Wake-Up Call: Sanchez, Eagles Not Good Enough
The game had morphed into a shootout and it was Mark Sanchez‘s turn to fire.
After a dismal start in which the home team put up exactly zero yards on six plays in the first quarter, the offense clicked in and the Eagles rattled off 24 straight to turn a 21-0 deficit into a three-point lead.
Tony Romo and the Cowboys answered with an eight-play, 78-yard drive capped by DeMarco Murray‘s two-yard plunge that put Dallas back on top, 28-24 late in the third quarter. On the ensuing possession, Sanchez dropped back on 3rd-and-7 and located an open Zach Ertz over the middle. The pass was too far out in front of the second-year tight end, though, and the ball glanced off his outstretched hands and was intercepted by safety J.J. Wilcox. The Cowboys turned that into seven, extending their advantage to 35-24.
Sanchez threw one more pick late and the Eagles turned the ball over twice overall down the stretch en route to damaging 38-27 loss to the Cowboys.
“Very disappointing,” said Sanchez. “I’m the first guy to say I’m just upset with myself. Can’t turn the ball over. We knew they were going to come with a lot of energy. We got behind from the jump. But there is no excuse for missing Ertz over the middle and then trying to force that ball late at the end. I can’t commit two turnovers like that. I didn’t play well enough to win, that’s why we lost.”
That’s definitely not the only reason. The botched kick return to start the game got things spinning in a bad direction, and the image of Dez Bryant hauling in touchdown pass after touchdown pass against single coverage will likely be the lasting one. Sanchez didn’t lose this game for the Eagles, but he wasn’t nearly good enough to win it for them either.
He finished 17-of-28 for 252 yards with no touchdowns and the two interceptions for a quarterback rating of 60.4. He now has nine interceptions to 10 touchdown passes on the year, and dropped to 3-3 as the starter.
“I’m better than that. I can only be accountable for myself and I know all the guys feel the same way I do,” he said. “We have to take ownership of this thing and it starts with the quarterback. I have to be a lot better.”
Chip Kelly provided no update on Nick Foles, who is expected to have his fractured collarbone re-checked early this week. If cleared, he could be back practicing in the very near future. Does Sanchez believe he will still be the starting quarterback this Saturday in Washington?
“I have no idea,” he said, “but I need to clean up some mistakes and attack this thing like I do every week. That’s with a positive attitude, learning from the previous week, learning from this game and being ready to play.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Here’s what we saw in the Eagles’ 38-27 loss to the Cowboys.
What does the loss mean for the Eagles’ playoff hopes?
The Birds have been facing more zone than man coverage in Chip Kelly‘s second season.
Eagles VP of Player Personnel Tom Gamble has been mentioned as a top GM candidate this offseason.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com talks about the Eagles strong run defense as well as their poor offensive line protection:
7. I don’t think there’s a running back out there who could have a big game against this run defense. DeMarco Murray did finish with 81 yards, but he needed 31 carries to get there and averaged just 2.6 yards per carry. His only two games under 4.0 yards a pop this year have been against the Eagles (3.7 on Thanksgiving). This is a big-time run defense. It’s a terrific starting point for the defense. Unfortunately …
8. There’s the matter of pass defense. And this was another absolutely brutal day for Bradley Fletcher. Somebody asked on Twitter whether he’s worst than Nnamdi, and just that they’re even in the same conversation tells you all you need to know. Fletcher the last couple weeks has been really awful, and I know the Eagles like big, tall, physical corners, and I know it’s tough to find cornerbacks, and I know the new rule enforcements make it difficult to play the position. But they simply have to get better at corner. And by the way, Brandon Boykin, who had such a remarkable season last year, has really been disappointing this year, too. Had a very tough night against the Cowboys.
9. I expected a lot more from the Eagles’ offensive line in this game after the way they battered the Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day. But they really got manhandled, giving up four sacks — the most since the opener — and just never allowing the offense to get in any kind of rhythm. After netting 464 yards in the first game, the Eagles had just 294 Sunday night. A lot of that is on Sanchez, but all in all, a terrible day up front.
The Eagles lost back-to-back games for the first time since October 2013 and dropped to 9-5 this season. They have two games remaining against Washington and New York. The postseason is still well within the Eagles’ reach, but they are currently outside of the playoff bracket and need other teams to lose to open a spot. They have also given themselves little margin for error in these final weeks.
Their best chance at winning the division was to beat the Cowboys Sunday for the second time in 17 days. They were instead undone by turnovers and miscues, and the Cowboys’ offense was much better with extended rest than it was on Thanksgiving.
We’ll speak with Kelly at the day-after presser around 1 p.m.