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Jets At Lions: New York Aims To Quiet The Questions

(Sports Network) – That giant gasping sound you hear? Not to worry, it’s just the collective holding of breath by a perpetually fatalist New York Jets fan base again suspicious of lofty postseason goals.

The high-flying Jets, winners of five straight and holders of the top rung in the AFC East upon emerging from a late-October bye week, returned to the field with an all-too-familiar thud that’s now got their green-clad masses questioning exactly how good they’d had it.

A 9-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers on home turf at New Meadowlands Stadium last Sunday was frustratingly reminiscent of years past, particularly the 2009 regular season, when then-rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez threw 20 interceptions before righting the ship in time for a playoff run.

The USC product threw two interceptions for the second straight game against the Packers, further distancing himself from an initial five games of 2010 in which his turnover total was zero.

Both Sanchez and the Jets will attempt to get back on track when the team visits Ford Field this Sunday to battle the Detroit Lions, who’ll be coming in on a high note after an impressive Week 8 win.

Sanchez’s performance last week revived the insistent “can he lead them to a title?” chatter that had at least briefly subsided after playoff wins at Cincinnati and San Diego last January, which were followed this season by the aforementioned five-game win streak prior to Week 8’s flaccid return.

Columnist Tim Smith threw another log on that familiar fire in the New York Daily News, opining that "Sanchez is not at the stage of his career where he can load a team on his shoulders and carry them to victory. If the Jets are going to be serious playoff contenders, the offense can’t add any more burdens (turnovers, mistakes and penalties) to the load that Sanchez is already carrying.

“There are going to be growing pains with Sanchez at quarterback — at least for another year. How well the Jets roll with those growing pains will determine just how far they go this season.”

Sanchez connected on just 16-of-38 passes against Green Bay and saw his overall completion rate drop to 53 percent, the worst in the league for starting quarterbacks. That said, at least six passes were dropped, and both of Green Bay’s interceptions came on balls that New York receivers had gotten hands on before they were wrenched away by the Packers’ defense.

“We’ve got to do the little things,” wide receiver Braylon Edwards said. “We have to get back to the basics of the fundamentals. Maybe we got a sense of an arrogant streak. There were a couple of times that guys were open. Mark has to read it. He has a job. We just have to bear with him. And we’ll get better. He’ll learn. He’ll get better.”

On the other side this week is a foe that’s shown distinct signs of improvement.

Stocked with a arsenal of young draft choices on offense, the Detroit Lions high-stepped past a perceived NFC contender last week, downing the Washington Redskins by a 37-25 score while emerging successfully from their own Week 7 bye.

Making his first start since an early-season injury, quarterback Matthew Stafford — chosen first overall in 2009 — threw for 212 yards and four touchdowns on a 26-of-45 effort, including three scoring strikes to former No. 4 overall pick Calvin Johnson.

The scoring barrage earned Johnson recognition as the NFC Offensive Player of the Week and moved the Lions to sixth in the league with a per-game scoring average slightly north of 26 points. It marked the first time a Detroit wideout was honored since Germane Crowell in 1999.

The Lions are averaging 38 points on their home turf at Ford Field, though Jets coach Rex Ryan boldly claimed on Wednesday they won’t approach that number against his team.

“I don’t believe that’s going to happen,” Ryan said. “Come out and prove me wrong, but I doubt it.”