In his first start since week 17 of the 2012 season Mark Sanchez ran the show at Lincoln Financial Field on Monday night as the Philadelphia Eagles ran out 21-45 winners over a struggling Carolina Panthers team.
After Nick Foles broke his collar bone against the Houston Texans last week, an injury that may keep him out for some time, the onus fell firmly on the shoulders of back-up quarterback Mark Sanchez.
And with the 28-year-old former USC Trojan having bench-warmed for over a year after an ignominious end to a problematic Jets career any pre-match doubts could be well founded.
But on his return to starting football games Sanchez looked right at home as he threw for 332 passing yards which included two touchdown throws.
And special teams and defence got in on the action too as Darren Sproles returned a 65 yard punt virtually untouched while cornerback Bradley Fletcher returned an interception for 34 yards.
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“Just an outstanding performance by all three phases,” Sanchez said post-game.
After starting the season 2-0 everything has gone downhill for the Panthers and their recent slump continued into last night’s performance.
And if Sanchez saw a change in fortunes Carolina quarterback Cam Newton experienced the exact opposite. In a first half to forget he threw three interceptions (one of which resulting in a pick 6) and was sacked five times.
There was a late surge from the former Auburn star but his two touchdown throws were too little too late as the Eagles took their feet of the gas.
We’ve got to do things better. I have to coach better, coaches have to coach better, we have to practice better and then go out and play better - Ron Rivera
The defeat marks off a four game losing streak as the Panthers look a shadow of the side that won the NFC South last year. They’ve already allowed more points in 10 games than they did in the whole of the 2013 season and their offensive line is still yet to click after a major overhaul in the summer.
And head coach Ron Rivera knows things need to improve in Carolina.
“We’ve got to do things better. I have to coach better, coaches have to coach better, we have to practice better and then go out and play better. And we’re going to do it together as a team.”
The Eagles’ (7-2) win continues to keep things tight at the top of the NFC East with the Cowboys (7-3) still hot on their tail. And despite only winning once in their last eight games the Panthers (3-6-1) still have an outside shot at the play-offs as NFC South leaders New Orleans Saints (4-5) lost in overtime to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.