Eagles' Sanchez long on confidence
Quarterback Mark Sanchez, who has been criticized for only throwing short passes, said he's focused on Cowboys.
SUNDAY'S DISMAL offensive showing against the Seattle Seahawks doesn't seem to have shaken Mark Sanchez's faith in himself, or his teammates' faith in the quarterback who took over for injured Nick Foles 5 weeks ago.
The Eagles had three possessions in the fourth quarter of the 24-14 loss, as their defense fought to keep them within striking distance. They generated 8 net yards; one of the possessions, set up by a potential game-turning fumble recovery, ended after one snap because Sanchez badly underthrew Riley Cooper and was intercepted.
Fox's cameras kept finding Sanchez on the sideline, looking morose. The Eagles managed one fourth-quarter first down as Sanchez was sacked three times, the only sacks he took all day.
"Mark seemed poised and eager to get back out there and make something happen [in the fourth quarter]," left guard Evan Mathis said yesterday, as the Birds turned their attention to Sunday's rematch with the Dallas Cowboys. "I liked his attitude, I liked the way he carried himself. He was never pouting, hanging his head or moping."
Sanchez met with the reporters for the first time since the immediate aftermath of the game. As the leader of the offense, he bears part of the responsibility for refocusing the team on Dallas - a game that very well might determine whether the Eagles make the playoffs. So that was Sanchez's priority, even as reporters grappled with the issues raised by the Seattle game.
"We just worry about the opinion in our locker room," Sanchez said, when asked about criticism in the wake of the loss, in which he completed 10 of 20 passes for only 96 yards. "The sentiment in our locker room. Team morale's high. Guys were upset about the loss, and that's normal, but it's already Tuesday. We're moved on and we've got to flush all of that negative energy . . . out on the field, and that's the best part about coming in Tuesday and running around."
But what about that fourth quarter, Mark? You were down 10, might as well have been 10 dozen. No spark.
"We didn't play our very best. We didn't finish the game the way we'd like to," Sanchez said. "We were in a tight ballgame, down 10. It's a two-score game. We had to get some points, and we didn't do that. If we did, I think we're feeling pretty good about our opportunity. But that's the way it goes . . . that's over."
Eagles offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said yesterday that reviewing the game film, Sanchez "was just like everybody else on offense - we didn't play well enough. Everybody out there had a handful of plays they'd like to have back, and it kind of added up on us."
Shurmur said it wasn't necessarily by design that the Eagles threw short just about all day, against Seattle's impressive secondary.
"We had progressions that were deep to short. We also had some progressions where it was horizontal," Shurmur said. "We certainly didn't get enough plays. Heck, we only had 23 plays in the first half, and that's certainly not what we're shooting for."
Asked if that meant the short throws were Sanchez's decision, Shurmur said: "Well, there are times when we call a deep-to-short concept where they cover it deep, so you throw it shorter. So it has nothing to do - I'll assure you, we are calling the same types of plays with Mark that we did with Nick."
Shurmur brought up a deep incompletion to Cooper, thrown into double coverage, the Eagles' only real over-the-top shot of the day, as in indication that Sanchez can throw the ball long enough. He recalled a similar 2013 Foles pass at Green Bay, on which DeSean Jackson outfought two Packers and made the catch.
"Coop was in position to do the same thing. We just didn't hit on it," Shurmur said.
That seemed to hint that maybe Seahawks corner Richard Sherman was right, after Sunday's game, when Sherman said the Eagles miss Jackson "tremendously."
"No, not at all, because I think Mac [Jeremy Maclin] can make plays down the field. I think Coop can make plays down the field, and we've seen Jordan Matthews make some big plays, too," Shurmur said. "We're really comfortable with the guys we have. They're out there competing and fighting. And if we want to talk specifically about the last game, nobody played well enough and nobody coached well enough to win it, and we saw the results."
Maclin hinted that maybe Sanchez was more comfortable with shorter throws, but he also indicated teams have adjusted to try to take away the long ball.
"Obviously, you cater to kind of what your quarterback can do. Mark does a great job at what he does," Maclin said. "But also, defenses are playing for that. Three weeks straight we were going over the top. So obviously they're very aware of that . . . I think teams are playing us a little different. And we haven't really had an opportunity to kind of connect downfield."
Because they were 2-for-11 on third down, the Eagles never got into a rhythm that might have opened up the offense. They faced third-and-6 or longer seven times and never converted.
"When you have third-and-long situations, it's because you're not executing on first and second down," Shurmur said. "We just didn't play well enough, and we put ourselves behind in a lot of situations against a really, really good defense."
Sanchez threw high to tight end Zach Ertz on one of those third-and-longs, in the fourth quarter. Ertz went up for the ball but saw it deflect through his hands.
"We were deep in our territory [in the fourth], but if we had one play, somebody made one play, myself included, the game would have turned and it would have felt like we were in it more," Ertz said yesterday. "That's a testament to them. They're a great team. They won the Super Bowl last [season]. We don't think we're far away from that."
Ertz said Sanchez was "very focused" down the stretch Sunday. "Same demeanor he always has. He played the game to the best of his abilities. I know he wants some throws back, we want some catches back, everyone wants something back. But if we win this game, hopefully, we'll see [Seattle] again [in the postseason]."