By Pat McAvoy
For Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez, this Sunday’s season-ender with the New York Giants will be like returning to the scene o the crime.
MetLife Stadium is where he spent the tale end of his abortive career as New York Jets’ QB, so it will be just like old times: A meaningless game at MetLife Stadium to close out the regular season as questions swirl about his uncertain future.
The former Jets quarterback will be back at his old home Sunday afternoon, as the Eagles, losers of three straight, finish out a disappointing December against the Giants.
“There are quite a few plays, whether it was a bad throw or a miscommunication or things like that, that we all want back,” he said in a conference call on Wednesday. “It is the ultimate team sport and these last three weeks have been a tough pill to swallow, but we will learn a lot from it and move on.”
Sanchez, a soon-to-be free agent, may be moving on elsewhere. He feels he has proven he is capable of being a starter in the league once again, despite throwing 10 interceptions and going 3-4 as a starter after replacing injured starter Nick Foles in Week 9.
“I know I can play at this level and compete at a high level,” he said. “It was a ton of fun. I’ve got one more chance.”
Sanchez got off to a fast start this season, leading the Eagles to three victories in his first four starts. He supposedly was fixed after struggling in his final years with the Jets, Philly coach Chip Kelly’s fast-paced system the perfect fit for the former Jets quarterback.
But three straight losses have followed, knocking the one-time NFC East-leading Eagles out of the playoff picture and raising the same questions about Sanchez that were asked in his final years of his time in New York.
His numbers have tailed off while his turnovers — five in the last three games — have remained constant. While Kelly attributed the Eagles’ recent struggles to team-wide issues on both sides of the ball and said Sanchez has performed well for the most part, the former USC star admitted his play isn’t quite up to par.
Despite the late slide, Sanchez has remained upbeat, repeatedly describing this season as “fun” and “a positive experience.” He’s maintained his health and shown he’s durable after missing all of last year with an injured right shoulder.
“The biggest thing was being healthy and being able to throw and make all the throws, whether it was on the run or in the pocket, and get back to being 100 percent healthy,” he said. “That was the most important thing and then after that was having some big games and winning some big games.”
The Giants haven’t noticed any difference in the Eagles offense between Foles and Sanchez from the film they’ve watched. There are obviously differences between the two quarterbacks. The Eagles aren’t stretching the field vertically quite as much, but they are using Sanchez’s mobility as a weapon on rollouts and even draw plays.
“I thought he’s played pretty well,” defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins said. “He’s had ups and downs, but Sanchez to me is a streaky quarterback. Once he gets rolling, once he gets that confident and he gets on that up streak, he can make a lot of plays that can hurt you.”
The Giants still are licking their wounds from the first matchup with Philly, a humbling 27-0 loss in which they lost linebacker Jon Beason and wide receiver Victor Cruz to season-ending injuries and led to a season-damaging seven-game losing streak.
“It’s something that we hold within ourselves, it’s something that we hold strong,” safety Antrel Rolle said, referring to the ugly loss to the Eagles. “It’s something that we can’t forget. We got to make sure we do the exact opposite of what we did the first time around.”