With Sanchez Under Center, Eagles Pull Out Win

Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj - USA Today

Photo Credit: Kevin Jairaj – USA Today

HOUSTON — On his first regular-season snap in almost two years, Mark Sanchez dropped back and unfurled a bomb down the middle to Jeremy Maclin, who caught it in stride en route to a 52-yard pick-up. Five plays later, he found Jordan Matthews in the back of the end zone for six.

So much for easing into the action.

“How about that, huh? I was expecting maybe a handoff or a quick screen, ease my way in but you know Coach Kelly,” said Sanchez. “I said it [earlier] if he was a basketball coach he would bring you off the bench shooting three-pointers so that’s the way it goes. You have to be ready.”

Sanchez finished 15-of-22 for 202 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions as the Eagles escaped Houston with a 31-21 win.

“It’s been a while. It all comes back quickly,” he said. “I don’t want to use the phrase it’s like riding a bike. I wish it was that easy and that defense didn’t make it that easy. It just felt good to get back out there. It felt good to make some calls, to scramble a little bit, get hit a little bit. All that stuff was really fun. We are very fortunate to play like this. I am just really proud of the team, those guys really rallied.”

Nick Foles was getting battered from the onset. The Texans were credited with six quarterback hits and a pair of sacks on Foles. The last one – a nine-yard takedown by Whitney Mercilus at the end of the first quarter – knocked Foles out of the game with an injury to his non-throwing shoulder. That put Sanchez at the controls.

“That’s tough,” said Sanchez. “The most important thing is to switch your focus from lamenting over a guy that is hurt and you have to get your focus on the game. That’s coach’s policy: next man up, something happens you have to be ready to go and I think we were.”

His second drive ended in an interception. The Eagles were on the move but Sanchez’s first-down pass from the Houston 35 glanced off the hands of rookie Josh Huff and was picked by defensive back Jumal Rolle, leading to an eventual Texans touchdown. The offense rebounded with a 13-play, 53-yard drive to end the half that was capped by a 45-yard Cody Parkey field goal that gave the Eagles a 17-14 edge at the break.

There were some dicey moments for Sanchez in the second half. A third-quarter pass intended for Matthews hit Andre Hal right in the numbers. He was picked later in the frame by Rolle, setting up another Houston scoring drive.

Sanchez helped lead the offense down the field on the ensuing series, however, and found Maclin in the right corner of the end zone for a eight-yard touchdown that gave the Eagles a 31-21 lead and sealed the win.

“I thought Mark did a really good job,” said Kelly.  “The one interception, I think it hit Huff in the hand and was tipped. The other, I think Riley (Cooper) got spot on. Besides that, I thought he had a really good command of what we were doing. Since day one here, you know what type of professional he is. He’s in early. He takes copious notes. He’s a real professional. I said since day one, you better have two quarterbacks in this league. We were fortunate that when Nick did go down that we could bring Mark in. I don’t think we missed a beat offensively.”

With Foles dealing with a clavicle injury, this could be Sanchez’s show for a little while.

“Nothing changes,” he said. “How do I prepare to play? How do I prepare to watch a game? It’s the same. I might get less reps as a backup but I am watching the same amount of film, I am doing the same amount of drills, I am taking advantage of my time that I can during the week and I can’t cut corners or l’ll get caught off guard out there. This league will expose you and you got to be ready.”