Sanchez brushes off critics, focuses on Dallas
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Criticism is nothing new for Mark Sanchez, so he easily brushes it aside.
After Seattle beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-14 last week, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett said Sanchez is ''impersonating a good quarterback.'' Sanchez has more important matters to focus on with a first-place showdown against the Cowboys coming up Sunday night.
''I guess he doesn't like me. No biggie,'' Sanchez said with a shrug. ''We just worry about the opinion in our locker room. We're poised and ready to go against Dallas.''
Sanchez is 3-2 as a starter since replacing Nick Foles after he broke his collarbone on Nov. 2. He was excellent in wins at Houston, at Dallas and over Carolina. But he struggled in losses at Green Bay and against Seattle.
When he plays well, fickle fans want Sanchez to get a contract extension and lead the team into the future. When he throws interceptions, they want him gone. Foles is moving closer toward a return, but it's uncertain how coach Chip Kelly will handle it.
A victory over the Cowboys (9-4) would put the Eagles (9-4) on the brink of winning their second straight NFC East title. They'd have a tough time making the playoffs if they lose to Dallas.
Sanchez's future could depend on how he performs this week. He's played plenty of big games before and knows how to handle the pressure. Sanchez led the New York Jets to AFC championship games his first two seasons, but ended up being laughed out of the Big Apple.
''You don't change,'' he said about the way he handles important games. ''You trust your preparation and trust your system and take your training onto the field.''
When the game is on the line, Sanchez would rather be under center than watching the defense try to clinch a win.
''You have to want the ball with a few seconds left and fourth down,'' he said.
Sanchez has thrown for 1,500 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing 62.1 percent of his passes for a passer rating of 88. Foles didn't come close to matching his Pro Bowl performance last year. He had an 81.4 passer rating after finishing at 119.2 in 2013, the third-best in NFL history.
With Foles, the Eagles had more big plays and completed more deep passes. Sanchez hasn't thrown the long ball nearly as often. While critics point to his arm strength, coaches say there's more to it such as defensive coverages.
''There are times when we call a deep-to-short concept where they cover it deep so you throw it shorter,'' offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. ''I assure you we are calling the same types of plays with Mark that we did with Nick. If we want to just throw the ball far, we can do that.''
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.organd AP NFL Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Rob Maaddi on Twitter: https://twitter.com/AP-RobMaaddi