Zone Read: Eagles-Packers, the Day After
GREEN BAY, Wis. — In all likelihood, this particular line of questioning was nothing new for Mark Sanchez.
Having made 64 career starts, the Eagles’ quarterback understands there will be ups and downs, praise and criticism, wins and losses. Six days ago, the story was about second chances and reinventing himself under Chip Kelly. Today, the conversation focuses on a team that failed to measure up against one of the NFC’s best.
“Now we’re gonna find out who we are, what kind of team we have,” Sanchez said, his left hand wrapped after taking some big hits early against Green Bay. “It’s easy when you’re on the other end of this thing like we were last week. You’re on national TV, and everything’s going great. You can’t miss and score a lot of points, and defense and special teams score. That’s fun, and it’s easy. But now it’s tough. This is gonna be a really good test for this team. So I’m excited because I think we have the type of players that can bounce back from this.”
Sanchez’s final stat line read 26-for-44 for 346 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He was sacked three times and charged with two lost fumbles (although one and maybe both didn’t appear to be his fault).
The defense looked like a unit that had no chance against Aaron Rodgers. But in a game where the Eagles needed the offense to keep it competitive, they got a clunker from that side of the ball.
The run game continues to look pedestrian as LeSean McCoy ran 23 times for 88 yards (3.8 YPC). And the offensive line, which now has four of five starters healthy, did not perform well. On the Eagles’ first possession, they drove to the Packers’ 36, but right guard Matt Tobin got beaten badly for a sack that knocked them out of field goal range.
On the next possession, Jason Kelce made a bad call on third down, and Sanchez got sacked again, forcing a punt after a three-and-out.
The Eagles had been 7-for-7 in the red zone with Sanchez, but on Sunday they went 1-for-4. Early in the second quarter, down 17-0, the offense faced a 3rd-and-2 from the Green Bay 5. Kelly called for a naked bootleg, but Clay Matthews (unblocked) didn’t bite. He sacked Sanchez, and the Eagles were forced to settle for a field goal.
“We were trying to run a naked [bootleg] and then Clay jumped outside at both the tight end and wing,” Kelly explained. “Hadn’t shown that before. Good play by them. Good call by them. They got us.”
And then there was Sanchez.
In the first half, he was not the problem and actually played well at times, completing 10 of 16 passes for 148 yards. But in the second half, he was a mess. Sanchez and McCoy botched a handoff, and the Packers recovered. Later in the third quarter, Sanchez threw an interception right to Julius Peppers, who returned it 52 yards for a touchdown.
“I’m not necessarily sure how he didn’t see me on that,” Peppers told reporters.
Sanchez didn’t see an underneath defender against the Texans and was picked off. This was a similar play, just on the opposite side of the field. He’s thrown four interceptions (again, not all his fault) in three games and has an INT percentage of 3.9, which is fifth-worst among QBs who have attempted at least 100 passes. It’s also a higher than the one Nick Foles posted (3.2) this season.
Sunday’s loss wasn’t on Sanchez, but that doesn’t mean he played well. In the second half, he overthrew a wide open Riley Cooper on a deep post. He had Darren Sproles open near the sideline on what could have been a big play, but misfired. And he couldn’t connect with Zach Ertz on a corner route.
Told that many will assume he’s reverting to the Jets version of himself, Sanchez said: “That’s the way some of these games go. I feel like there’s plenty of things to get better, and we’ll concentrate on that. But to be totally honest, whether we won 100 to nothing or we lost the way we did, just like last week, what everybody else says on the outside really doesn’t affect what we have going on in our building. We’re a tight-knit group, like I said. We’re a family. So we’ll clean it up in-house and we’ll be ready to go next week.”
On Sunday, we saw how a player like Rodgers can put the team on his back. No one is asking that of Sanchez. But the Eagles have failed to reach any level of consistency so far this season on the offensive side of the ball.
In the next month, with plenty on the line for the team and himself personally, Sanchez will be out to prove he’s not the player who took the field Sunday at Lambeau Field.