Sanchez ends rookie campaign strongly

INDIANAPOLIS -- Signs of growth abound for New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

His maturation process continued Sunday despite a heartbreaking loss to the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship Game.

"Mark Sanchez, I'm sure he surprised our entire team with his arm and his mechanics," Colts linebacker Clint Session said. "He didn't buckle under pressure at the beginning of the game. I give a lot of credit to that guy. He's got a bright future."

With running back Shonn Greene sidelined by a rib injury, Sanchez was more of a factor than he'd been in a couple months. For only the second time in nine weeks he attempted 30 passes.

Sanchez completed 56.7 percent for 257 yards and two touchdowns with one interception, a bad throw, but one that was tipped to Colts cornerback Kelvin Hayden.

Sanchez posted a 93.3 passer rating, his third-highest of the campaign in games when he threw more than 15 times.

His most remarkable numbers came on play-action passes.

ESPN Stats & Information tracked them all year. In the regular season, Sanchez ranked 43rd out of 51 quarterbacks who made at least 10 play-action attempts. He completed 51.7 percent with three touchdowns and seven interceptions for a 59.1 passer rating.

In the playoffs, however, Sanchez bamboozled defenses with play-action fakes.

He went 5 of 9 for 150 yards and a touchdown against the Colts. He heaved one play-action pass to Braylon Edwards down the left sideline for an 80-yard touchdown, a team playoff record.

All told in the postseason, Sanchez completed 62.5 percent of play-action passes for 287 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions and a 143.6 passer rating. Only Philadelphia Eagles backup Kevin Kolb had a higher rating in the regular season than that.