PHILADELPHIA - Typically 94 yards on 16 carries after missing three games with an ankle injury would have to be deemed as a successful effort and that was the bottom line of Miles Sanders' performance during a 40-29 win over New Orleans on Sunday.
Ball security was an issue for Sanders, however, and the Eagles' RB1 put the football on the ground twice deep inside Philadelphia territory, the first of which set up a touchdown for the Saints early in the second quarter when Sean Payton's offense had little life to it.
Sanders was bailed out on the second would-be fumble late in the first half when the officials blew the play dead, claiming forward momentum was stopped, something rarely done in the replay era of the NFL where the Zebras tend to let things play out and sort things out after the fact.
The hiccups were likely due to Sanders' inactivity after spending the last three games on injured reserve after being carted off in Las Vegas with what turned out to be an ankle sprain.
To his credit, however, Sanders was not hiding behind any excuses.
“It is something I am not supposed to do," he said. "My job is to protect the football and I failed to do that. I am not going to sit here and make excuses. It is not going to happen again after being back active and getting in a groove. I am going to keep this thing going and move forward.”
Head coach Nick Sirianni downplayed the issues, but Sanders was replaced by Boston Scott at the beginning of the second half and only got back in a big way after Jordan Howard was forced to leave with a knee injury.
"Dog mentality," Sirianni said on how he handles a player who has made the kind of mistakes Sanders made. "[Just] like you say to a corner if they get beat or you say to a wide receiver if they drop a pass or you say to a player if he jumps offsides.
"Dog mentality. Move on next play. Next play. Next play."
Sanders appreciated the vote of confidence even it was delayed and pushed forward by circumstance.
"Everybody trusts me with the ball in my hands," Sanders said. "All I can say is that I appreciate that to keep my confidence going throwing me back in there.”
The efficacy was there before and after. In fact, his stat line was eerily eight carries for 47 yards at halftime and another eight carries 47 yards in the second half.
On the Eagles' second possession, Sanders ripped off a 25-yard run to start what turned into a seven-play, 58-yard drive for a 14-0 lead with 1:35 to play in the opening quarter.
"I think Miles had a good game, what did he end up with, 94 [yards]? Miles had a good game," Sirianni said. "He ran the ball hard. He ran the ball well and he ran the ball well in a time where we really needed it."
When they really needed it came with the score 33-22 and the Saints showing some life. After a big Jalen Hurts to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside connection got the Eagles' moving again, a 14-yard Sanders run put the Eagles inside the NOLA 30-yard line.
Three plays later, Hurts broke the Saints' back with a brilliant 24-yard TD run, the QB's third of the game.
"I was too busy trying to block somebody and keep them from touching him but, I love that man," Sanders said of Hurts. "I love how complimentary we are playing. Everybody is getting their touches in.
"Next thing you know, we are moving down the field and next thing you know, we are in the end zone. That is all I really care about and that is what I love about this team.”
Next week, against the New York Giants, it might be Sanders picking up his teammates with the big play.
"It was just, ‘Hey, forget that play. Next play. Next play.’ And I think that means a lot to guys when you show the confidence in them," Sirianni said. "And then you correct what's going on. And you say, ‘Hey when you get in the traffic,’ - what we talk about, we call this a clasp hand, you put that clasp hand on it. That's what we talked about and showed trust in him and belief in him.
"And I know that will be rewarding going forward with Miles."
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.