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Sanchez's date with redemption

If you've already declared Mark Sanchez's career resurrected, you might want to see how he fares against Seattle.

Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)
Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. (Yong Kim/Staff Photographer)Read more

FOR MORE than a week, Mark Sanchez has basked in the glow of a glorious Butt Fumble anniversary.

Two years removed from his most ignominious moment in five seasons with the Jets, Sanchez led the Eagles to a win in Dallas.

Well, OK; maybe Sanchez didn't lead the Eagles to a win. But he didn't lose the game, anyway. Sometimes, for quarterbacks such as he, that is more important.

Thanksgiving last week was hailed as Sanchez's redemption game.

That was wrong.

When the Seahawks visit Sunday evening, the measure of Sanchez's redemption will be told. They devour quarterbacks.

If the San-Chise somehow thrives Sunday, consider it a Lazarus event.

He said yesterday that he believes the Seahawks, while an excellent defense, offer no special chance for him to gauge his progress as an Eagle in the up-tempo offense.

"Each week's just another test for us," Sanchez said. "I'd like to think I'm getting better. I know I feel more comfortable with the system, that's for sure."

His comfort level will be sorely tested.

Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he considers Seattle's defense the league's best.

Specifically, the Seahawks have held opposing passers to an 85.9 rating this season. That number ranks 11th in the league, but even that is misleading.

In the past six games, they have allowed one passer to reach that mark, and that was the Chiefs' Alex Smith, who threw just 16 passes for 108 yards.

They also have faced Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and both Peyton and Eli Manning this season, a group that boasts 22 Pro Bowl elections among them. OK, so most of the Pro Bowl spots belong to Peyton, but still . . .

That they rank no lower than third in passing yards allowed per game, touchdown passes and - most remarkably - in fewest opponents' passing attempts is an apt indicator as to how tough they make things for quarterbacks.

They are tied for third with the Raiders, who also have seen 386 attempts. Then again, the Raiders, Giants and Washington have a combined record of 7-29. Their opponents generally build leads early in games, then run the ball late.

The Seahawks' opponents are just too scared to throw it much.

Motormouth cornerback Richard Sherman has 23 interceptions since 2011, nine more than his closest rival and fourth most in NFL history for any player through his first four seasons. Sherman has three interceptions in his last five games, two of them on Thanksgiving at San Francisco.

Eagles coaches have been asked repeatedly this week if they, like most teams, will simply avoid throwing at Sherman, the way teams once avoided Deion Sanders and Champ Bailey (and, incredibly, Nnamdi Asomugha).

Their answer: maybe.

Out of one side of their mouths, they say Sherman is fearsome; that's mainly coach Chip Kelly. Out of the other side of their mouths, they insist they cannot make Sherman's turf a "no-throw zone," as Drew Brees called the areas Bailey policed; that's what offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said.

Kelly yesterday split the difference.

"He's probably the best corner in the league. You've always got to be aware of where [he is]," Kelly said. "We're going to have our plan and we're going to execute it."

It would be a fine plan, if it includes avoiding Sherman.

Sorry, Jeremy Maclin.

Then again, the Eagles could just scheme Sherman out of harm's way by sending whoever he covers (most likely Maclin) deep. Sanchez hardly ever throws it more than 20 yards.

In fact, in his 19 quarters of play Sanchez has averaged fewer than half as many attempts per quarter (0.79) as did injured starter Nick Foles (1.72) in 29 quarters of play.

Kelly explained this away by saying defenses and the Eagles' game plans dictated that Sanchez keep it shorter . . . but, really, Sanchez lacks the deep-ball strength and accuracy that Foles, at his best, has shown.

And Foles wasn't exactly Daryle Lamonica, either.

It's easy to be fooled by what Sanchez has shown in his five games. The buzz around the league is how Sanchez has become a "different quarterback" from the one who threw 69 interceptions and 68 touchdown passes with the Jets.

Sanchez didn't look like a different quarterback in his first four games, when he threw six interceptions and seven TDs.

Actually, Sanchez looked more competent against the Titans, despite two interceptions, and the Cowboys, against whom he was clean. Then again, in the last two games the left side of the offensive line, finally healed, began to dominate defenses, as designed.

Franchise back LeSean McCoy also rushed for 289 yards and two touchdowns in those wins, arguably his best two-game stretch since 2011.

Sanchez looks like a different quarterback because he's running a different scheme behind a talented offensive line with superior weapons, such as McCoy, receivers Jordan Matthews and Maclin and tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek.

The mirage, if it is one, could continue.

McCoy could continue his productive spurt against the Seahawks.

Certainly, that looked more likely on the evening of Nov. 11, when news hit that Seattle defensive tackle Brandon Mebane was placed on injured reserve. Mebane's injury seemed to make the Seahawks vulnerable; their run defense would suffer, and the point of the passing pocket would be less likely to collapse.

Sure enough, the Seahawks lost the next week at Kansas City when the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles rushed for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.

However, in the next two games the Seahawks allowed the featured backs from Arizona and San Francisco a total of 52 yards on 20 carries with no touchdowns and long runs of 7 yards in each game.

Arizona and San Francisco scored three points apiece.

Certainly, the Seahawks' defense consists of more than Richard Sherman and a defensive tackle with a torn hamstring.

Middle linebacker Bobby Wagner is a tackling machine. Free-agent defensive end Cliff Avril has 4 1/2 sacks. Kelly said he considers safety Earl Thomas to be the game's best at his position. Sanchez has shown an excellent knowledge of Kelly's offense and he runs it faster than anyone else has, but Sanchez's cleverness - he likes to entice safeties by looking one way and throwing another - probably won't help much against Thomas.

"It's really difficult for people to fool him," Kelly said of Thomas. "People try to look him off, but he always seems to be going in the right spot."

Usually, when you get to the right spot against Sanchez, bad things happen for Sanchez's team.

That could change Sunday. If it does change, consider Sanchez redeemed.

Until then, hold off on the resurrection celebration.