EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Three preseason games and counting. No trips to the end zone for the New York Jets.
"Well, I've said it before," starting quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We're saving our good stuff for the regular season."
Sanchez, Tebow and the starters will not play Thursday night in the preseason finale at Philadelphia, so the Jets (0-3) certainly have a lot to work on before the regular-season opener against Buffalo on Sept. 9. All of that sneaky wildcat stuff the Jets have planned with Tebow will have to wait a few more weeks - when the games actually count.
"When Week 1 comes around, all bets are off," wide receiver Santonio Holmes said, "and the guns are firing."
They certainly weren't in this one -- for either team.
Tebow, who entered in the third quarter, got the fans at MetLife Stadium fired up with a dazzling 20-yard run in the fourth, but threw an interception three plays later.
Tebow faced a third-and-16 from the Jets 34 and ran around in the backfield, eluded a tackle attempt by Ryan Van Bergen and then took off and slipped through a few other tackle attempts by the Panthers (2-1) before being taken down for a 20-yard gain by Reggie Smith. Tebow pumped both fists and yelled at the crowd chanting "Tee-boww! Tee-boww!"
But three plays later, Tebow was intercepted easily by Smith.
"I felt like we had it the whole time," Tebow said. "I still feel like we should have had it. I feel like we just came up one or two plays short."
Tebow finished 4 of 14 for 55 yards and the interception, but certainly had the Panthers nervous. He ran five times for 45 yards.
"It's a nightmare," Rivera said of facing Tebow. "Heck, I was in San Diego trying to stop him when he was in Denver. He's an exciting football player. There are things he does that brings excitement and gets his teammates going. He's a guy if you keep the game close gives you a chance to win. He's a different type of football player, a different type of quarterback."
"Offensively, we have to do a better job sustaining drives," Newton said. "We got some first downs, but we stalled at the end."
Sanchez played well into the third quarter, but got no help from his receivers, who dropped a few passes. He finished 11 of 18 for 123 yards and an interception.
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He was done in on consecutive plays by his own wideouts. First, on second-and-10 from the Jets 38, Sanchez hit Holmes in the mask and the receiver couldn't corral the pass. On the next play, Sanchez hit Stephen Hill in the chest, but the rookie couldn't control the ball and it bounced off his arms and into the hands of cornerback Captain Munnerlyn.
"Any time you don't have Steve Smith, it throws some of the timing off," Rivera said. "We do miss Steve. We'll be honest about that."
Rivera said X-rays "were completely negative" and he didn't believe it was a high ankle sprain.
Baker appeared to sustain the most serious injury in the second quarter when he was hit on the right knee by a Panthers defender while trying to catch a pass from Sanchez in the end zone. Baker stayed down for several minutes, was helped to the sideline and then carted to the locker room.
Notes:Josh Brown, competing with Nick Folk for the Jets' kicking job, made a 34-yarder but missed a 45-yard attempt wide left. ... Jets GM Mike Tannenbaum needed a few stitches after injuring an arm earlier Sunday while riding his bike. ... Panthers rookie LB Luke Kuechly was in on a game-high 10 tackles.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press