Sanchez's numbers better, but Jets QB struggling

Sanchez's numbers better, but Jets QB struggling

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) Mark Sanchez remembers bouncing off his offensive lineman's backside, dropping to the turf and wondering what hit him.

The New York Jets quarterback certainly knows now.

He has been, well, the butt of jokes on sports radio shows and blogs all over the internet. Especially since the replay has been shown countless times since he ran into Brandon Moore and fumbled last Thursday night in a 49-19 loss to the New England Patriots.

``I guess (I was) more stunned than anything,'' Sanchez said Wednesday. ``Just like a car accident. I was like, `Whoa. What just happened?' Then, the ball's gone. It was weird.''

It was a broken play in which Sanchez tried to make something happen, but instead made all the blooper reels. And the fumble led to a touchdown in the middle of a 35-point second quarter for the Patriots.

``It's embarrassing,'' Sanchez said. ``You screw up the play and I'm trying to do the right thing. It's not like I'm trying to force something. I start to slide and I slide right in the worst spot I possibly could: right into Brandon Moore.''

Sanchez said his teammates have been cool with him about the play, keeping the razzing to a minimum. After all, in many ways, the play epitomized the season for the Jets (4-7) and their struggling quarterback.

``Hopefully,'' Sanchez said, ``we'll laugh about it later.''

Sanchez's overall statistics have been a bit better the last few weeks than they were earlier in the season. He has completed more than 72 percent of his passes in two straight games and has a 300-yard passing performance. But the numbers don't tell nearly the whole story.

Sanchez is still making crucial mistakes in games, just as he did last week, and the question remains as to whether he'll ever be better than he is now. Four of his 10 interceptions this season have been in the red zone, or within the opponents' 20-yard line. Six of the 10 have come from inside the 35.

``We've made mistakes in the red zone and it hasn't just been Mark Sanchez making a mistake,'' coach Rex Ryan said. ``There's been other mistakes as well. Is it a route? Is it a dropped pass? A protection error? Sometimes a lot gets blamed on the quarterback, but sometimes there are other things involved as well.''

Ryan dodged questions about Sanchez's struggles specifically, pointing to everyone needing to improve - including himself.

``If we could just say, `Stop. Just don't do it,' I think we've said that a bunch,'' Ryan said. ``I don't think that's going to fix it. Clearly, you have to, I think, look more into why the mistakes were made or whatever.''

It's true that the Jets' offensive woes can't be entirely pinned on Sanchez. New York ranks tied for 16th in the NFL with 20 dropped passes. The running game has failed to be consistent for a prolonged stretch this season, and the offensive line has also had its share of troubles protecting the quarterback.

But Sanchez has failed to become the franchise-type player the Jets expected him to be when they drafted him in 2009, the type of quarterback who can take an offense on his shoulders and make everyone around him better. He has 41 turnovers in the last two seasons - 28 interceptions and 13 fumbles lost.

Former NFL MVP Rich Gannon had a one-word description of Sanchez on CBS Sports Network's ``NFL Monday QB'' earlier this week: ``Lost.''

Phil Simms followed that up with his own critical assessment.

``I think that really sums up everything for the New York Jets,'' the former Giants quarterback said. ``I live up here in the New York area, so I read it every single day. Tim Tebow brought in. A different offense. All of the injuries to skill players. Very tough for a quarterback to get firm footing and show what kind of talent he has.''

There have been plenty of excuses made by many people, but to Sanchez's credit, he has never pinned any of his struggles on anyone other than himself - no matter how justified he might be in doing so.

``They can't happen,'' Sanchez said of his mistakes. ``I just have to do a better job of protecting the football.''

He has five games left in the regular season to try to do that, and to firmly establish himself as the future of the franchise and not just a player who peaked in his first two seasons while helping the Jets to consecutive AFC title games.

Ryan and his staff have put together videos of how to limit turnovers, especially since the Jets rank tied for fifth in the NFL with 22.

