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Shield Talk: Five years after the ‘Butt Fumble’

Brent Jansen, Columnist

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The New York Jets were hosting the New England Patriots on Thanksgiving Day in 2012. The Patriots had a 14-0 lead in the middle of the second quarter.

It was first-and-10 from the Jets’ 30-yard line. The Jets were lined up in the I-formation (meaning the fullback and running back were directly behind the quarterback in line).

New York’s quarterback, Mark Sanchez, snapped the ball for what looked like a fake pitch to the running back for a fullback run. But by the time Sanchez faked the toss, the fullback had already run past him.

Trying to save the play, Sanchez runs with the ball … right into Brandon Moore, his own offensive lineman.

Sanchez hit Moore’s butt, causing the ball to come loose when Patriots’ safety Steve Gregory picked the ball up and returned it for a touchdown. This play, infamously known as the “Butt Fumble,” has gone down in history as one of the greatest blunders in football.

When discussing the biggest mistakes in football history, a lot can come to mind: “Bottlegate”, “The Band is On the Field”, “Replacement Referees,” etc. But in recent history, the Butt Fumble could be considered the worst. Not only because of the pure comedy of a quarterback fumbling the football due to running into his own lineman, but also what it meant for Mark Sanchez.

Mark Sanchez could easily be considered one of the most underrated quarterbacks of the past ten years. When people bring Mark Sanchez up, it is usually in ridicule or in regard to the Butt Fumble. What people don’t tend to bring up is his two trips to the AFC Championship game. Now, Mark Sanchez isn’t Tom Brady, nor has he ever been a top quarterback in the NFL, but, Sanchez’s reputation does not suit his accomplishments in the NFL.

In his rookie season (2009), Mark Sanchez become only the fourth quarterback in NFL history to win a postseason game in his rookie season (Shaun King, Ben Roethlisberger, Joe Flacco). Also, he was only the second quarterback in history to win two consecutive playoff games in their rookie season, the other being Joe Flacco.

Sanchez only threw 12 touchdowns that season and relied on a spectacular Jets defense, but still managed to perform in the playoffs, throwing four touchdowns and two interceptions in two playoff games.

In 2010, Sanchez improved on his game, throwing 17 touchdowns, and only 13 interceptions (seven fewer from the previous season). The Jets ended the 2010 season with an 11-5 record.

Sanchez’s greatest moments come from the 2010 playoffs. During a wildcard game against reigning AFC Champion Indianapolis, Sanchez led his team on a game-winning drive down the field, setting up kick Nick Folk for a game-winning field goal.

Most impressively, Sanchez and the Jets beat the top-seeded New England Patriots, 28-21. In that game, Sanchez threw three touchdowns and no interceptions. In the 2010 AFC Championship game, the Jets almost overcame a 24-3 halftime deficit, but ultimately fell to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24-19.

The following season, Sanchez threw a career-high 26 touchdowns. The Jets finished the season 8-8 and missed the playoffs.

In 2012 (the Butt Fumble season), Sanchez had disappointing numbers across the board (13 TDs, 18 INTs, 30.2 QBR). In the game following the Butt Fumble, Sanchez was benched after throwing three interceptions.

The back-up, Greg McElroy, threw a game-winning touchdown. Sanchez was still the starter, but after throwing four interceptions in the next game, he was removed from his starting position for the season closer.

Mark Sanchez won’t go down in history as a good quarterback. No one expected him to be the next Tom Brady or Drew Brees, but Sanchez doesn’t deserve to go down as the “Butt Fumble Guy.”

Sanchez led his team to two AFC Championship games, a feat that many better quarterbacks have not done. So even though Sanchez’s career took a downturn after the infamous Thanksgiving Day event, he should still be appreciated for the successes he accomplished.

Columnist Brent Jansen can be found on Twitter @brentjans. Any tips or suggestions should be forwarded via email to [email protected] For video updates from The Seahawk, subscribe to our YouTube channel.

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Shield Talk: Five years after the ‘Butt Fumble’