Sanchez making mark, regardless of haters' rhetoric

by | CBSSports.com National Columnist
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The haters of Mark Sanchez are strong and prolific, like bacteria that grows resistant to antibiotics. The better he gets, the louder the anti-Sanchez sentiment grows. No matter what he does, no matter whom he beats, there is a nation of haters waiting for his fall.

They'll have to wait a lot longer. In the Jets' unbelievable 30-27 victory over Houston, Sanchez elevated his game from solid to something else, something a lot better. It was one of those wins that put Sanchez on another plane.

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Right now, there are few quarterbacks playing better.

This is what the haters will say:

  It was only Houston. The Texans are terrible.

  Sanchez beat another dreg, another bum, the caboose of the NFL.

Both points may be true but it doesn't diminish how quickly he's growing right before the NFL's eyes.

Sanchez won two consecutive road overtime games (an NFL first) before this close one against Houston. Sanchez is becoming so cool under pressure his blood type is Slurpee.

"It's like Groundhog Day," Sanchez said. "We're not out until the final whistle."

Coach Rex Ryan added, "I want to apologize to Jets fans for affecting the heart a little bit."

While the opponents the Jets have beaten in these close games are indeed filthy bad, Sanchez's passing accuracy is making them look even worse. He's fitting throws in tight windows during the tightest points of games.

As the pressure builds, Sanchez gets better. That's the mark of a good thrower. He finished 22 of 38 for 315 yards and three touchdowns.

It's time for critics to stop looking down on Mark Sanchez. (US Presswire)  
It's time for critics to stop looking down on Mark Sanchez. (US Presswire)  
And the Jets needed Sanchez, because they almost coughed up another typical Jets loss ... when put in historical context. In the history of the franchise if you lined up vertically the totality of horrific, last-minute Jets losses in a row they'd stretch to Alpha Centauri. It almost happened again. New York had a 23-7 fourth quarter lead and looked to cruise. Then the Jets reverted back to the Jets and allowed Houston to score 20 consecutive points. The Texans took a 24-23, and then 27-23 with 55 seconds remaining.

It looked over. But it took only several quick plays to give New York life again. Two of them were nice touch passes by Sanchez. The first was a 42-yarder to Braylon Edwards that put the Jets at Houston's 6. The next was a nicely lobbed pass to Santonio Holmes in the corner of the end zone for the winning score. The football was put where only Holmes could snag it.

It was the second time in as many weeks that Holmes made the winning catch in the final seconds. This time, Sanchez took the Jets 72 yards in 45 seconds.

"I had to stop and take a mental picture of it," Holmes said. "It's happened again."

And again. And again.

"We always feel like we can dig ourselves out of a hole," Sanchez said.

The Jets are 8-2, and this is what's strange about them: They haven't come close to their potential. The team has blown leads and nearly lost to the most sorry of the sorry.

Yet they are slowly getting better, particularly as Holmes -- following a four-game suspension -- finds his chemistry with Sanchez and Sanchez -- after slightly more than two dozen games as a pro, begins to find himself.

Hate Sanchez? Go ahead.

But only a fool would fail to appreciate what he's doing.

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