Sheer luck buoyed Mark Sanchez's stats

New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez showed notable growth in his sophomore season, flipping his touchdown-to-interception ratio from deplorable to dependable.

As a rookie, he threw 12 touchdowns and 20 interceptions. Last season, he recorded 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. His passer rating increased 12.3 points.

Numbers often can be misleading. Randomness aided Sanchez considerably.

Football Outsiders game-by-game research concluded Sanchez led the NFL -- by far -- in dropped interceptions.

Sanchez had 15 of them, three times as many as his rookie season. He had six more dropped interceptions last year than the closest quarterbacks, Carson Palmer and Peyton Manning.

Sanchez made 507 pass attempts, far fewer than Palmer (586) or Manning (679). Sanchez threw an interception or had one dropped on 5.5 percent of his throws.

His combination of interceptions and drops were lower as a rookie. Only five of them were dropped for a total of 25, but they accounted for 6.9 percent of his 364 attempts.

Football Outsiders' criteria to determine a drop: "We don't mean a defender sort of near the play, or guys who dive and see interceptions go off their fingertips. We mean guys who dropped balls that hit them right in the hands or chest."

The other three AFC East starters added together didn't have as many dropped interceptions as Sanchez.

New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady won the MVP award in large part for his absurdly low interception percentage. He threw four all season and none over the past 11 regular-season games. Only five of his 492 attempts were dropped.

Even if all of Brady's misfires had been caught by defenders, he would have posted a respectable 1.8 interception percentage.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick had 15 interceptions and six more of them dropped on 441 attempts, or 4.8 percent.

Fitzpatrick's predecessor, Trent Edwards, had some of the NFL's worst numbers. Edwards passed 101 times for the Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars. Five of them were intercepted. Three more would-be interceptions were dropped. That's 7.9 percent of his passes earmarked for the opponent.

Chad Henne was Mr. Tough Luck. He led the AFC East and was tied for fourth in the league with 19 interceptions, but only one was dropped. So of all interceptable passes he threw, defenses snagged 95 percent of them.