Question: Can the Eagles beat a good team if the quarterback insists upon turning the ball over twice a game?
Answer: It would seem that we all are about to find out.
The news of the day is that the Eagles rolled over the Tennessee Titans, 43-24. It was their 10th consecutive home victory. A week after getting themselves rolled at Green Bay, it was the kind of decisive result against a struggling team that settled everything down as the team approaches the decisive stretch of the season.
But beneath all of that, the question nags. Mark Sanchez again could not take care of the ball. It has been the issue for his entire career and it continues to be his issue this season. He threw two more interceptions against the Titans. He now has 6 interceptions in the four games he has played since Nick Foles got hurt and eight turnovers in total. And even if they weren't all completely his fault -- we see you there, Riley Cooper -- the pattern is the pattern.
"Maybe a couple of years ago, those two interceptions would just eat away at me," Sanchez said. "But there's no time to worry about it. There is time to fix it this week, and really work on some of those throws when you're on the move, throws that I've hit a million times. That's the most frustrating thing. I'm sure, for a golfer, when you make that easy 4-foot putt all the time and one day, you lip out -- it's not cool. We'll get it right. I know those guys are going to be open again and it's my job to put it on them."
The first pick against Tennessee was at least partially Cooper's fault -- the throw was ill-advised, yes, but the route Cooper ran was lazy, it seemed. The second pick was just a misfire, overthrowing intended receiver Zach Ertz. They didn't really matter because the opponent was the opponent, and maybe you just chalk it up to the chances a quarterback is willing to take in that kind of a game.
Or maybe you decide that this is always going to be the issue with Sanchez, and that neither the opponent nor the import of the game make any difference. He makes some nice throws and makes you believe and then he makes some terrible throws and yanks you back to a different reality.
And, so, on to Dallas.
And, so, will the quarterback be enough?
"The first one, I think Coop and I just weren't on the same page," Sanchez said. "I was expecting something a little different and I think he was, too. That stuff kind of happens from time to time. Those ones, you can live with. The second one, I mean, there's no excuse for it. Ertz made a great play, Ertz and Jordan (Matthews) were both open, and I was throwing to Ertz and I just airmailed it. I just missed. I just physically missed the throw. Those, you can't have late in the year. That's just a frustrating thing.
"But more important than all of that is a huge win, at home. Awesome job, special teams. Awesome job, defense. Running game got going -- that was big for us. Big. We got LeSean (McCoy) running a little bit, (and the) offensive line played great. There's a lot of good things to take away from this thing."
This is all true. And if it seems like this is a little harsh, this questioning of Sanchez, given that he threw for 307 yards against the Titans, so be it. Because the competition will be ratcheted up significantly in the next three weeks. Playing at Dallas on Thanksgiving, traveling on a very short week, is hardly ideal. After that comes Seattle at home, which isn't as murderous as it seemed in September but is still a very significant test, and then home against Dallas in the rematch.
The whole season will likely be decided in those three games. The defense is what it is, with an excellent pass rush and a ridiculous propensity to give up big plays. The Titans' Zach Mettenberger threw for 345 yards against them. Everybody seems to throw for 345 yards against them. The Eagles are likely going to need to outscore the Cowboys and Seahawks to win those games, and nobody can be all that surprised about that.
And, well, even as the Eagles' running game was revived against the Titans, everybody would feel a whole lot better about the outscoring-the-other-guys thing if Sanchez could find a way to take care of the ball.
Now, it's true that each game tells its own story, and that what happened here has nothing to do with what will happen on Thursday, but at a certain point, you begin to temper your expectations. How can you not? The scheme seems to be giving Sanchez plenty of opportunities -- and, to repeat, 307 yards passing with 30-for-43 accuracy is real productivity.
But, as Sanchez acknowledged, "If you squander too many opportunities, you might miss out on the playoffs."
The truth is that the mistakes mean everything when the games mean everything. And, well, here we go.