Dallas Cowboys

Mark Sanchez struggles for Cowboys in return to Philadelphia

Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez had a “rough day” Sunday against the Eagles, posting a 27.5 passer rating.
Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez had a “rough day” Sunday against the Eagles, posting a 27.5 passer rating. AP

Third-string quarterback Mark Sanchez had a frightful return to Philadelphia in the Dallas Cowboys’ 27-13 loss in Sunday’s season finale.

Sanchez, who was with the Eagles in 2014 and 2015, played the final 8 minutes of the second quarter and the entire second half following the early departures of rookie starter Dak Prescott and veteran backup Tony Romo.

It was a nightmare from beginning to end for Sanchez, playing mostly with backups in a meaningless game for Dallas.

Sanchez tossed interceptions on two of his first three drives en route to completing nine of 17 passes for 85 yards and a quarterback rating of 27.5.

He was also sacked three times for 25 yards

Sanchez declined to talk after game, while admitting the obvious.

I’m good if that’s OK. Rough outing.

Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez

“I’m good if that’s OK,” he pleaded politely. “Rough outing.”

Owner Jerry Jones defended Sanchez as much as possible, saying the Cowboys were purposely conservative on offense to limit the risk of injuries against an aggressive Philadelphia defense.

“Well, I had hoped that we would be able to physically grind it out more, but I knew the realistic limitations of that considering Philadelphia’s defensive line,” Jones said. “I also knew we were going to try to piecemeal and limit as much of the exposure of injury as we could to the offensive line. We tried that.

“I can’t say I’m surprised at all because I have such respect for Philadelphia’s defense.”

Both of Sanchez’s interceptions went to Eagles linebacker Jordan Hicks, who played college football for the Texas Longhorns.

I can’t say I’m surprised at all because I have such respect for Philadelphia’s defense.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones

Considering that Romo could be playing elsewhere next season, Sanchez didn’t help his cause in proving he could be the primary backup behind Prescott.

He led the Cowboys to a field goal in the third quarter, but badly missed a wide-open Lance Dunbar on third-and-2 from the 5.

Executive vice president Stephen Jones said the focus after Prescott and Romo departed was to finish the game and get some reps for the younger players, while somewhat excusing Sanchez’s play.

“The whole thought process today was to really rest and let Sanchez do his job, which was to finish up the game,” Jones said. “And then obviously you do get to see some young guys in some good situations out there, but it was more about just finishing the game.”

Witten falls short

Jason Witten has an appreciation for the history of America’s Team and would have liked to become the franchise’s all-time receiving leader Sunday.

The tight end needed just 27 yards to pass Hall of Famer Michael Irvin for the top spot. But that record will have to wait until next year as Witten was one of several starters to receive an early exit.

Witten finished with one catch for 10 yards, and is now 17 shy of breaking Irvin’s record of 11,904.

“I thought we were going to have a chance at it,” Witten said. “But we’re playing for a lot more than that. Certainly, it’s been a great 14 years and if I’m fortunate to get Michael and to pass him, and what all that entails.

11,888 Career yards receiving for Jason Witten, 17 shy of breaking Michael Irvin’s franchise mark

“As I said early in the week, it’s more about the person than anything else. He was so passionate and such an unbelievable player. That will come, but my focus is on these next three weeks and specifically this next week — to have an opportunity to be the one-seed. It’s hard to have that. We’ve earned it. I know first-hand that’s my message to these guys in this locker room. It’s hard to get here and now it all starts.”

Witten already holds the franchise mark for most receptions. He has 1,089, which is 339 more than Irvin. He also is fourth in Cowboys history for receiving touchdowns with 63, trailing Bob Hayes (71), Dez Bryant (67) and Irvin (65).

Witten ranks second in NFL history among tight ends in yards receiving behind only Tony Gonzalez (15,127).

’17 schedule

The Cowboys’ 2017 list of opponents is almost set. The final opponent depends on who wins the Green Bay-Detroit game Sunday night.

Other than their division opponents, the Cowboys will host Kansas City, San Diego, Los Angeles and Seattle at AT&T Stadium, as well as the winner of the NFC North.

The Cowboys also will travel to Denver, Oakland, Arizona, San Francisco and Atlanta, as well as to their division opponents.

When playing two West Coast games in a season, some teams request that the league schedule them back-to-back. If the Cowboys did that, they would play at Oakland and at San Francisco in a two-week span, allowing them to spend a week on the West Coast between games.

The league will announce dates and times in April.

Briefly

▪ Dez Bryant did not have a reception Sunday, snapping an 85-game streak with at least one catch.

▪ The defense finished with the second-fewest rushing yards allowed in a 16-game season in team history, allowing just 1,336 yards (83.5 per game).

▪ The offense finished the season with 6,027 total net yards, the fourth time in franchise history to reach the 6,000-yard mark.

Staff writer Charean Williams contributed to this report.

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