GREEN BAY – This is how the Eagles figured it would work – the power and no-frills running of Jordan Howard combined with the flash and dash of Miles Sanders would give the Eagles a terrific 1-2 backfield punch to balance the offense. On Thursday night in a 34-27 win over Green Bay, the two delivered exactly as planned.
Howard gained 87 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries and added a receiving touchdown. Sanders chipped in with 11 carries and 72 yards, along with a 67-yard kickoff return that led to a touchdown as the Eagles churned out a total of 176 rushing yards on 33 carries.
"I credit the offensive line," Howard said after his first win ever at Lambeau Field. "They did a great job. They made it easy for me. The holes were there and I just took them."
It wasn't quite that simple, but the line sure did a great job dominating Green Bay's front. It all started with Sanders, who busted a kickoff return to spark the Eagles in the second quarter.
Sanders' 67-yard kickoff return to the Green Bay 34-yard line set up an Eagles touchdown as Philadelphia trailed 10-0 prior to the score.
Sanders took the Mason Crosby kickoff 1 yard deep in the end zone and started his return to the right side and then cut to the sideline and found clear sailing all the way to the Green Bay 34-yard line, where Crosby made the tackle.
It was a big moment for Sanders, who carried on the Eagles' first offensive play from scrimmage, gaining 4 yards before running into right guard Brandon Brooks. Howard replaced Sanders in the backfield after that for the remainder of the first quarter and then the two alternated to destroy Green Bay the rest of the way.
"It was fun out there," Sanders said. "We got into a flow and it worked for both of us. The line opened things up. We hoped we could run against them and we did. We never lost confidence in what we were doing."
Following Sanders' kickoff return, the Eagles' offense quickly went to work, covering the 34 yards in five plays and scoring on a Carson Wentz touchdown pass to wide receiver Alshon Jeffery to narrow the deficit to 10-7.
Sanders has been in and out of the Eagles' offensive plans during the course of the first quarter of the regular season. He entered Thursday night's game with 34 carries for 106 yards, an average of 3.1 yards per carry. Sanders showed some dash in the opener against Washington with a 19-yard run and a 21-yard touchdown that was called back because of a holding penalty. In Week 2 at Atlanta, Sanders tried to do too much, running wide when holes were there had he stayed north. Against Detroit on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, Sanders fumbled twice in the same drive in the second quarter, losing the second one. Sanders finished the game with 13 carries and 53 yards and added 73 more yards on two pass receptions, and despite the 126 yards of total offense, Sanders answered questions all week about his lack of ball security.
In this game, it was more Howard, but both backs contributed in a big way.
"We always think we can run the ball. We have a lot of confidence in what we do," Howard said. "This was a big game for us. We didn't want to fall to 1-3. To come in here and win, it's big. It's important. Now we can get some rest and get ready for the next game."