were on the move again.
The next round was going to be a tough one. The Jets had to take on their division rivals, the New England Patriots led by Tom Brady. Of course the Patriots won the AFC East that season, going 14-2. Keep in mind, in their last matchup during the regular season, the Jets lost 45-3 to the Patriots. The Jets were going to give them a battle in seek of revenge, and they needed a great game from their young quarterback. This was arguably Mark Sanchez’s best career playoff game, in which he threw 3 touchdown passes for 194 yards. The Jets won this game in Foxboro 28-21 against the heavily favored Patriots. The defense made the plays they needed, and the Jets caught New England off guard, leading to in my opinion the Jets’ second biggest win in franchise history behind the Super Bowl 3 victory. With this win, it seemed the Jets were destined to make it to the Super Bowl.
So Mark Sanchez and the Jets had just beaten 2 future first ballot hall of famers in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. He had to face a 3rd future hall of famer in Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Playing at Heinz Field was going to be tough for the Jets, but going into the game you felt this was their year. In the team’s 2nd straight AFC Championship appearance, they needed to get off to a hot start and take the fans out of the game. It was a tough start for the Jets, as they were down 24-3 at halftime. A major disappointment, their offense couldn’t get anything going and the defense was flat. But, the Jets came out hot in the second half, starting with a 45 yard touchdown pass from Sanchez to Santonio Holmes. The Jets would score on a safety, and another touchdown pass, this time from Mark Sanchez to Jericho Cotchery. The team scored 16 unanswered in the 2nd half to make it a 24-19 game. They needed a stop. Their defense that was big time all year came up short, and the Steelers were able to run out the clock and win 24-19. You had the feeling if the Jets could just get the ball back, they were going to win this game.
The 2010 New York Jets were a very fun team, but the ending was more disappointing than the 2009 season because you wondered if the Jets would ever get back to the playoffs. Any Jet fan can answer that question now. However, Mark Sanchez had reached the playoffs in his first 2 NFL seasons, throwing for a total of 1,155 yards for 9 touchdown passes and just 3 interceptions. He also had a 4-2 record in the playoffs, with all those games being on the road. Those 4 wins are the most career playoff wins by a Jet quarterback. The future looked bright, and Mark Sanchez was becoming the face of the New York Jet franchise.
All stats via Pro-Football-Reference.