Mark Sanchez's subpar performance in the Jets' devastating Christmas Eve loss to the Giants has caused many critics to question whether the third-year pro is the long-term answer for the Jets at quarterback.
But if Sanchez's confidence and resilience have been shaken, he certainly didn't show it Wednesday.
"That kind of stuff," Sanchez said, referring to the criticism, "happens when you're not playing as well as you'd like to, when your team is not in control of their own destiny in the playoffs and stuff like that. That's natural and that's a part of this league, so you have to handle that stuff."
As for wanting to silence the critics, Sanchez said, "I'm not out to prove anything like that to people. I just want to work hard for these guys on the team. These guys know I'm leading by example, being vocal if I need to, but these are the guys I'm playing for right here in this locker room and in this building."
Sanchez had a 54.2 passer rating in the Jets' 29-14 loss Saturday, and was unable to fully exploit a Giants' secondary that has been easy pickings for much of the rest of the NFL. The loss wrested control of their playoff destiny away from the Jets. They now must win at Miami on Sunday and have Tennessee, Cincinnati and either Denver or Oakland lose.
"We're just focused on the things we can control," Sanchez said, "and that's trying to play well against Miami and coming up with a win. So that's first and foremost on our list of goals. After that, we'll see what happens. Hopefully, we get a win and once we land ... we find out everything worked out in our favor, but all we can control is winning."
And despite all the extra scrutiny that comes when you're a struggling quarterback for a team in this area, Sanchez made it clear he wouldn't trade places with anyone.
"Win, lose or draw, I'm the luckiest guy in the world, I promise," he said. "I'm lucky to be here. I'm lucky, fortunate, blessed, whatever you want to call it. I'm thrilled about this job and about this opportunity this week."
Sanchez has indeed stayed positive, according to his teammates.
"He's been the same all year," left guard Matt Slauson said. "His head has been up. He's been leading really well. He expects a lot out of us. He wants us to work hard."
"From what I've seen," wide receiver Plaxico Burress said, "he comes in with a great attitude everyday. ... He comes in and works hard everyday."
Sanchez credits his support system for keeping him grounded.
"I'm real fortunate to have great family members," he said, and "to be in a world-class organization where they want to help. ... There is more than just the physical and the mental side, there is the psyche side. There is the emotional side to this game and, as much as you want to shut it off, you have to give yourself a little perspective and understand what's at stake."
When asked about Sanchez's psyche, coach Rex Ryan said, "he's ready to move on."
And he hopes Sanchez is ready to help the Jets move on to an improbable postseason berth.
When asked to evaluate his season, Sanchez said, "I'll wait until the end of the year, but it really goes off of our record. ... I don't think we've hit our potential this year, that's for sure, but that doesn't mean that we can't accomplish a lot of the goals that we set out to accomplish. We have a chance, we just have to win on Sunday."
SERIES HISTORY: 92nd regular-season meeting. Jets lead series, 48-42-1. The Jets have won four of their last five games in Miami, including a 31-23 victory last season in which former Jet Drew Coleman's end-zone interception in the final seconds sealed the victory. In the earlier meeting this season, Jets' CB Darrelle Revis' 100-yard first-quarter interception put the Jets ahead to stay en route to a 24-6 victory.
--Much like a famous radio host, Miami WR Brandon Marshall believes Jets' CB Darrelle Revis got away with a penalty on Revis' 100-yard interception return the last time the teams met on Oct. 17.
But other than that, Marshall doesn't have any, well, hang-ups with Revis.
Replays appeared to show Revis making contact with Marshall downfield on the play before the pick.
"My technique could have been better" on the play, Marshall said Wednesday on a conference call, "but at the same time I think they gave him the 'Jordan Rule.'"
Marshall continued, "you get a little close to Michael Jordan (and) they're going to call the foul. It works that way in football. Some guys are scared to throw the flag and he may be getting that rule."
However, Marshall said he was "cool" with Revis, who hung up on WFAN's Mike Francesa after an interview turned contentious with Francesa insisting that Revis should admit he should have been flagged.
Marshall also at first praised Jets' S Eric Smith, whom he referred to by his number, 33. Marshall then asked for the name and when told by reporters No. 33 was Eric Smith, laughed and said, "Eric Smith, he's got to get (Victor) Cruz on that play, man. He's got to make that play."
