The New England Patriots have lost only six home games during the past six seasons, so there aren't many quarterbacks in the NFL who know what it's like to leave Gillette Stadium with a victory.
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez is one of them.
Sanchez lost four regular season games in Foxborough, Mass., but he was the winning quarterback over the Patriots in the second round of the playoffs on Jan. 16, 2011.
Sanchez is expected to be the Eagles' No. 2 quarterback when the Patriots host the Eagles on Sunday. His time in the AFC East gave him healthy respect for New England, and that playoff victory gave him a unique perspective – especially when he considered just how hard it is to win there.
"The margin for error in this game in general, but especially when you player there vs. that team, you can't mess with it," Sanchez said. "You're just playing with fire. It's a tough place to play. Fun, great atmosphere, but they're really, really good."
Sanchez's guide to winning in New England started with the turnover differential and special teams. Those areas create hidden yardage, and each yard is precious when playing a Bill Belichick-coached team.
"I've only won one time up there," Sanchez said. "You need at least one turnover from them. You can't give the ball away. Your special teams has to be lights out – field position, no blocked punts, no blocked field goals, no missed extra points. One hundred percent, those come back to bite you. They live for that. And you need to get one – you need to get one turnover. Obviously more is great. But you cannot give it up."
Four teams have won there when turning the ball over, but only two teams have won when were not ahead in turnover differential. The only time the Patriots lost when turning the ball over was against the Buffalo Bills in Week 17 last year when the Patriots had already clinched their playoff position and did not play their starters the whole game. Otherwise, the Patriots had at least one turnover in every loss.
Sanchez then turned his attention to the end-of-half scenarios, when the Patriots have a habit of finding important points.
"What they're really, really good at is before the half, going down and scoring or getting a field goal in a two-minute drill before the half," Sanchez said. "Before the half, they're unbelievable at going down and at least getting a field goal, cutting your lead by three points, or extending their lead by three. It's almost like a point where before the half, when you're in your two-minute drill, if you get to third down and it's third and 10 and you're still back on your own 20, don't even mess with it. Run the ball. Waste the time, run the ball, don't even try for an incompletion. Take a sack, make them use a timeout. Because you don't want to give them the ball back."
The Patriots have scored a touchdown in the final minute of the first half in three of six home games this season. Since 2010, they've scored in the final two minutes of the first half of 23 home victories in the regular season and playoffs.
Then Sanchez turned his attention to penalties. Similar to his sentiment about special teams, the hidden yardage is a key. In the playoff game that the Jets won with Sanchez, they committed only three penalties and did not turn the ball over. That's a big reason Sanchez can talk about winning in Foxborough.
"It's got to be mistake-free," Sanchez said. "You can't have penalties. You have to win the penalty battle. False starts, roughing the passer, stuff like that? No room for that. No room."