Instant analysis: Eagles run over Saints despite Miles Sanders' struggles, 3 key players injured

PHILADELPHIA – Jalen Hurts planted his foot in the ground near the Saints' 25-yard line, pivoted, then darted in the other direction, leaving defensive end Carl Granderson on the ground grasping at air.

Hurts made another move at the 10-yard line and kept going into the end zone, capping off the Eagles' 40-29 win over New Orleans on Sunday.

"When I’d seen him make that move, I’m like, ‘Oh, snap,'" Eagles cornerback Avonte Maddox said. "I was looking at the trainer so I can grab some tape to help (Granderson)."

In many ways, it was symbolic of how the Eagles ran all over the Saints, getting 242 yards on the ground. The Saints came into the game with the NFL's top rushing defense, allowing only 72.9 yards per game.

The Eagles surpassed that total in the first quarter. In the last four games, the Eagles have averaged 217 yards on the ground per game. They have won three of those games, and improved to 5-6 overall, with running back Miles Sanders even mentioning the "playoffs" word before taking it back later.

"I think running the ball until we can’t, that’s the way things are moving right now," said Sanders, who led the Eagles with 94 yards rushing on 16 carries. "We got three running backs who can tote it. It’s all-around complementary football, and I love it."

The only times the Eagles stopped running was a period spanning the third and fourth quarters when head coach Nick Sirianni admitted he got too conservative after the Eagles took a 33-7 lead; and when Sanders fumbled near the Eagles' goal line in the second quarter that led to a Saints touchdown.

Hurts, meanwhile, had 69 yards on the ground and three rushing touchdowns, the most rushing TDs by a quarterback since Seattle's Russell Wilson did it in 2012. Because the Eagles ran the ball 50 times, Hurts only attempted 24 passes, completing 13, for 147 yards.

Still, there were some perilous moments late after the Saints scored 15 straight points to cut the Eagles' lead to 33-22 with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter.

That's when Hurts made two critical plays. The first was a 23-yard completion to J.J. Arcega-Whiteside on 2nd-and-11 from the Eagles' 25.

That not only was Arcega-Whiteside's first catch of the season; it was his first target.

"I think everybody in the stadium felt ... it kind of slipping a little bit," Sirianni said. "They were coming back into the game. We needed it ... For him to go out and make the type of play that he made right there, I love J.J."

Sanders, meanwhile, was going through some struggles of his own. Twice, Sanders had the ball knocked the ball out of his hands in the first half near the Eagles' goal line.

The second time, the Saints would have been set up to score just before halftime to cut into the Eagles' 20-7 lead. But the referees had already blown the whistle, signifying that Sanders' forward progress was stopped.

He didn't carry the ball again until late in the third quarter, after Jordan Howard, who had 63 yards rushing, left with a knee injury.

"It’s just something I’m not supposed to do," Sanders said. "My job is to protect the football. I failed to do that. I’m not going to sit here and make any excuses. It’s not going to happen again, though."

Sirianni said he wanted to show confidence in Sanders by giving him carries there. But really, he might not have had a choice with Howard out of the game.

THE RIGHT MOVES?: What Dallas Goedert's contract could mean for Howie Roseman's future as Eagles' GM

DEVONTA'S DESTINY: From high school prodigy to Eagles rookie star: How DeVonta Smith uses his brain and skill

Howard was among three key players to leave with injuries, joining linebacker Davion Taylor and cornerback Darius Slay, whose 51-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Eagles a 27-7 lead just before halftime.

The Eagles added two field goals in the third quarter for what seemed like an insurmountable lead.

Until it almost wasn't. That's when Hurts took over once and for all, leaving Granderson and the entire Saints defense grasping at air.

"I just made a play," Hurts said. "But I'm really frustrated by the drives we didn’t score in the red zone. We should have. We had a few mental errors ... It shouldn’t have been that way.

"Nonetheless, I think there’s so much to learn from this game. There’s a lot of good to take away from the game, too."

Like a running attack that can't be stopped.

Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts plays during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)
Philadelphia Eagles' Jalen Hurts plays during the first half of an NFL football game against the New Orleans Saints, Sunday, Nov. 21, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Derik Hamilton)

Darius Slay leaves with concussion

Slay left the game with a head injury in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles confirmed that he's in the concussion protocol

Earlier, Slay returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds of the first half when he stepped in front of receiver Deonte Harris on the sideline and picked off Trevor Siemian's pass.

It was Slay's third touchdown in four games after returning fumbles for TDs against Denver last week (83 yards) and Detroit on Oct. 31 (33 yards).

"Slay is really good at the top of the route," Maddox said. "He broke before the (receiver) broke. He caught it and he took it to the house ... Real pretty cool."

But Slay became the second defensive player to leave with an injury. Linebacker Davion Taylor left in the first quarter with a knee injury and didn't return.

Jake Elliott keeps making FGs

Eagles kicker Jake Elliott made his fourth field goal Sunday as he moved into third place all-time in scoring in Eagles' history.

Elliott hit from 50 yards, 37, 33 and 47. He also made four extra points. That gave him 478 points in his career.

In one game, Elliott passed Steve Van Buren, Harold Carmichael and Sam Baker. But Elliott has a long way to go to catch Bobby Walston (881 points) and David Akers (1,323 points).

Elliott is 18-for-20 on field goals this season, including 3-for-3 from 50 yards and beyond.

"It’s pretty cool," Elliott said about his new place in Eagles' history. "I think there are a couple of guys ahead of me for which I have a long way to go, but being named with any of those guys is an honor and I’m happy to be there.”

T.J. Edwards shines on defense

Linebacker T.J. Edwards showed why he is worthy of being an every-down linebacker after he intercepted Siemian with 9:37 left in the first quarter, giving the Eagles the ball at New Orleans' 39.

It was Edwards' first interception of the season and second of his career. Edwards also had a fumble recovery and broke up a 2-point conversion..

RB Kenny Gainwell sits out vs. Saints

Now that Sanders returned, Kenny Gainwell was the odd running back out against the Saints.

Gainwell, the Eagles' fifth-round pick, only had 2 carries (for 3 and 5 yards, respectively) in each of the last two games. In addition, Gainwell does not play on special teams, unlike Scott, who's a key special teams player.

Contact Martin Frank at Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: Instant analysis: Eagles run over Saints despite Miles Sanders struggles, 3 key injuries