``We have clips of every single player we have - how to hold it, what the opponent's seeing, everything,'' Ryan said. ``You name it, we're trying to find answers to it, solutions to it.''

All five of the Jets' opponents - Arizona, Jacksonville, Tennessee, San Diego and Buffalo - have records under .500, and Ryan has said the goal is to run the table, go 5-0 and see what happens from there.

``It's important for all of us,'' Sanchez said. ``Being the quarterback of a team, there's always more pressure and attention at that position. I don't treat it as anything else. We just need to win some games here. We've done it in the past and hopefully we'll do it again.''


NOTES: Ryan faces Arizona's Kerry Rhodes for the first time since he called him ``selfish'' in his book last year after the two clashed at times while the safety played for the Jets. ``That's in the past,'' Ryan said. ``I'm not going to get into it.'' ... Sanchez on fan Ed Anzalone ``retiring'' from being Fireman Ed, partially because of increasing ``confrontations'' at MetLife Stadium stemming from him wearing the quarterback's No. 6 jersey: ``He's been really supportive. Obviously, I appreciate that. He's been around a long time, seen the ups and downs of our team. Obviously, if his safety is in jeopardy here, then maybe it's a good move.''


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Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

Wizards have to find a way to stop DeMar DeRozan to climb back in series

The Toronto Raptors' best player has become a serious problem for the Washington Wizards, as they now face a 3-2 series deficit in their 2018 NBA Playoffs first-round series and the bleak reality that one more loss means their season is over.

DeMar DeRozan, who began this first round series with a modest 17 points in Game 1, has since raised his game to a new level to beyond even what we have seen in the past. In Games 2-5, DeRozan has averaged 31.8 points, including his 32-game outburst in Game 5 that tilted the series in Toronto's favor.

DeRozan is averaging 28.8 points through five games against the Raptors. That's up considerably from his 22.5-point career playoff average.

DeRozan scored his 32 points in Game 5 with efficiency. He shot 12-for-24 from the field and even made three of his four shots from three.

He didn't even need the free throw line like he normally does. DeRozan shot six free throws, less than his regular season average.

The Wizards are having trouble with DeRozan particularly in the first half. DeRozan is averaging 14.8 first-half points during the playoffs, second only to LeBron James. 

DeRozan had 20 points by halftime in Game 5.

"DeMar was in his element tonight," forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. said. "He got it going early. It was kind of hard to shut him off."

The Wizards are paying for disrespecting DeRozan's three-point shot. He made just 31.2 percent from long range in the regular season, but is shooting threes at a 45.5 percent clip in the playoffs.

If DeRozan is knocking down shots from outside, his offensive game is as complete as just about anyone in the NBA. He has shown in this series an impressive ability to not only get to the rim, but finish through contact or draw fouls.

DeRozan does a good job of maintaining body and ball control going straight up against Wizards' big men and is often rewarded by the referees. He shot a playoff career-high 18 free throws in Game 4.

The Wizards are actually doing a decent job of taking away his midrange shots, which usually account for much of his points. Though DeRozan is hitting an impressive 66.7 percent from 5-to-9 feet, up from his season clip of 47.6, his numbers are down from further out.

DeRozan is shooting 40 percent from 10-to-14 feet out, down from 41.5 percent in the regular season, and just 28.6 percent from 15-to-19 feet, down from 43.7.

DeRozan is hurting the Wizards from long range and within nine feet of the rim. He is taking what the Wizards are giving him and Washington has to adjust.

"We’ve gotta pretty much get it out of [his] hands. Make sure we take care of everybody else," Oubre said.

The Wizards should look to how the defended him in Game 4 as a good example of how to limit his impact. DeRozan had 35 points, but required 29 shots from the field and 18 free throws to get there. 

Washington forced DeRozan into an inefficient night and forced others to try to beat them. The result was the Wizards' best defensive game overall, as the Raptors scored a series-low 98 points.

