So What Now For The Jets?

Mark Sanchez had a night to remember, turning the ball over 5 times against division rival New England. After dropping to 4-6 with little hope of the playoffs, the Jets are left wondering, "What's Next?"

Rex Ryan has tried impassioned speeches, including one in which he cried in front of his players.

But none of it has worked in recent weeks, as the Jets (4-6) have lost six of the last seven games under their rookie head coach.

So now what?

"Our confidence is still there," Ryan said Sunday after the Jets' 31-14 loss at New England (7-3). "But you've got to understand, when you come out of that tunnel to play the game, you'd better be ticked off. That's what's happened the last two games. We've let teams dictate the tempo on us instead of us (dictating) it."

Of course, it doesn't help when you have a rookie quarterback who is throwing the ball to the other team on a regular basis. Mark Sanchez has thrown 16 interceptions this season, including four against the Patriots Sunday. He also suffered a strip sack, giving him his second game this season with five turnovers.

"I need to be smarter and more conservative with the football," Sanchez said, blaming his failure to do that for his last two interceptions. "When the play is over, it's over."

And what about the Jets' season? Actually, their schedule softens a bit as their next three games are against teams with losing records: Carolina (4-6), Buffalo (3-7) and Tampa Bay (1-9).

Still, the players didn't even entertain questions about the playoffs, with right tackle Damien Woody summing up the prevailing mindset.

"It's all about getting one win," he said, "starting with Carolina next week."

The Panthers are coming off a frustrating loss of their own. Carolina had seven red-zone trips yet managed only one touchdown and three field goals in a 24-17 loss to Miami on Nov. 19. But because that game was played on a Thursday, the Panthers will have three extra days to prepare.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme has played better recently, with four touchdown passes and one interception in the last four games. He has eight touchdown passes and 14 picks for the season.

Sanchez is headed in the opposite direction, with two touchdown passes and six interceptions in his last two games.

That is how if often goes for rookie quarterbacks, no matter how talented they are. But Ryan said he never thought of pulling Sanchez on Sunday and doesn't intend to do so anytime soon.

"We've got to have patience with him," Ryan said. "I think he's going to be an outstanding quarterback. He's our quarterback for the future and he's our quarterback now."

"I just tell (Sanchez) to pick his head up," veteran fullback Tony Richardson said when asked what advice he can give to the struggling youngster, "and keep playing football because obviously he is very talented and can help this team win. ... We are going to follow him 100 percent because he's the leader of this football team.

"When we watch the film, (we'll see) all of us could have done something to help win this ballgame. Obviously, it's not just him. It falls on the entire offense."

TRENDING: RB Thomas Jones had his fourth 100-yard game in the last five, rushing for 103 yards on 21 carries against the Patriots. Jones has become a workhorse in the absence of Leon Washington.

LINEUP WATCH: The Jets could be hurting at cornerback. Dwight Lowery, who had been filling in well for Lito Sheppard, left with an ankle injury. Another backup corner, Donald Strickland, suffered a possible concussion. However, Sheppard has played in the last two games and could step in for Lowery.

NOTES
--QB Mark Sanchez threw four interceptions and lost a fumble for his second five-turnover game of the season. The rookie finished 8-for-21 for 136 yards with one touchdown, a 29-yarder to Jerricho Cotchery.
--LB Vernon Gholston sat out with a hamstring injury, missing his second consecutive game. The sixth overall draft pick of 2008 has had a disappointing Jets' career so far. His defensive snaps this season had dwindled anyway since the return from suspension of starting LB Calvin Pace.
--SS Jim Leonhard started despite having three pins in his fractured right thumb, on which he had surgery six days before the game. Leonhard had nine tackles, including one for a loss.
--KR Justin Miller was a healthy scratch for the second straight game. He may be pressed into action if Dwight Lowery, who handled kickoff returns against New England, can't play against Carolina because of an ankle injury.
--WR Braylon Edwards was thrown to five times but had only one reception for 10 yards. He had a drop in the first quarter.


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