Smith was the last Jet with a chance to stop the Giants' Cruz on his 99-yard touchdown jaunt Christmas Eve, missing with a diving attempt.
--Jets' coach Rex Ryan was upset that ILB David Harris and RG Brandon Moore were chosen only as second alternates for the Jan. 29 Pro Bowl.
"Let the facts speak for themselves," Ryan said. "David Harris has five quarterback sacks, four interceptions, probably twice as many as any linebacker. He's a middle linebacker. He's made more plays than anybody in this league."
As for Moore, Ryan said, "statistically he's the only guard in the league that has not given up a sack or a hit on the quarterback. ... That guy's a pretty good player."
BY THE NUMBERS: 56.2 -- That is QB Mark Sanchez's completion percentage through 15 games. Although it isn't very impressive, it still is the best single-season figure for his three-year NFL career.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm proud of the fact that Darrelle Revis made (the Pro Bowl), because if he didn't, there shouldn't be a game. You file that in the no-brainer right there." -- Coach Rex Ryan.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
To bolster their depth at safety after the season-ending injury suffered by Jim Leonhard, the Jets signed S Gerald Alexander, who was waived by Miami last month. Alexander, a second-round draft pick of Detroit in 2007 who already has played for four NFL teams, played against Philadelphia five days after being signed, but wasn't a factor. He was inactive against the Giants.
The Jets waived WR Eron Riley on Tuesday and planned to promote LB Ricky Sapp from the practice squad, likely because another team wants to sign him to its active roster.
--RB Bilal Powell, a fourth-round draft pick from Louisville, has struggled in limited action this season. He has only 21 yards on 13 carries. RB Joe McKnight also struggled last season as a rookie, and the Jets are hoping Powell can progress next year.
--OL Vlad Ducasse, a second-round pick in 2010 who has had a steep learning curve, finally is contributing as an extra blocking TE on running situations, although he had a rough game against Philadelphia two weeks ago. He was solid against the Giants.
--NT Sione Pouha quietly is having an All-Pro caliber season. Pouha has anchored the Jets' 3-4 defense and helped shut down the run. Still, he was snubbed in terms of the Pro Bowl.
--WR Eron Riley was waived by the Jets on Tuesday. He was signed off Denver's practice squad earlier this season and never played a snap for the Jets. He was inactive for seven games and active for two others, but didn't see action.
--RG Brandon Moore (hip) practiced full Wednesday, something he hadn't been doing in recent weeks. The Jets have had him on a very limited practice schedule because of lingering soreness in his hips after off-season surgery. The lack of practice hasn't seemed to hurt Moore's play in recent weeks.
--Coach Rex Ryan said the only player he believes might not play Sunday at Miami is OLB Garrett McIntyre (knee), a key special-teamer who has been replaced in the starting lineup in the base defense by Jamaal Westerman. Ryan expects RB LaDainian Tomlinson (quad) to be a full go Sunday despite the fact he was limited in practice Wednesday.
GAME PLAN: Despite the criticism being levied against offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for calling too many pass plays last week, this might not necessarily be the week to feature the running game. Miami's defense has been quite stout against the rush, ranking third in the NFL in both yards per carry (3.6) and yards per game (93.4). And perhaps not surprisingly, southern California native Mark Sanchez has had success in his first two games in this tropical setting, totaling 428 yards passing with four TDs and no picks. The defense will have to stop a revived Miami ground game, and pressure QB Matt Moore. The Dolphins have permitted 51 sacks this season, two shy of the team-record 53 they allowed in 1969. Perhaps streaky Jets' sackmeister Aaron Maybin can cash in. He hasn't had a sack in the last three games.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH: Jets RT Wayne Hunter vs. Dolphins LB Cameron Wake -- Hunter allowed two sacks to Wake in Miami's 10-6 victory over the Jets last December, but shut him out in terms of sacks when the Jets beat the Dolphins in October. Hunter struggled against Philadelphia's Jason Babin, allowing three sacks, but allowed none against the Giants last week.
Jets CB Darrelle Revis vs. Dolphins WR Brandon Marshall -- Miami QB Matt Moore threw often to Marshall in the earlier meeting, despite the fact Revis was covering him most of the time. It cost the Dolphins when Revis made a game-changing 100-yard interception for a score in the first quarter, although replays showed Revis appeared to have illegal contact with Marshall downfield before making the pick.