It was the signature play of another sickening performance by coach Charles Edward Kelly's fast sinking football team. With the clock nearing the game's expiration point, Mark Sanchez looked to his left and floated a pass in the direction of Darren Sproles, the diminutive running back who was supposed to be among the multitude of weapons on an Eagles offense that was going to pile up lots and lots of points this season.
The only problem was that Sanchez threw the ball to where he thought Sproles should have been rather than where he actually was. Tampa Bay's Lavonte David took advantage of the miscommunication by turning it into his second interception of the game. From there, the linebacker ran 20 yards for a touchdown that completed the scoring in the Buccaneers' 45-17 rout of the Eagles on Sunday afternoon at Lincoln Financial Field.
As Davis headed for the end zone and the few remaining fans headed for the exits, Sanchez stared down Sproles and raised his arms and voice in anger and frustration. As the two headed for the sideline, the exchange became more heated, with Sproles firing back at Sanchez.
We had the answer to when this disappointing Eagles season would reach its boiling point.
Eventually, the two men calmed down, but the conversation continued with offensive tackle Jason Peters joining them along the sideline.
"We got that cleared up real quick," Sanchez said. "We are both competitors, we are both trying to win and emotions kind of get going in a loss like that. It's not really Sproles' fault. On a screen like that vs. man [coverage], we've got to get that guy blocked, and I'm trying to get it over a D-lineman to Sproles, and it looks like he's on the run, so I'm trying to lead him on the run and let him squirt out of the back side there.
"So he stopped and I had already let the ball go, and when he stopped that's why I was upset. Looking back on the replay, I could see why he stopped. [David] made a pretty good play. It's too bad it ended up like that, but we're all good. We talked about it, and he's a heck of a player and he's trying to make a play just like I am, and it just didn't work out."
Sproles addressed the issue in four words afterward.
"We're fine," he said. "We're OK."
Sproles and Sanchez might be fine and OK, but the Eagles' offense is a hot mess that appears to be beyond fixing.
Much of the blame for the lopsided loss that dropped the Eagles' record to 4-6 will be pinned on a defense that allowed 521 yards, including 283 on the ground. Rookie quarterback Jameis Winston torched a suspect secondary and a nonexistent pass rush for five touchdown passes.
The offense, however, was every bit as culpable as the defense in this defeat, as Sanchez threw three interceptions and showed once again that he cannot be trusted as a starting quarterback. The outcome was decided by the time David picked off Sanchez in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles had a chance to go into the locker room with some momentum at halftime.
After Tampa Bay went up by 28-14 on Winston's fourth touchdown pass with just over a minute left in the half, Sanchez led the Eagles from their own 26-yard line to the Tampa Bay 33 with the help of a roughing-the-passer penalty. But the drive was aborted when David intercepted a throw intended for tight end Brent Celek.
Broken-record alert: Sanchez is about to talk about an ill-timed interception.
"I probably could have held it a second longer," Sanchez said. "I think [David] just squeezed [the route], so I have to go somewhere else with the ball, especially in field-goal range like that."
Sanchez, making his first start in place of the injured Sam Bradford, also threw an interception early in the fourth quarter after the Eagles had entered Tampa Bay territory.
For the record, Sanchez has thrown at least one pick in 50 of his 73 career starts, and his team is 7-16 whenever he throws more than one interception. He did also have a couple of touchdown passes, which evened his career ledger at 84 touchdowns and 84 interceptions.
In fairness, this was an offense headed in reverse before Sanchez took over the reins. In Kelly's first two seasons, the Eagles scored 30 or more points 17 times in 33 games and put up 400 yards or more of offense 22 times. This season, the offense has scored 30 or more three times and compiled 400 yards or more just four times.
The Eagles have scored 20 or fewer points five times this season as opposed to seven times total in Kelly's first two seasons. Most of that cannot be blamed on Sanchez, who is likely to make a second straight start when the Eagles play at Detroit on Thanksgiving.
A lot, of course, has changed since those first two seasons, including the starting quarterback many times, and Kelly's master plan that was supposed to take the Eagles from consecutive 10-6 seasons to something special or even super is clearly not working.
"Do I think we have the people to be productive on the offensive side of the ball?" Kelly asked in response to a question. "Yes, I do."
If you want to be among the skeptics on that point, you'll have to get in line.