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Five from Sunday: Sanchez is a road warrior, kickoffs need to stay

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Here are some takeaways from Week 14 in the NFL:

Road record offers Sanchez perspective

I agree with many fans that Mark Sanchez might never be in the class of Eli Manning, Tom Brady and the other elite quarterbacks, but he's far from a lost cause. Sanchez is 26 years old and could play for another 10 years if he gets the time to grow into the job -- but that's a big if. In the meantime, take a look at how his road record compares to a number of quarterbacks around the league, both past and present.

Mark Sanchez is 19-16 in his first 35 road games as a Jet. That includes the playoffs, where he is 4-2, all on the road. Take a look at how some other quarterbacks have fared in their first 35 road games to gain some perspective on Sanchez's record to date.

Retired Hall of Famers Jim Kelly 13-22
Brett Favre 14-21
Terry Bradshaw 17-18

Modern day quarterbacks Jay Cutler 14-21
Drew Brees 17-18
Alex Smith 11-24
Mike Vick 17-17-1

Young up and comers Sam Bradford 5-13-1
Matt Stafford 7-15
Josh Freeman 12-15

The point is it's hard to win in this league, and even harder to win on the road. Sanchez won another road game this week, as ugly as it may have seemed. His road record for a 26-year-old quarterback doesn't look so bad when you consider what others have gone through early in their careers.

The no-huddle seems to come and go

The top five teams that employ the no-huddle offense are the Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.

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A couple of issues affect the use of the no-huddle attack. Road games make it tough for some teams to employ it. This past week, Miami and Baltimore were on the road and it was almost nonexistent.

The Ravens used it three times and the Dolphins twice. I thought the Ravens would have gained a benefit from using it a lot more against the Redskins pressure defenses because it should have reduced the options Washington had to make those calls. The Patriots will play Monday night at home and I expect 20-30 snaps of it, just like the Broncos did when they beat the Raiders on Thursday night.

John Fox made it very clear to me that being on the road makes no difference to the Broncos and Peyton Manning when it comes to their no-huddle offense, which separates his team from the rest of the league. In Oakland, on a short week to prepare, Manning used his no-huddle offense 35 times. There were 14 runs for 57 yards (4.07 per carry) and 21 pass plays called. The Broncos' passing attack in the no-huddle went 12 of 18 for 162 yards with a touchdown, two sacks and one interception. Denver has now run 455 snaps of no-huddle offense for 2,807 yards and 16 touchdowns. Add the Broncos' no-huddle to all the other problems the team presents to opponents going forward.

Eliminate the kickoff ... really?

How ironic was it that commissioner Goodell talked about the possibility of eliminating the kickoff from the game just last week and spent Sunday at the New York Giants game against the New Orleans Saints. There was nothing in that game more exciting than the kickoff plays. The Giants, led by rookie sensation David Wilson, returned five kickoffs for 287 yards and a touchdown. Wilson's touchdown was an immediate response to the Saints' interception return of Eli Manning for a touchdown and the 81,437 fans in the stadium, including the commissioner, were treated to a 'giant' thrill. The Saints added another 149 yards in kick returns to a game that went back and forth. I can't imagine that the Giants-Saints game would have been the same without the 436 kickoff return yards.

Rookies rock again

People can argue the quarterback Class of 1983 was the greatest or the 2004 class is better because they have more Super Bowls. But one thing is for sure: The class of 2012 isn't waiting around to win games and throw touchdowns. This weekend, Andrew Luck won, Robert Griffin III won with help from another rookie Kirk Cousins, Russell Wilson won, Nick Foles won, Brandon Weeden won and the only loser was Ryan Tannehill on the road against the 49ers defense. To date, the rookie quarterbacks have a combined 35-34 record, and all of them except Tannehill are on multiple-game winning streaks. There's also a chance that three of them will lead their teams to the playoffs. The rookies have 83 touchdown passes among them. I challenge any quarterback class to even come close to 83 touchdown passes, and there are three games for each to go. I would be very surprised if the class of 2012 doesn't crack the 100-touchdown mark.

There's no quit in these guys

I worked for four different head coaches in the NFL, and I can tell you first-hand there's no quit in this special breed of men. To climb up the coaching ranks and even make it to the NFL as a head coach usually means enduring years of sacrifice, rejection, and highs and lows that the average citizen has never dealt with. It's not to say that people don't have their own hardships, but very few of us are on the back page of the newspapers and all over the Internet being chewed up and spit out on a daily basis.

Week 14 in the NFL was a classic example of how much resiliency NFL head coaches really have, and how capable they are of shutting out the outside world and staying focused on the task at hand ... winning the game they are playing on Sunday. A week ago Andy Reid, Norv Turner, Pat Shurmer, Ron Rivera, and, to some degree, Jason Garrett were all being discussed in the media as gone. Maybe they all will be shown the door, or maybe not, but we all can learn a lesson in fighting spirit, mental toughness, and heart when it comes to what these coaches accomplished this weekend.

Owners need to think long and hard about firing men that can still motivate athletes to give their all and win games when things look bleak. I'm not so sure there are better answers waiting around the corner to come in and save a franchise.


Pat Kirwan has been around the league since 1972, serving in a variety of roles. He was a scout for the Cardinals and Buccaneers, a coach for the Jets as well as the team's Director of Player Administration where he negotiated contracts and managed the team's salary cap. He is the author of Take Your Eye Off the Ball: How to Watch Football by Knowing Where to Look, and the host of Sirius NFL Radio's Moving the Chains.
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