PHILADELPHIA (AP) Mark Sanchez has turned the Philadelphia Eagles into a red-zone scoring machine.
Since Sanchez replaced Nick Foles, the Eagles have scored touchdowns on each of their seven trips inside the opponents’ 20 in the last seven quarters. They were 8 for 23 in the red zone with Foles at quarterback for seven games and one quarter.
”When we haven’t been good early in the year in the red zone, it was because we turned the ball over,” offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. ”It was a mixture of fumbles and interceptions. We as a unit took care of the ball better, and we as a unit scored more touchdowns.”
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Foles threw for 125 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions in the red zone before he broke his collarbone against Houston two weeks ago. He also led the Eagles to 10 field goals to go along with the eight TDs, so they got points of 18 of the 23 drives.
The three other drives that resulted in no points ended with a fumble, failed conversion on fourth down and a blocked field goal. Meanwhile, Sanchez is 5 for 7 for 53 yards, four TDs and no INTs in the red zone.
It’s too small of a sample size for coach Chip Kelly to give all the credit to the new quarterback.
”If you don’t turn it over down there, you’ve got a shot,” Kelly said. ”I think (Sanchez) made some really good decisions down there.”
Sanchez isn’t known for protecting the football well. He has 71 career interceptions and 72 TDs. He threw two INTs after replacing Foles against the Texans.
”The most important thing in the red zone, those throwing lanes get tighter,” Sanchez said. ”You’ve got to remind the wide receivers, as soon as they catch, they’ve got to run vertical (routes). There’s no side-to-side kind of stuff. You’ve got to slice the defense and get up the field.
”Quarterbacks have to be incredibly smart, especially as the play extends itself, get smarter as the play goes on. And really take care of the football, knowing that we’ve got three points.”
The Eagles (7-2) can’t settle for field goals – or no points – when they get inside Green Bay’s red zone Sunday. The Packers (6-3) have averaged 37.2 points during the last six games, going 5-1. Aaron Rodgers threw for six TDs in the first half of a 55-14 win over Chicago last Sunday.
”Aaron Rodgers is playing as well as you’ve ever seen him play,” defensive coordinator Billy Davis said. ”His receivers are catching everything. They’ve got a great plan; they have a big running back that will run downhill. They’ve got a balanced attack. They’ve got a very accurate thrower, a good decision maker who can get out of trouble. This is probably the most balanced, efficient offense we’ve faced.”
NOTES: The Eagles should have the same starters for the second straight game after losing Foles, LB DeMeco Ryans (Achilles) and RG Todd Herremans (biceps) in the same against the Texans.
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