Sanchez, Offense Just Fine In Blowout

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Philadelphia Eagles

Asked about the pace at which the offense has operated thus far under Mark Sanchez, Evan Mathis noted this week that Sanchez “takes the tempo seriously. He’s a fast thinker. He’s the kind of guy that will move the referee out of the way and get the ball snapped.”

Assuming the officials cooperate. There was actually one sequence in the first half against the Panthers when the refs couldn’t catch up to the Eagles’ pace, blowing the whistle before declaring: “The officials were not in position to officiate.”

The offense under Sanchez wasn’t flawless, but it was fast and hit Carolina with enough pointed strikes to draw serious blood.

In his first start as an Eagle, Sanchez ended 20-of-37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (102.5 quarterback rating) as the Eagles steamrolled Carolina, 45-21.

“I think when you take a step back, you appreciate it so much and you miss it so much,” he said. “I just kept telling myself when I was out that if I ever got a chance to get back out there, I don’t ever want to be out again until I retire. I want to keep playing. You just have so much respect for this whole thing and the preparation and what goes into it. I’m just so happy to be in the system we have here.”

There are story lines aplenty coming out of this one. Darren Sproles continues to be a rocket-booster for this team. He scored once on offense and again on special teams, which notched its league-leading fifth touchdown on the season. Jordan Matthews broke out, hauling in seven catches for 138 yards and two scores (more on that in a minute). The defense — led by Connor Barwin‘s three-and-a-half sacks — was relentless and quickly stomped out the Panthers’ will despite the absence of its  leader, DeMeco Ryans.

And there was the Eagles’ maiden voyage under Sanchez. It started out a little choppy, as you would probably expect. The offense went three-and-out on its first drive, which began on the Carolina 22 after Casey Matthews forced a DeAngelo Williams fumble. Sanchez misfired on a pass to Jeremy Maclin in the end zone and his next offering over the middle to Sproles fell incomplete as the Eagles settled for a Cody Parkey field goal.

Sanchez went 2-for-3 on the next drive and Sproles punched it in from eight yards out to make it 10-0. The 27-year-old signal caller got into a rhythm as the half wore on, thanks in part to his re-established connection with his training camp battery mate. On a 10-play, 91-yard drive to start the second quarter, Matthews caught four passes for 74 yards, including a 13-yard touchdown grab that made it 24-7, Eagles. He set a career-high in yards on that drive alone and went on to have a monster night.

“Like I said, he’s a franchise quarterback,” said Matthews of Sanchez. “We are probably one of the only teams with two franchise quarterbacks. We are very fortunate to have that.”

Bradley Fletcher’s pick-six capped the first-half scoring.

With the rout on, Sanchez found Brent Celek down the seam for a pretty 29-yard pick-up midway through the third quarter that was initially ruled a touchdown before being overturned. Instead, LeSean McCoy ran it in from a yard out on the next play for his second touchdown of the season. Sanchez and Matthews hooked up for an 18-yard TD in the fourth as the Eagles cruised to their seventh win of the season.

This was the first week without Nick Foles, who took the game in from the sidelines after fracturing his collarbone against Houston last Sunday. A long way to go, but the transition of power from Foles to Sanchez was smooth to start.

“He looked good. We are comfortable and confident in Mark Sanchez,” said McCoy. “He showed poise and was the leader of this offense.”