Sanchez, the fifth overall pick in this year’s draft, threw for 272 yards and a touchdown, Thomas Jones(notes) scored twice, and the Jets shut down Houston’s high-powered offense in a 24-7 win Sunday.
Joe Namath took Sanchez aside just minutes before pregame warmups. The rookie asked him about his first start and Namath said he didn’t remember it and that Sunday was about Sanchez, not him.
“What a pep talk,” a beaming Sanchez said. “That was Joe Namath, just taking all the credit from himself and throwing it back to me and just saying, ‘Good luck.’ To hear that from a legend like that, it just kind of gives you the chills. It was something special to be a part of, an emotional start, an emotional little pep talk.”
Namath said Sanchez’s performance didn’t surprise him.
“No, I was hopeful and I’m satisfied more than I thought I’d be,” Namath said. “His offensive line did a hell of a job, but he did a great job of finding time with his feet, just to move subtly … I don’t doubt even a little bit that he doesn’t have poise at this stage.”
It was easy to see Rex Ryan’s stamp on this defense in his first game as Jets head coach after leading the Ravens’ stingy unit for the past several years. Houston’s offense got past midfield just once in the first three quarters. The Texans were outgained 462-183, Steve Slaton(notes) was held to 17 yards rushing and Andre Johnson(notes) had 35 yards receiving.
“It’s just insane,” Slaton said. “You work for six months leading up to this first game. You have all offseason to prepare for this game and then to come out and play like that is upsetting.”
Matt Schaub(notes) struggled, too, completing 18 of 33 passes for 166 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Coach Gary Kubiak said Schaub hadn’t completely recovered from an ankle sprain he suffered almost two weeks ago, but took the blame for Houston’s poor performance.
“The offensive football team gave us no chance and that starts with me,” Kubiak said. “There’s nobody that can feel anything good coming out of this football game.”
Sanchez was poised and confident from the start, often evading the rush to complete key passes. He completed at least three throws as he was being knocked down.
“He’s able to move and bide a little extra time and again, this is why we took the guy,” Ryan said. “This is why we traded up to get him.”
His first NFL touchdown came in the second quarter when he found Chansi Stuckey(notes) wide open on a 30-yard reception to put the Jets up 10-0. After the score, television cameras flashed to a smiling Namath, who watched the game from a luxury suite at Reliant Stadium.
“When we did move the ball, we have a big turnover,” Johnson said. “It looked like we were going to score. We can’t have those things happen. When they happen, you get beat.”
Sanchez’s only big mistake came in the fourth quarter. John Busing(notes) intercepted his pass and immediately fumbled. Houston’s Dominique Barber(notes) picked up the ball and ran down the right sideline 48 yards for a touchdown to make it 17-7 with about 12 minutes left in the game.
The Jets answered quickly when Jones rumbled 38 yards for a touchdown four plays later.
Sanchez distributed the ball well among several receivers. Jerricho Cotchery(notes) finished with six receptions for 90 yards, tight end Dustin Keller(notes) had four for 94, and Stuckey had four for 64.
The Jets used an 87-yard drive that ended with a 1-yard run by Jones to push their lead to 17-0 midway through the third quarter. That score was set up by a 9-yard run by Washington, who took the snap out of the wildcat formation.
The Texans are 2-9 in the month and have lost their last six in September. The few thousand fans who remained when the game ended booed loudly as the last seconds ticked off.
NOTES: Sanchez is the fourth rookie QB since the 1970 merger to win his first start on opening day on the road, joining John Elway, Joe Ferguson and Chris Weinke(notes). … Houston CB Dunta Robinson(notes), miffed about no long-term contract with the team despite signing his franchise tender, wore shoes he had made with the words ‘pay me Rick,’ for GM Rick Smith. … Texans WR Andre’ Davis(notes) suffered a concussion late in the game and did not return.