Kenjon Barner's 76-yard punt return was a page right out of Darren Sproles' book.
"I study Sproles, I study Devin Hester, guys like that," Barner said. "Usually if you can make that first guy miss, you can go a long way. Watching Sproles, being here with Sproles, it's very rare that that first guy is ever going to tackle Sproles. Very rare."
Barner made quite a few guys miss on his return midway through the first quarter. Barner caught a Cardinals' punt along the Philadelphia 9 and whizzed by tackles to the Arizona 15-yard line for a 76-yard return that helped set up Zach Ertz's 11-yard touchdown, the Eagles' second of the day in a 34-7 feathering of the Arizona Cardinals.
Barner also took advantage of running back Wendell Smallwood's absence due to a knee injury. He gave the Eagles a spark on offense rushing for 23 yards on five carries and late in the game drew a pass interference call to set up a Jake Elliott field goal which would be the game's final points.
"Uplifts the whole team and puts us in a great field position offensively," head coach Doug Pederson said of Barner's performance. "Thought he did an outstanding job there today in the return game and also as a runner."
With Smallwood sidelined, it helps that LeGarrette Blount is running mad. Blount is averaging 92.3 rushing yards in his last three games and wearing defenses down, breaking loose for big chunks of yardage each game. His 74 yards on 14 touches against the Cardinals was just part of a great all-around performance by the team and by the running back group.
"Obviously, our defense played lights out, the offense put up a lot of points, and (Barner) broke a long return on special teams. We played really well in all three phases and it was exactly what we needed to do to beat a team like this," Blount said.
Rookie running back Corey Clement chipped in making his first career reception on a 22-yard feed from Wentz. He, just like Barner, produced when called upon.
"I just played my part. I think everybody contributed in a way they were supposed to," Clement said. "(Barner) put the offense in good field position and I think that is what everyone was thinking. Kenjon being Kenjon. He has great vision back there and he is very patient, knowing how to hit it when he sees it."
Barner is glad to be back in Philadelphia. After being released by the Chargers at the end of the preseason, he rejoined a different and better Eagles team than the one he played with last season. Needless to say, he is thankful for the opportunity that presented itself when Sproles was lost for the season with a torn ACL.
"Just in the short time that I've been here, guys are close here. Guys have a lot of belief in each other. I think guys having a year in Doug's system, a year getting comfortable in his coaching style, and getting comfortable is the biggest difference. Guys just really know what we have in this locker room knowing what we're capable of doing as a team," Barner said.
The Eagles defeated the Cardinals, 34-7, at Lincoln Financial Field in Week 5 of the regular season.