DeRozan isn't the only defensive concern for the Wizards as they look ahead to Game 6 on Friday. Backup point guard Delon Wright scored 18 points for the second time this series and Toronto hit 11 threes in the game.

The Wizards held the Raptors to just seven threes in Game 4 and it was no coincidence they won that game. They have to lock down the perimeter and, as this series has shown, that includes DeRozan even though he isn't known for making threes.

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Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

Wizards go cold late to drop Game 5, as Raptors take 3-2 series lead

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 108-98 in Game 5 of their first round playoff series on Wednesday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Ice cold: When the Wizards needed it most, their offense failed them. With John Wall running the show, they can traditionally score with the best of them. But from the 4:05 mark in the fourth quarter, they went scoreless for a stretch of three minutes and 49 seconds.

Meanwhile, the Raptors converted turnovers into points to close the game on a 14-5 run. The Wizards shot brick after brick from long range and missed 11 of their last 15 shots. It was a shocking collapse in a game that had been going well for the Wizards.

By beating the Wizards in Game 5, the Raptors took a 3-2 series lead which historically means they have nearly an 83 percent chance of winning the series. Those aren't good odds for the Wizards, who can look at one area of the court to blame.

The Wizards made only five threes on 26 attempts. The Raptors, conversely, went 11-for-25 (44%) from the perimeter. The Wizards' five threes were their fewest in a game since Jan. 12.

The Wizards have now lost seven straight posteason games on the road.

DeRozan was a killer: As has been the case this entire series, DeMar DeRozan led the charge for Toronto. The perennial All-Star came out on fire with 20 points in the first half alone.

This time, it wasn't just free throws. He was 4-for-4 at the half, but 7-for-13 from the field and 2-for-2 from three. Usually, threes aren't his game.

DeRozan kept it up in the second half to score 32 points on 12-of-24 from the field. That's a pretty efficient night.

Otto looked a bit hurt: Otto Porter, who was held to nine points and four rebounds, didn't appear to be moving very well. He was running around with a limp, which suggests his right lower leg strain is still bothering him.

Head coach Scott Brooks said last week that Porter is 100 percent, but that doesn't seem like the case. Perhaps there was some sort of setback in the time since. Porter, however, is such a smart player and such a good shooter that he can still make the most of his time on the court.

Solid start: The Wizards aren't used to playing well in the first quarter this series. They entered Game 5 with an average deficit of -7.2 points in the first quarter. In this game, however, they led by one point after one.

That was thanks to a buzzer-beater by John Wall (26 points, nine assists, nine rebounds). Ian Mahinmi got the offensive rebound and it set up Wall for a last-second shot. He got to one of his spots and sent it in:

It was just the second time in five games this series that the Wizards have been leading after one. The other time was Game 3, when the Wizards beat the Raptors handily to earn their first win.

The Wizards, though, couldn't finish. They also couldn't protect the ball. At least Wall couldn't, as he committed seven turnovers, one short of his playoff career-high.

Backup PGs: The Raptors again played without point guard Fred VanVleet, their best bench player and a guy who is arguably one of the best backup point guards in basketball. The loss has been evident for the most part, despite his replacement Delon Wright doing a solid job, including with 18 points in Game 5.

On Wednesday, Washington's backup point guard also shined. Despite not playing a single game during the regular season, Ty Lawson continues to make smart plays and create scoring opportunities for others.

He had four assists in this game and made one of the best plays of the night. Check out this move he put on to set up Ian Mahinmi:

And this dude was playing in China like two weeks ago? If he keeps this up, there will be an easy case to make that the Wizards should re-sign him for next season.

Clearly, they want Tomas Satoransky to play more off the ball and the coaching staff hasn't gained full trust in him. Lawson and Satoransky could make a solid reserve backcourt if they have some time to develop some chemistry.

Up next: The Wizards and Raptors are back at it on Friday night in Washington for Game 6. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington.

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