PHILADELPHIA - The logical way to go against the Cincinnati Bengals was to lean on Miles Sanders.
After all, the Bengals defense was 30th in the NFL coming into Sunday’s game by allowing 185.0 rushing yards per game, Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz had been struggling mightily and was without first-round receiver Jalen Reagor.
Things only trended more heavily in that direction in-game when two more threats in the passing game - tight end Dallas Goedert and WR DeSean Jackson - were lost to injury by halftime. On Tuesday, an NFL source told SI EagleMaven that Goedert’s injury was a broken ankle.
Sanders, meanwhile, was cooking a bit early in the 23-23 tie but fell off in the second half in overtime running it just 10 times.
Already constantly under siege for always defaulting to the passing game by an old-school fan base that still thinks defense and running the football is the way to win in the modern NFL, Doug Pederson explained the Sanders anomaly at his Monday press conference.
“Not to make excuses or whatever, but there was a little fatigue that set in and Miles alluded to that,” said Pederson. “We had to be cautious late in the game. There are times where you just make the decision to maybe shift gears and go a little different direction, and that’s what we did (Sunday).”
Sanders finished with 22 touches - 18 on the ground and four through the air - amassing 95 yards rushing at 5.3 yards-per-clip and another 12 in the passing game while targeted eight times and catching four Wentz passes.
The latter number would have spiked if Wentz didn't miss a wide-open Sanders streaking down the left sideline for what surely would have been a TD.
Overall, Sanders played 71 of the Eagles' 91 offensive snaps (78 percent), a very high number in a somewhat muggy game due to the full overtime period.
Empirically, Sanders did slow down after averaging over 8.0 yards-per-carry in the first half and Pederson mentioned Sanders "battling through some things."
Sanders himself didn't mention anything post-game but did miss the majority of training camp and Week 1 with a hamstring strain.
“It’s not frustrating for me at all," said Sanders. "Coaches have a game plan and we put all our trust in the coaches. So whatever play is called in the huddle, I’m going to run it.”
Long known to favor a committee approach in the backfield to manage the wear-and-tear at a position that takes a lot of punishment, Pederson hasn't had that luxury this season as backups Boston Scott and Corey Clement have struggled. Against the Bengals those two combined for 13 yards rushing on six carries.
Consecutive games of 23 touches followed by the 22 against the Bengals for Sanders seems like a good number for the second-year back moving forward.
“Miles is obviously a big part of what we do,” said Pederson.
At 5-foot-11 and 211 pounds, Sanders isn't Earl Campbell so moving the traffic from the low 20s into the 30s might seem like a good plan in the classroom but would almost surely speed up a trip to the injured list.
The issue remains building up competency behind Sanders and the Eagles missed out on adding a veteran complement in the offseason with the biggest names thrown around being Carlos Hyde and Devonta Freeman.
John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM and every Monday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. He’s also the host of Extending the Play on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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