AFC East: Too Many Hits On Sanchez

Looking at the pounding Mark Sanchez is taking makes one wonder why the Jets don't do a better job of protecting him. Or, at least take him out in a blowout.

Sanchez gets slammed in garbage time -- again

   Rex Ryan does a terrific job in news conferences of protecting quarterback Mark Sanchez from critics.

   If only Ryan did as good a job himself on Sundays.

   For the second time this season, Ryan left Sanchez in late in a blowout victory, resulting in Sanchez getting hit hard each time by an opposing defender.

   Sanchez got up slowly Sunday after being sacked by Chiefs outside linebacker Tamba Hali on fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter with the Jets leading 35-10 and 11:35 left. Sanchez wasn't hurt.

   "That was my call," Ryan admitted after the game. "I thought if we could get the first down, we could basically run the clock out and get the game over. ... Obviously, you go back on it and wish you would have just punted it or tried a long field goal."

   Ryan's explanation made little sense, considering there were over 11 minutes left in the game, so the Jets couldn't have run out the clock.

   Ryan finally put in backup Mark Brunell to start the Jets' next possession, and all he did was hand off the rest of the way.

   Sanchez was hit hard throwing a pass against Jacksonville in Week 2. He hurt his right (throwing) elbow but didn't miss any time.

   After that game, Ryan's excuse was that he was trying to get Plaxico Burress a touchdown reception. Burress finished with no catches that day. Coincidentally, he was blanked again Sunday, for the first time since the game against the Jaguars.

   The Jets permitted three sacks against Kansas City after allowing none in each of the previous two games, and the offensive line will have to do better Sunday against Philadelphia and defensive end Jason Babin, who has 15 sacks this season.

Losing Leonard Will Hurt
  --The Jets made it all the way to the AFC championship game last season without Jim Leonhard, and once again, they'll have to go the rest of the way without the acknowledged leader of their secondary. The seventh-year veteran safety suffered a torn patellar tendon in his right knee while being tackled after making an interception Sunday against Kansas City. Leonhard will have surgery to repair the knee and has been placed on injured reserve.

   "You feel absolutely terrible for him, knowing how he overcome that last injury and what that meant," Jets' coach Rex Ryan said Monday on a conference call. "This team means everything to Jim and his leadership is obviously going to be missed, without question. He's one of the guys that just elevated other players around him.

   "That's going to be a huge loss for us," Ryan added. "Obviously it's a huge blow to our football team, but it's one we think we can overcome."

   Without Leonhard, Brodney Pool once again steps into a starting role at safety, along with Eric Smith, who has started most of the season opposite Leonhard. Meanwhile, rookie wideout Jeremy Kerley takes over Leonhard's duties as the primary punt returner.

   "We're fortunate to have an excellent player like Brodney Pool to fill in," Ryan said. "He has man-cover skills. He has range."

   Cornerback Antonio Cromartie acknowledged it would be difficult to play without Leonhard, but said, "I think we have the guys that can step in and do a great job," and added that Pool and Smith last year "had one of the best post-seasons I've seen from any (tandem) of safeties."

   But Ryan added, "We do so much with three safeties. I think that's going to be missed more than anything else."

   Especially against the next opponent, when the Jets visit Philadelphia on Sunday. Yes, the Eagles (5-8) have underachieved mightily, and could be eliminated from playoff contention before this game kicks off if Dallas beats Tampa Bay on Saturday night and the Giants top Washington on Sunday afternoon.

   But as Cromartie noted, "They have two excellent receivers on the outside with Jeremy Maclin and DeSean Jackson. (They) have a quarterback that's a two-way weapon. He can throw the ball and also he can run with the ball."

   Quarterback Michael Vick returned at Miami on Sunday after missing three games because of broken ribs, and directed the Eagles to a 26-10 victory. Cromartie also cited running back LeSean McCoy, who has rushed for 1,172 yards and 14 touchdowns.

Jones Appreciated Fan Support
   --Former Jets running back Thomas Jones played against his old team for the first time since the Jets released him after the 2009 season. Jones, who didn't start, had five rushes for 12 yards in Kansas City's 37-10 loss.

   "Jets' fans showed me a lot of love, which I appreciated," said Jones, who starred for that 2009 team that reached the AFC final. "We didn't win the game and that's what we came up here for. That's the tough part."

   His former protege, Shonn Greene, rushed for 129 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries for the Jets.

   "Obviously, I wish he wouldn't have done it against us," Jones said, "but I'm really happy for him. I look at him as a little brother. Anytime he has success, I'm real proud of him, but like I said, I wish it wasn't (Sunday)."

Loss To New York Was Final Straw
  --Kansas City coach Todd Haley was fired one day after the Chiefs were routed by the Jets, 37-10. Jets' coach Rex Ryan said, "As a member of the coaching community, it's always tough when you hear news like that. That's really an unfortunate thing. I never knew Todd well, but when I've been around him, I have a lot of respect for him. I thought he did an outstanding job as a coordinator.

   "Obviously, he took his team to the playoffs last year, but it's just an unfortunate thing," Ryan continued. "These things do happen, but I wish him the best."

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