Rick Bouch discusses the Philadelphia Eagles’ playoff chances under the new leadership of quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Nov 10, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez (3) during pre game warmups before game against the Carolina Panthers at Lincoln Financial Field. (Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports)
(C+P) — Could you imagine Mark Sanchez, the infamous butt fumbler, leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs? Is such a feat even plausible?
Sure. Why not? After Sunday’s 45-21 win over Carolina, a game that saw him throw for 332 yards and two touchdowns, Sanchez proved anything is possible.
Sanchez, the much-maligned former Jets quarterback, has been given a reprieve of sorts as he stepped into the starting lineup Sunday to replace injured Eagles starter Nick Foles. Foles suffered a broken collarbone in a victory over Houston on Nov. 2 and could miss the rest of the season. It was the first start for Sanchez since December of 2012.
Foles’s injury seems to be no problem for Eagles head coach Chip Kelly, the master of one of the NFL’s most productive offenses. Sanchez entered the game against the Texans in the first quarter and demonstrated the type of talent that had encouraged the New York Jets to draft him with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft. The former USC star went 15-for-22 for 202 yards and two touchdowns in that 31-21 win over Houston.
Last Sunday, Sanchez regained some of the swagger that he had displayed in his first few years in the league. He completed 20 of his 37 pass attempts and did not throw an interception. The win gives the Eagles a 7-2 record and plants them firmly at the top of the NFC East Division
The sixth-year pro will need to continue what he has started as Philadelphia looks to lock up a second consecutive divisional title and, possibly, home field advantage throughout the playoffs. It’s not like Sanchez hasn’t been there before: in his rookie season Sanchez led the Jets to the postseason and followed it up with another playoff run in 2010.
In fact, Sanchez is tied with Baltimore’s Joe Flacco for the most playoff victories by a rookie QB with two. When the Jets beat the Cincinnati Bengals, 24-14, in the Wild Card round of the 2009 playoffs, he became just the fourth rookie QB in the history of the league to win his first postseason game.
If Eagles fans have any doubts about Sanchez and his ability to take the team deep into the playoffs, they can take solace in the fact that he led the Jets to the AFC Championship game two years in a row (2009 and 2010). The Eagles new starting QB has played in six playoff games in his short career, and he would love nothing more than to get back there and prove his critics wrong.
Sanchez will get tested the final seven weeks of the season. The Eagles will travel to Lambeau Field to face Green Bay next week and still must face the red hot Dallas Cowboys twice. Also sandwiched in there on December 7th is a date with last year’s Super Bowl champions, the Seattle Seahawks. If Sanchez can come out of that seven-game stretch with five or six wins, it would be nothing short of amazing.
The great thing is that Sanchez won’t have to do it himself. He has one of the league’s better running backs in LeSean McCoy, who has 641 yards rushing. Diminutive, but elusive, all-purpose back Darren Sproles continues to contribute in a variety of ways. With the score 10-7 in last week’s win over Carolina, Sproles took a punt return at his own 35-yard line and returned it for a score. He has also rushed for 236 yards and four TDs and has caught 21 passes for 257 more.
As the Eagles move down the stretch, it appears that Sanchez is indeed the QB that can take them on a postseason run. Think about it: Kelly’s offense in Philly is much the same as the up-tempo offense Sanchez excelled in at USC. In that type of scheme, there are fewer plays, fewer reads for a QB to make—in essence it is a quick, no-huddle-type offense that makes things easier for some quarterbacks. Sanchez is one of those quarterbacks and the Philadelphia Eagles are lucky to have him. There is no question that Sanchez is cut out to lead the Eagles to the playoffs.