Turns out Miles Sanders’ absence on the Eagles’ final drive Sunday night was not injury-related.
The Eagles just wanted Corey Clement out there for the pivotal drive.
Why would you take your best player off the field in a crucial situation and replace him with someone who has 11 carries over the last two years?
Doug Pederson said he wanted a bigger back on the field when the Eagles got the ball back near midfield leading by five with 2:01 left in the game.
So Sanders, who has 1,641 career scrimmage yards - most in Eagles history by any player in his first 19 games - watched from the sideline.
And Clement, the former undrafted free agent and one-time Super Bowl star who’s missed most of the last two years with injuries, got the nod.
“We have situational football, as you know,” Pederson said Monday. “First, second, third down, we have four-minute football, we have two-minute football, we have backed-up football, there’s red zone, there’s goal-line, there’s short yardage, there’s all kinds of stuff.
“Corey was one of our backs at the end of the game in our four-minute offense. He’s a little bit bigger back, he’s capable of running between the tackles that way, he’s powerful, he’s big, so by design, by game plan design, he was in on those specific plays at the end of the game.”
Sanders, who missed the opener with a hamstring injury, has 236 rushing yards and 314 scrimmage yards in three games this year. He’s averaging 4.6 yards per carry both this season and in his career.
Since Week 2, when he made his season debut, Sanders ranks 5th in the NFL in rushing yards and 6th in scrimmage yards.
Clement has 30 rushing yards and 32 scrimmage yards this year and is averaging 2.7 yards per carry - 7th-worst in the NFL among running backs with at least 10 carries.
The Eagles’ drive with Clement on the field did not go well. Clement gained one yard on first down, Boston Scott (who is averaging 3.3 yards per carry) gained no yards on second down and Carson Wentz was sacked for a five-yard loss on third down.
The drive took 15 seconds off the clock.
The 49ers got the ball back and drove down to the Eagles’ 33-yard-line before C.J. Beathard’s Hail Mary fell incomplete and the Eagles had their first win of the year, 25-20.
Sanders was limited at practice Wednesday and Thursday with a glute injury. But he was a full participant Friday, and Pederson said his absence late in the game was not injury-related.
Sanders was 9-for-35 rushing with a 28-yard catch in the game’s first 21 minutes but had just five touches the rest of the game - four carries and one catch.
At one point, the Eagles ran 17 straight plays without Sanders carrying the football.
Seven of Sanders’ 13 carries Sunday and 23 of his 51 carries this year have gone for at least five yards.
Only two of Clement’s 11 carries this year have gone for five or more yards.