ST. LOUIS — For a few hours, Mark Sanchez had every right to feel good about himself and the direction of the New York Jets.
After a turnover-free Sunday in the Jets’ solid 27-13 victory over the St. Louis Rams, the beleaguered quarterback was the unquestioned No. 1. Sanchez believes it’s the type of performance that can become contagious.
“If you really take the positives from this game, build on those, continue to get better and improve, we can become a team that just doesn’t turn the ball over,” Sanchez said. “That could be our identity, if you want it to be and if you work at it.”
Sanchez was an efficient 15 of 20 passing for 178 yards and a touchdown, while Tim Tebow was merely a footnote. The Jets dominated on defense, too. And New York stopped a three-game losing streak, and will head into a Thanksgiving night meeting against the AFC East-leading New England Patriots with renewed confidence.
“Our guys have been working extremely hard and I’m really happy for all of us that it showed,” coach Rex Ryan said. “We needed a win, obviously, in the worst way.”
Bilal Powell ran for the first two touchdowns of his career, Chaz Schilens scored on a 25-yard reception and Nick Folk kicked a pair of 51-yard field goals for the Jets (4-6), who were outscored 58-16 the previous two games. The Jets overcame a tumultuous practice week with several anonymous players quoted in a newspaper report disparaging the ability of Tebow, who had a handful of snaps but was no factor.
Linebacker Bart Scott created a bit of fuss when he initially declined to speak to reporters, complaining of unfair treatment, and barked at teammates to follow suit, yelling to one: “You didn’t get the memo?”
Scott later relented.
Ryan had anticipated Tebow to have a larger role but changed the game plan because the Rams surprised them with different looks on defense.
“And that kind of maybe shut him down a little more than we had originally planned,” Ryan said. “That was part of the reason you never saw a whole lot of him.”
Brandon Gibson caught a pair of short touchdown passes for the Rams (3-6-1), who committed three turnovers and are in an 0-4-1 slump. St. Louis’ defense hasn’t forced a turnover in five straight games, tying the NFL’s longest such slump since 1950, according to STATS LLC.
“We knew they were going to come out and give us their best shot and with some fight because of all the stuff that has been going on over there,” Rams middle linebacker James Laurinaitis said. “Teams in the NFL just don’t fold.”
The Rams were favored for the first time this season, a 3½-point pick coming off an impressive outing in a 24-24 tie at San Francisco a week earlier to beat a team that had been sliding. They’ve lost two straight at home — three in a row counting a blowout loss to the Patriots in London — after a 3-0 start.
The Jets, moving past blowout losses at Seattle and against Miami, led 13-7 at the half and put it away with two touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
Konrad Reuland’s 18-yard catch to the 5, the longest of his career, set up Powell’s 5-yard run for a 20-7 lead early in the fourth quarter. Powell, who was questionable after sustaining a concussion against the Seahawks last week, shared carries with Shonn Greene and added an 11-yard TD run for a 27-7 cushion.
Gibson’s 1-yard catch capped an 86-yard drive on the first possession and his 2-yard grab cut the deficit to 27-13 with 5:40 to go with the Rams failing on a 2-point conversion pass.
Neither team moved the ball that well, with the Jets’ 289-yard outing topping the Rams by 8 yards, putting ball security in the spotlight.
“Turnovers and penalties, they just hurt us,” Rams running back Steven Jackson said. “It was kind of like stubbing your toe.”
The Jets capitalized on a turnover to take their first lead in 10 quarters plus an overtime period on Schilens’ scoring catch that made it 10-7 with 4:31 to go in the half. Two plays earlier, Muhammad Wilkerson stripped Bradford and Scott returned the fumble 38 yards.
Folk is the second kicker in Jets history with two 50-yard field goals in the same game. He’s missed just three of 16 attempts, including a pair of blocked kicks in the last three weeks. Janoris Jenkins got all of the ball to snuff a 26-yard attempt in the first half, leaving the Jets with nothing to show for Eric Smith’s interception that gave them possession at the St. Louis 13.
NOTES: Rams backup LB Mario Haggan (right elbow) was injured on the opening series and did not return. … Jets backup CB Aaron Berry (quadriceps) was sidelined in the third quarter and DT Kenrick Ellis (left knee) did not return after getting hurt in the first quarter. Ryan did not know the severity of either injury. … Bradford has been sacked in 26 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL, according to STATS LLC.