<
>

Sanchez hurting after gutty performance

No matter how much the New York Jets try to downplay it, Mark Sanchez's right-shoulder injury isn't just a bump-and-bruise type of deal.

It's serious enough for him to say after Sunday's 38-34 loss to the Chicago Bears, "There's no swelling, it's just hurting. It's sore. It's just pretty sore."

Serious enough for Rex Ryan to announce after the game that he likely will sit Sanchez in the meaningless regular-season finale against the Buffalo Bills. Ryan noted that his quarterback spent a lot of time on the sideline, trying to keep the shoulder warm because there was "some tightness."

And to think, Sanchez wasn't hit that much by the Bears, thanks to superb pass protection. How will it respond if he gets banged around?

Sanchez denied reports of a cartilage tear, basically saying there's no such thing as a cartilage tear in the shoulder. Technically, he's correct, according to doctors, but that could be semantics. There's cartilage damage, sources have told ESPNNewYork.com -- the likely result of wear and tear.

"There's no real timetable, we're just taking it day-by-day," Sanchez said. "... It's just a matter of playing and fighting through it and giving this team all I've got."

Sanchez gave plenty Sunday, playing a terrific game -- until his 37th and final pass. With 58 seconds to play, at his own 33, Sanchez made a terrible decision, forcing a deep pass up the left sideline to Santonio Holmes. S Chris Harris read the play and made the game-clinching interception. The throw lacked some zip, perhaps because of the shoulder situation.

Quarterbacking 101: Never throw deep down the sideline against a Cover-2 defense. Sanchez got away with that kind of pass in the final minute of their come-from-behind win over the Houston Texans, a long completion to Braylon Edwards, but not this time.

"At the end of the game, I can't do that," a subdued Sanchez said. "I at least have to get us to fourth down and give us a chance to chip away at it."

Before the turnover, Sanchez played well, hurting the Bears with play-action and slants to Edwards. He finished 24-for-37 for 269 yards with a one touchdown and a 84.2 passer rating. It should've been two touchdowns, but TE Dustin Keller dropped a pass in the end zone.

So now Sanchez rests. Look for Mark Brunell to start the final game. Publicly, Sanchez didn't question Ryan's decision. That should tell us something.