The Philadelphia Eagles certainly received a spark from quarterback Jalen Hurts coming back into the offense on Tuesday night against the Washington Football Team, but it was the running game that truly carried the load in a comeback home win to keep the team in the hunt for a Wild Card spot.
Miles Sanders continued a career year for Nick Sirianni’s offense, registering 131 rushing yards on 18 carries in a 27-17 victory over Ron Rivera’s team on Tuesday night. Sanders led the way on the ground, but the Eagles as a whole finished with 238 rushing yards, giving the team an NFL-record seventh consecutive performance with over 175 yards on the ground.
While Hurts and his offensive weapons made some big plays down the stretch, the Eagles knew rushing the ball would help them be successful in front of a packed stadium of screaming fans.
“It takes everybody,” Sirianni said about the rushing attack. “It does. It always starts with the offensive line, and we’ve got some gritty guys up front. I don’t want to single out — all of them. What a great job by Sua Opeta to step in and play a great game, too, to be able to run the ball like we did and protect like we did against, again, like I said, a really good defense that I have a ton of respect for with some good front guys.
“And so it starts there,” Sirianni said. “Our backs, we’ve got a good stable of backs, we’ve got our receivers blocking on the perimeter. Dallas Goedert is one of the best blocking tight ends in the NFL not to mention what he did catching the football. I think Jack Stoll is really coming along, and Jalen just gives you another element to the run game that’s hard to stop. Front side wins games, back side wins championships is what I’ve always been taught. I know that we’re not in a championship mode, but it’s a saying that says back side is so important. When you have a quarterback like Jalen that, really makes the back side, they have to almost respect the back side in case he pulls it.”
Sanders, who has registered 800+ rushing yards in each of his first two NFL seasons, now has 709 yards this season with three regular season games left to play. Maybe the only frustrating thing for the former Penn State star is the fact he has yet to reach the end zone in 2021, moving him to former Colts running back Joe Washington’s record of 956 rushing yards with zero touchdowns.
Still, Sanders has seemed to find his groove, along with the rest of the Eagles tailbacks, taking the pressure off of Hurts, and wearing them opposing defenses during the most important stretch of the regular season.
“I don’t know, honestly,” Sanders said about the team’s success on the ground. “All I could do is compliment my offensive line. They are doing a heck of a job each and every week. This is the seventh game in a row with over 200 yards rushing. That is a credit to the offensive line and they are making it very easy for the running backs to run behind them.”
“This is great,” veteran tailback Jordan Howard, who totaled 69 rushing yards as a compliment to Sanders, said. “The offensive line does a great job. The tight ends, receivers, and coaches – they put us in a great position and Jalen makes the right checks. They all just make our jobs easier to run. They [create] gigantic holes and it surprises you because it’s like there aren’t supposed to be holes that big in the NFL so it’s surprising but we’re not complaining about it. You just can’t have any hesitation especially in the NFL because that hole will close up very fast. So you have to hit it as soon as you see it.”
Washington came into the game with some key defensive players missing, but still even with Jonathan Allen and Montez Sweat back available, the team couldn’t stop the Eagles from eventually pulling away for their first divisional win of the season. Now the Eagles will have a short week ahead before returning to Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday for a second-straight divisional match, this coming against the New York Giants.
Even after coming out on the losing end, Washington head coach Ron Rivera had to credit the Eagles for a job well done offensively.
“You look at some of the things that were happening out there, and you have to give them credit because they did a couple of nice things,” Rivera said about his team’s struggles at stopping the running game. “We missed a couple of tackles early on and they got a little bit of a spark going. Sometimes when a team gets a little bit of rhythm it leads to a snowball effect. Still we were right there right up to the last few minutes of the fourth quarter when we gave up the big throw. It’s those things that when you have those opportunities, you have to make those plays.”
The Eagles are now 7-7 heading into the final three games of the season.