This is not a declaration about how Mark Sanchez has revitalized his career in one night, nor of confident belief that the Eagles' playoff hopes are intact. If there's anything to draw from last night's blowout of the Panthers, it's just that Chip Kelly's team still has a chance. That's good enough when your offense is in the hands of a Jets refugee.
A home start against a toothless Carolina defense was a gentle way to ease Sanchez in. He had 332 yards with two touchdowns, with 20 completions on 37 attempts. (His accuracy needs to improve.) Kelly's offense demanded quick throws, and Sanchez delivered them. He slid out of the pocket when appropriate and evaded Carolina's pass rush, getting sacked only once. There wasn't a sequel to the Buttfumble, or even a turnover: Sanchez fumbled twice, but his team recovered both.
The Panthers' offense also helped Sanchez, since it was unable to do anything until garbage time. Philadelphia's defense mashed Cam Newton up, and a Bradley Fletcher pick-six gave the Eagles a 31-7 lead before halftime. Sanchez's role turned into just keeping the lead, and he excelled at that.
Sanchez had a couple of highlights, though. He threw a beautiful ball to Brent Celek in the third quarter that was a yard short of a touchdown after a review. (The tight end also deserves credit for holding on.) At the beginning of the second quarter, the quarterback ran a nearly flawless no-huddle drive, hitting rookie receiver Jordan Matthews four times for 73 yards and the touchdown. Sanchez looked comfortable, because Kelly's offense morphs to accentuate the quarterback's strengths. The coach said so recently. Via Philly.com:
"I don't have an offense. I've said that since day one," [Kelly] said last week. "Our offense is directed around our quarterback. So tell me who is playing quarterback and I'll tell you what our offense is going to be and how it's going to look, because we can always cater it to the skills of our [quarterback].
"That's the beauty of what we're doing here."
With an excellent performance and win, Sanchez celebrated appropriately in Philly. He stopped by Pat's and Geno's after the game to get cheesesteaks with fans. One Eagles fan offered his cheese fries to the quarterback who had inadvertently became Philadelphia's new hope.