- Ian Begley, ESPN Staff Writer
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NEW YORK -- New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez has two words for those who've been critical of Brian Schottenheimer's play calling in the wake of the Jets' 24-19 loss to the Steelers in the AFC Championship Game: back off.
Speaking on The Michael Kay Radio Show on 1050 ESPN on Tuesday evening, Sanchez defended his offensive coordinator, claiming it was the players' fault that the Jets failed to score on four plays inside the Steelers' 3-yard line midway through the fourth quarter on Sunday night.
"I would never criticize Schotty for the play calls," Sanchez said. "We need to execute the plays; they're designed to score. We're on the 2-yard line. Whatever it takes, you've got to get in the end zone. And that's unfortunate that we didn't."
Schottenheimer came under fire for his play calling (two runs, two passes) with the Jets facing a first-and-goal from the Steelers' 2-yard line with just over eight minutes to play, trailing 24-10.
Shonn Greene ran up the middle for one yard on first down. Sanchez threw incomplete passes on second and third down. The Jets turned the ball over on downs when LaDainian Tomlinson ran up the middle on fourth down and was stuffed by a swarming Steelers' front seven.
The botched sequence loomed large in the Jets' 24-19 defeat, their second straight AFC Championship Game loss.
But on Tuesday, Sanchez strongly supported Schottenheimer's play-calling, claiming the "designs and concepts" of the game plan were similar to what the Jets used in their 22-17 win over the Steelers in Week 15.
"Those plays, those are the same plays that have worked. Those are the same plays that beat them the first time," Sanchez said.
That may not have been the best defense of Schottenheimer, considering the Jets were facing the Steelers' top-ranked defense for the second time in five weeks and should have expected Pittsburgh to adjust to their original game plan.
Still, Sanchez disagreed with those who chose to focus on the play calling during the goal-line sequence as the main reason for the Jets falling short on Sunday.
"It's hard to say, 'Oh, that was a bad call.' That's really tough," Sanchez said, addressing Schottenheimer's detractors. "[Schottenheimer] puts a lot of work into that game plan. We trusted that game plan and it was a great game plan. It just didn't really get off the ground in the beginning and we finally hit our stride. But it was too little, too late."
On Monday, head coach Rex Ryan confirmed that Schottenheimer will be back next season. ESPNNewYork.com reported on Monday that Schottenheimer -- a lightning-rod for criticism for Jets fans all year -- is under contract for 2011.
But Ryan also said on Monday that in "hindsight" he'd prefer that the Jets ran the ball four times from the Steelers' 2.
"If we had the benefit of hindsight, we should have probably just ran Shonn Greene or L.T. four straight times," Ryan said. "That's easy to look back on it. We clearly thought that we had some good plays designed and it just never worked out."
Ian Begley is a regular contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.
Mark Sanchez has two words for those who've been critical of Brian Schottenheimer's play-calling: back off.