By JOSH DUBOW, AP Sports Writer
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — With a ball-hawking defense and a punishing running game, the New York Jets took the pressure off struggling rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez and handed the Oakland Raiders their most lopsided home loss ever.
Sanchez shook off the worst start of his young career by running for one touchdown and throwing for another, fellow rookie Shonn Greene ran for 144 yards and two scores and the Jets snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Raiders 38-0 on Sunday.
It was a low-pressure day for Sanchez, who started two of his first three drives for the Jets (4-3) at the Oakland 4 after turnovers by JaMarcus Russell. Those mistakes led to touchdown runs by Thomas Jones and Sanchez, and played a role in Oakland coach Tom Cable’s decision to bench the former No. 1 overall pick in the second quarter.
This was just the fifth home shutout ever for the Raiders (2-5), with four coming in the past four seasons.
One negative for the Jets was losing running back-kick returner Leon Washington to an apparent leg injury in the first quarter. Washington was taken off on a cart after a defender rolled up his right leg.
After Sanchez threw five interceptions last week against Buffalo for his third straight loss, coach Rex Ryan said maybe he needed to take some pressure off his rookie passer.
The New York defense made that easy. After Oakland committed a penalty on the opening kick, Calvin Pace beat right tackle Khalif Barnes on the first play from scrimmage, sacking Russell and forcing a fumble that Marques Douglas recovered at the 4. It took four tries, but Jones eventually scored from the 1 on fourth down to give the Jets the lead.
Jim Leonhard then intercepted a badly overthrown ball by Russell, who was pressured by David Harris, and returned it 44 yards to the 4. Two plays later, Sanchez scored on a 3-yard quarterback draw. An 8-yard run by Greene made it 21-0 with 5:51 left in the second quarter as New York scored its third touchdown, while Sanchez had only four completions at that point.
Sanchez got into the act passing the ball in the second half with a pretty 35-yard strike to David Clowney, but by that point it didn’t really matter as the blowout was already on. Sanchez was 9 for 15 for 143 yards with no interceptions and was so relaxed he was eating a hot dog on the sideline in the closing minutes.
Jones, coming off a franchise record 210 yards rushing last week, had 121 on 26 carries this game. Greene did the rest, getting extended playing time because of the blowout and the injury to Washington.
The Jets had lost all four of their games on the West Coast last season, including an overtime defeat in Oakland.
The Raiders came into the game full of confidence following last week’s 13-9 victory over Philadelphia. The week got only better when the Napa County district attorney announced Thursday he would not file charges against Cable for an alleged attack on a former defensive assistant.
But any good feeling around the Raiders ended as soon as this game started, as Oakland lost by at least 20 points for the fourth time in five weeks.
Russell has committed 13 turnovers and completed just 46 percent of his passes in a horrific start to his third NFL season. He has been booed heavily in the past three home games and was finally benched for the first time of his career when Cable sent Bruce Gradkowski in late in the second quarter. Russell was 6 for 11 for 61 yards, with two interceptions and a fumble.
Gradkowski provided a little spark with his mobility, but also lost a fumble to end one potential scoring drive and failed to convert on fourth-and-goal in the closing minutes.
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.