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Ryan defends Sanchez despite struggles that have hurt Jets

The struggles of Mark Sanchez appear to be a major issue of concern for the New York Jets, but Rex Ryan remains wholly committed to the third-year quarterback.

Ryan discussed the Jets' calamitous 17-13 loss to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos during his Friday press conference, where he insisted his team's struggles are collective. The coach conceded Sanchez has improvements to make, but said the whole team needs to get better quickly.

"It absolutely doesn't belong on Mark's shoulders," Ryan said of Sanchez, who finished 24-of-40 for 252 yards and one costly interception that Broncos cornerback Andre Goodman returned for a touchdown. "He's just a player. He's a big piece of the puzzle, but it wasn't all on Mark Sanchez."

Sanchez has received little help this season from the rest of the 5-5 Jets, saddled with a subpar running game and an offensive line that has clearly regressed. But the Jets have lost two games over five days, and Sanchez's inability to move his team and limit mistakes is a major reason why.

On Thursday, Sanchez's pick-six pumped life back into the Broncos and set the stage for Tebow's game-winning 95-yard touchdown drive.

Ryan refused to point the finger at Sanchez, however, and inadvertently defused any rumors about Peyton Manning playing in New Jersey next September.

"I'm extremely confident. We'll go out there and play tomorrow. That's how I feel about Mark," Ryan said. "This is our quarterback, he's going to be our quarterback for as long as I'm here, which I hope is a long, long time."

The Jets have leaks all over, but Ryan's contention that Sanchez's struggles don't stand above shortcomings in other areas is either dishonest or naive. Ryan and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer handed Sanchez the keys to the offense this season, counting on the quarterback to make the leap in his third year as starter.

Sanchez didn't reward them for that faith and now the Jets are paying the bill.

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