Eagles running back Miles Sanders jogged to the sideline and was greeted with a much-deserved hug from center and team leader Jason Kelce.
Sanders deserved it.
And Kelce knew it.
This special moment came after Sanders’ 40-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown run — sprung by a block by rookie tight end Grant Calcaterra — another play the Giants couldn’t stop.
This wasn’t death by a thousand paper cuts. This was physical, in-your-face football, the Eagles challenging the Giants to stop them. But the Giants couldn’t even slow them down. The Eagles pounded the host Giants, 48-22, on Sunday, clinching a playoff spot.
Sanders scored two touchdowns and had a career-high 144 yards on 17 carries. This was Sanders’ second consecutive career-high game. This one put him over the 1,000-yard mark, the first Eagle to get a thousand since LeSean McCoy in 2014.
- “It’s a great accomplishment,” Sanders said. “Long time coming but it ain’t done yet.
- “I got to give my credit to the O-line. It’s going to sound repetitive but I really do respect and appreciate my O-line and coach Stout [offensive line coach/run game coordinator Jeff Stoutland] for believing in me and my coaches believing in me.”
Sanders averaged an unworldly 8.5 yards per carry. He has 1,068 yards on the season — with four games to play.
THE TOUGH YARDS
All season, Sanders has gotten the tough, inside yards. He’s also been the burst back, gobbling up the yards on outside-the-box runs. His running has allowed the Eagles to have a diverse offense with a medley of running and passing.
- “Running the ball really well, hitting the holes, showing up when his number is called,” quarterback Jalen Hurts said about Sanders.
- “I think how this offense is, he’s played a really big role in it, being able to show up in the moments he’s had.”
On a team with Hurts, a possible league MVP, Sanders has provided a necessary second offensive option. As great as Hurts is running the ball, he’s even better when he can blend the offense by handing it off to Sanders.
- “There’s only a couple of times I’ve given game balls after a game — what he did he have 144? — yeah, he’ll get a game ball,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said about Sanders.
- “Miles, you’ll get a game ball. He knows how hard to get one of those. He’ll get one from that.
- “First time he’s went over a thousand. He’s been great all year. He’s ran the ball hard. He’s protected his butt off. He’s protected the football and he’s really playing good football right now.”
Sanders has carried the ball 204 times this season without a fumble. He fumbled seven times in his first three seasons.
The Eagles have a two-game lead in the NFC East and in the conference. Having the best record in the NFC would give the Eagles a bye in the first round of the playoffs.
If the Eagles defeat the Bears, Saints and Giants, their Christmas Eve game at Dallas would have no bearing on the standings.
The Eagles scored the most points ever on the road against the Giants and the second-most points ever against their rivals from North Jersey.
Sanders has 11 touchdowns this season — 11 more than he had last year.
- “I see his play improving, too,” Sirianni said. “We’ve always been able to count on Miles. We know he missed some time last year with some injuries with the ankle. He’s been out there every single game and he’s improving as a player.”
The first time the Eagles got the ball they went 84 yards in 14 plays, consuming 8 minutes, 5 seconds.
- “When you’re able to come out and execute at a high level early, have a long drive the first drive, have some conversions on third down, that’s big. That’s really big,” Hurts said.
The second time the Eagles got the ball they went 91 yards in 12 plays, consuming 4:55. Both drives resulted in Eagles’ touchdowns.
The blend of plays on those first two drives was masterful. Running, passing, play-action passes. Whatever the Eagles tried, it worked. On the first drive, Hurts connected with seven different receivers.
Long drives tend to take the fight — and the legs — out of the defense. Both emotionally and physically, the Giants had to wonder what hit them.
ON THE GROUND, THROUGH THE AIR
Everything was downhill for the Eagles’ offense. On the first two drives, the Eagles gained 43 yards on the ground and 127 through the air.
The Eagles moved the ball with such precision and clarity, the only question was who was going to run the ball or catch the passes.
- “It’s not easy sustaining drives that long in this league,” Sirianni said. “We were really good on third downs, in some third-down areas.
- “We put it in our players’ hands to go for it on fourth down in one of those areas. It’s being able to convert in third-down scenarios and being able to keep the sticks moving.
- “It was the conversions on third downs and just really good quarterback play by Jalen.”
1K FOR A.J. BROWN
Wide receiver A.J. Brown had four catches for 70 yards, becoming the first Eagle to reach a thousand yards since Jeremy Maclin in 2014.