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Tebow a bystander as Jets struggle

09/26/2012 7:26 PM ET
By The Associated Press

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) -- Mark Sanchez was mostly miserable in Miami. Tim Tebow was ineffective despite getting more snaps than he had in the New York Jets' first two games.

Sanchez has shown a knack for coming through late in games -- as he did late in the Jets' 23-20 overtime victory over the Dolphins last Sunday. But in a few situations that appeared perfect for Tebow, the playmaking backup remained on the sideline.

That had many fans and media wondering: Where's Tebow?

''I didn't know exactly what to expect,'' said Tebow, who was on the field for about 14 offensive plays in Miami. ''I'm just trying to be ready anytime my number is called and find a way to help the team.''

Well, Tebow's role on the offense remains a mystery as the once-secret wildcat package has been rarely used. After all, that was the major selling point on Tebow this summer, that the Jets acquired him from Denver to add a dynamic yet unpredictable presence to the offense.

So far, it's been unpredictable. Dynamic, not so much.

But the fact opponents have to prepare for Tebow is part of the game plan, both coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Tony Sparano have insisted. So, Buffalo must have been surprised when Tebow was in on just nine offensive plays in the opener. Same for Pittsburgh, which saw Tebow for just three offensive plays -- all during one third-quarter possession.

''I'm not sure,'' Tebow said Wednesday when asked if he might be used more this weekend against San Francisco. ''I'm just trying to get through practice every day and improve in that. We'll see what happens on Sunday.''

So will the 49ers, who know better than to overlook Tebow, even though he has yet to throw a pass with the Jets.

''We know he's capable,'' 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis said. ''He's running the ball out of it most of the time. ... But, he's a quarterback, so we know that he can throw the ball at any time.''

It certainly seems the Jets' struggling offense could benefit from Tebow being in games for more than just a few plays here and there. His biggest play at Miami was calling a fake punt on fourth-and-3 from the Jets 25 and running it 5 yards for a first down on a drive that led to a field goal.

But there was also the play shown countless times on the highlight reels when Sanchez zipped a pass to Tebow -- and hit him square in the helmet. Tebow said after the game that he ''wasn't expecting it that quick,'' which led to plenty of chuckles by those who have doubted this experiment would even work in the first place.

Early in the third quarter, the Jets had the ball on second down from the Dolphins 2 and brought Tebow on the field. He was sacked and lost 5 yards, and Sanchez came back in -- and was promptly intercepted.

At the end of the quarter, Sanchez connected with Jeremy Kerley on a 66-yard pass, giving New York the ball at Miami's 5. This time, it was not Tebow Time -- leaving many scratching their heads as the Jets ended up settling for a field goal.

Meanwhile, Sanchez struggled mightily at times for the second straight game with some dismal passing numbers: 21 of 45 for 306 yards with a touchdown, two interceptions and a 58.2 quarterback rating. He overthrew Jeff Cumberland and Chaz Schilens on plays that probably should have been touchdowns. But, he also wasn't helped by inconsistent receivers who couldn't make plays at times for their quarterback.

Santonio Holmes was the exception, though, coming up big for the first time in what seemed like ages by catching nine passes for 147 yards -- his first 100-yard game since 2010.

The biggest catch of all came in overtime when Sanchez connected with Holmes on a 38-yard pass that put the ball at the Miami 18 and set up the winning field goal.

''It just happened the way I'm used to, and the way Tone loves it to happen,'' Sanchez said. ''He wants the ball, not just on every play, but especially in the crunch time, and that's what you want out of your playmakers.

''It was just encouraging to see.''

What also can't be overlooked is that with the game on the line in the fourth quarter, Sanchez was at his best while leading the Jets to what was at that point a go-ahead 7-yard touchdown with 3 minutes left with a toss to Kerley.

And then came the big play to Holmes in overtime.

''I think the most important thing was getting the win,'' Sanchez said. ''No matter how bad it looks, thank God there are no pictures on the scoreboard because it was a nasty one. At the same time, we were a resilient group. We outlasted them and we just kept playing, so we had our best football there toward the end of the game.''

It marked the 11th time in his career that Sanchez has led the Jets to a fourth-quarter comeback or an overtime victory -- with seven of those on the road.

''There might be times where maybe it's not going perfect, but at the end of the game, and that's what this team has is a huge belief that we're going to win anyway because Mark actually gets at his best at the end of those games,'' Ryan said. ''He has done that throughout his career.

''You always feel like we have a chance.''

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NOTES: LB Bart Scott (toe), WR Stephen Hill (hamstring) and S Eric Smith (hip/knee) didn't practice, while TE Dustin Keller (hamstring) was limited -- along with LB Bryan Thomas (hamstring), WR Patrick Turner (hamstring) and FB John Conner (knee). ... A day after the Dolphins' Reggie Bush told a Florida radio station that Jets CB Darrelle Revis deserved to get injured because of comments by Ryan about putting ''hot sauce'' on the star running back, the coach said he meant it as a compliment -- not as an order to hurt an opponent. ''It means you have to pour a ton of attention on him,'' Ryan said. ''He definitely misinterpreted my comment. The next time we play them (Oct. 28), he's going to get attention from us because he's a great football player. It's almost a compliment, taken a different way.'' ... Ryan said he was glad the Jets are playing the 49ers at home because of the home-field advantage they'll give them against a tough opponent. He spent several minutes praising San Francisco's players, saying the Jets graded seven of them on defense as All-Pro caliber. ''I'm challenging our fans,'' Ryan said. ''They could very well be the difference. We need you.''

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