GREEN BAY, Wis. - Mark Sanchez's history hangs over his head like an anvil, and since he joined the Eagles, the thread that holds it there never has looked as thin as it did Sunday.
This is not about blaming Sanchez for the Eagles' humiliation at Lambeau Field, for a 53-20 loss that represented perhaps the lowest moment of Chip Kelly's 26-game tenure as head coach.
Sanchez was just one of many offenders Sunday, and from Kelly's failure to prepare his team for a championship-caliber opponent to a defense that could neither rattle Aaron Rodgers nor cover any of the Packers receivers, there are plenty of places and players who bear responsibility. Sanchez was somewhere in the middle of that list. But he was still on it, and he earned his way there with the sorts of spectacular mistakes that were common throughout his final two seasons with the New York Jets.
He threw two interceptions, including one that Packers linebacker Julius Peppers returned 52 yards for a touchdown. He fumbled three times, losing two of them - the second on a high shotgun snap from center Jason Kelce that shot through Sanchez's hands, that Sanchez couldn't scoop off the ground, and that Packers cornerback Casey Hayward toted 49 yards for another score.
Since replacing Nick Foles, Sanchez has committed six turnovers in three games, and although the Packers already had buried the Eagles by the time he began burping up the football Sunday, Sanchez is still showing the same disturbing carelessness that he did in 2011 and 2012, when he led the NFL with 52 turnovers.
That's the concern here. That's the problem that he and Kelly and the Eagles have to solve next week against the Tennessee Titans and beyond.
This game was gone early for the Eagles, and after Sanchez's solid and turnover-free performance against Carolina last Monday night, after Foles spent the first half of the season backpedaling from pass rushers and throwing too many interceptions himself, Sanchez didn't have to lead a crazy, miraculous comeback to retain everyone's confidence. He just had to keep things from getting out of hand, from opening himself and his teammates to ridicule, and he couldn't.
"Look, that's the way some of these games go," he said. "I feel like there's plenty of things to get better, and we'll concentrate on that. But to be totally honest, whether we won a hundred to nothing or we lost the way we did, just like last week, what everybody else says on the outside really doesn't affect what we have going on in our building. We're a tight-knit group. We're a family. We'll clean it up next week."
The improvement has to start with the most basic part of the entire offense: the snap. Kelce admitted after Sunday's game that he and Sanchez have been out of sync, mostly because Kelce tends to snap the football with a good deal of speed and force, and Sanchez prefers the ball to land softly in his hands. "It's huge," Kelce said. "As of right now, it's hurting Mark, and it's hurting the offense. Obviously, he will be more efficient if he's not worried about the snap."
It sounds like such a simple, minor thing, but it's not. Kelly's entire offensive system is predicated on an intangible and rhythmic connection among the 11 players on the field and the coaches on the sideline. That connection is what allows the Eagles to call and run so many plays so quickly - all of the people involved thinking and moving as one organism - and it's why Kelly can shape the system to fit just about any quarterback.
But in this situation, particularly with a quarterback prone to errors in the past, a disruption of that rhythm, that connection, puts the whole process in peril. Snap the ball high to Aaron Rodgers, and he leaps, catches it, resets his feet, and makes a throw that no one else in the NFL can make. Rodgers is the Packers' system. Snap the ball high to Mark Sanchez, and the entire structure of the Eagles offense could crumble . . . which it pretty much did Sunday.
"It's easy when you're on the other end of this thing like we were last week," Sanchez said. "You're on national TV and everything's going great and you can't miss, and we score a lot of points and defense and special teams score. And that's fun, and it's easy. But now it's tough. And this is going to be a really good test for this team."
It's more than a test. It cuts to the core of what this team can and was expected to accomplish. The Eagles are built around their offense, and even at 7-3, even holding onto a share of first place in the NFC East, they are assured of nothing yet in this crowded and competitive conference. They cannot afford a quarterback who too often has appeared incapable of playing two clean, crisp games in a row. This has always been Mark Sanchez's history, his greatest flaw, and for the sake of the Eagles' season, this has to stop now.
Mark Sanchez is building an Eagles resumé, two full games and three quarters of another after Nick Foles left the Houston game on Nov. 2 with a broken collarbone. Here is how Sanchez did Sunday at Green Bay, how he has done this season, and how he compares to Foles through the Eagles' first 10 games:
Sanchez 26-44 59.1 346 2-2 7.9
Sanchez 61-103 59.2 880 6-4 8.5
Foles 186-311 59.8 2,163 13-10 7.0
Sacks: Sanchez 6 for 43 yards, Foles 9 for 74 yards