The approach is a simple one that Miles Sanders is following – control what you can control. Take things one day at a time. Live and focus in the moment. He is in a different mental zone, he says, a focus in his fourth season that brings him great peace and clarity. His level of preparation is at its peak, and that total package showed for Sanders in Sunday's 38-35 win over Detroit. He was nothing short of outstanding.
Sanders had 13 carries and 96 yards and he saved his very best for last: With the Eagles facing a third-and-2 play at their 27-yard line with 2 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the game, Sanders got the call for the third straight snap. He started left and found himself jammed. But he kept his legs moving and his eyes searching for a crack. Any kind of opening.
"It got stuffed up and I just stepped to the side a little bit, right by (left tackle Jordan) Mailata. Mailata had a heckuva block there, it was a wide-open hole and I just took it the distance," Sanders said.
The distance was 24 yards and a much-needed first down. It was the capper for Sanders on a day when he scored his first touchdown since Week 16 of the 2020 season. Sanders ran decisively, powerfully, and explosively – he had a 24-yard run in the third quarter as well – and looked every bit like the back who has averaged 5.1 yards per carry in the 41 games he's played as an Eagle.
Looking for a great way to start the 2022 season? This was exactly what Sanders wanted.
"It's all about the dub (win) and I've always said that," Sanders said at his locker at Ford Field. "I'm focused. My focus is on a whole new level right now. I'm in Year 4 and I've been through a lot, so I know how to handle things, my situation. Taking things one play at a time, control what I can control. It feels great and I'm glad I was able to do my part to help us win against a tough defense.
"Now it's on to the next game and the next challenge. Gotta keep that focus and take the same approach."
Sanders was limited for the last month of the summer with a hamstring injury, so he wasn't able to get a lot of practice reps through the joint practices with Cleveland and Miami and in the preseason games. That he came out and got into a rhythm so quickly was impressive – his first five carries went for 5 yards, 3 yards, 9 yards, 13 yards, and 8 yards – and that set up the Eagles' offense for a third-and-goal at the Detroit 1-yard line.
Sanders got the call, burst into the end zone and, man, did that feel good!
"It was great, and seeing all the guys happy for me made it special," he said. "It had been a while, so, yeah, it was a good feeling. Most important, it helped us win the game. I've always said that it's not about me and my numbers or my touches or whatever. I just want to do whatever it takes to win the game."
Sanders was part of a ground attack that gained 216 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt. Quarterback Jalen Hurts added 90 yards and a score on 17 attempts, Kenneth Gainwell chipped in with 20 more and a touchdown on four rushes, and Boston Scott picked up 10 yards on four rushes, including a 1-yard touchdown run on which he trucked a Detroit defensive back on his way into the end zone late in the third quarter. Trey Sermon, added off waivers from San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, was inactive for Week 1.
That's the way the Eagles want to use their offensive backfield. They want to give all of their talented ball carriers some touches, keep everybody fresh, and change up the pace on defenses. Those 216 yards ranked third in the NFL through Sunday's games (behind the 238 gained by the New York Giants and the 217 yards Cleveland gained). The rotation worked successfully last year as the Eagles paced the NFL in ground yards.
They are hopeful for the same kind of impact in 2022. Sanders plays a huge part in the rushing-game picture.
"Anything I can do, I'm here and I feel great about where I am," he said. "I'm laser-focused on what I have to do to be out there with the guys and play my best football. That's the goal every day. It's just exciting to start the season this way and we need to keep improving every day and working hard. The sky is the limit for this offense. That's what we strive for."