Steady Diet? Sanders Chews Up Giants, Sees Limited Touches
The final NFC East showdown between the Eagles and Giants showcased two teams trending in opposite directions.
The Giants, who came within an egregious drop of sinking the Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field just three weeks ago, entered Sunday’s game riding an unmistakable wave of momentum following a succession of inspired play.
For the Eagles, Sunday was supposed to represent the start of a new season as they embark on a late-season surge.
The coaching staff had ample time during the bye week to self-assess and tap into a more intricate plan of attack. The extended time off also yielded some much-needed reinforcements on offense.
Sure, the 27-17 gut-punching loss didn’t affect the Eagles’ standing atop the NFC East, but playoff-caliber teams aren't typically outclassed throughly by a flawed divisional foe, especially when they're coming off a bye.
Finally nearing full-strength, the offense delivered one of its most dormant performances of the season. The anticipated innovation, including basic wrinkles of misdirection and motion, was virtually non-existent. The lack of a vertical dimension resurfaced. Even Travis Fulgham, who accumulated 27 catches for 378 yards and three touchdowns over the past four games, was rendered a non-factor.
For perspective, the Eagles’ offense came up empty on nine third-down attempts and converted one of three fourth-down opportunities.
However, despite the offensive ineptitude, running back Miles Sanders remained a bright spot.
Aside from two dropped passes and pass protection blunder, Sanders was arguably the team's most effective player on either side on Sunday. In fact, Sanders has been one of the lone constants on offense this season other than Fulgham.
Perplexingly, Sanders carried the ball just 15 times against the Giants for 85 yards. He added two receptions for 10 more yards. With Sanders gaining yards at a 5.7-per-run clip, the Eagles stubbornly opted to turn to the aerial attack to pick up yards instead.
Aside from Week 4, where he produced just 46 yards, Sanders has rushed for 80 or more yards in the games he’s been available. However, despite his consistent production throughout games, Sanders has only carried the ball 20 times once this season.
The 23-year-old has proven he can withstand volume and thrive as a three-down bellcow, but the team continues to abandon the run in critical spots. After all, Sanders’ vision, balance, and elusiveness often extend drives, provides stability to a staggering unit, and keeps the chains moving.
Given the uneven quarterback play, offensive line deficiencies, and play-calling miscues this late in the season, it’s essentially malpractice to not have the offense run through its dynamic, second-year runner.
– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.