At 35 years and 186 days old, Darren Sproles became the oldest Eagles player to eclipse 100 yards from scrimmage in a game.
Since coming back from that nasty hamstring injury after many folks thought Sproles should just cut his losses and retire, the 5-foot-6 running back has come up huge for the Eagles.
And he had his best game of the season Sunday in the Eagles’ 32-30 win over the Texans at the Linc. He had nine carries for 32 yards and three catches for 76 yards and a touchdown. And he’s doing all this after having not played football for like a year and a half.
“I’m not surprised, and I say that because of watching this guy day-in and day-out, whether it's been through his rehab or the way he's practiced during the week,” head coach Doug Pederson said. “This guy goes a hundred miles an hour every single day. It shows up. When you see this stuff in the game, it's not surprising because he does it during the week.
“So again, it's a credit to him, where he is in his career, he's been a valuable part of the Eagles organization since he's been here and quite frankly, this time of the year for us right now.”
Sproles is the Eagles’ best running back right now and they’re going to need to get him involved in Week 17 and then in the playoffs if they get there. But, for now, I want to take a look at your favorite player’s favorite player in what might have been his final home game at the Linc.
We’ll go chronologically:
I don’t want to spend too much time on this one because the ball didn’t go Sproles' way, but if it does, he’s gone. Check out how much attention Zach Ertz (rightfully) warrants. He draws three defenders and the Texans leave Sproles wide open at the top of the screen.
To be clear, I’m not killing Nick Foles for not getting the ball to Sproles here. I’m sure Ertz was the first read and he got it there for a three-yard gain. But had he seen Sproles, this is a huge gainer before any points are scored.
This is a play where points are actually scored. It’s the first touchdown of the game. It’s 4th-and-2 from the Texans’ 37-yard line with 6:42 left in the first quarter. Pederson could have gone for a 54-yard field goal, but instead goes for it and I love the call.
All Sproles is going to do here is run a quick flat route and beat his defender to the spot.
The Eagles use a little natural rub on this play from Nelson Agholor, which is going to slow down the defender’s path to the football. On this play, No. 51 Dylan Cole is tasked with trying to cover Sproles. And it’s also a great job by Foles to get the ball out quickly.
Thanks to that natural rub and the quick throw from Foles, Sproles gets there first and once he gets around the linebacker, he has plenty of room to get upfield. Then he wills himself into the end zone.
This play in the second quarter actually didn’t count, but I just want to show you how quick this 35-year-old running back still is. Here’s poor Zach Cunningham trying to bring him down for short gain. Look what he does to him. It would have been a 7-yard gain but the Eagles were ruled for an illegal formation.
That juke on Cunningham wasn’t the last time Sproles got the best of him in this game. This is the start of the 31-yard pass on 3rd-and-1 with 9:01 left in the second quarter. Right before this play, Sproles had an 11-yard run and came up demonstratively yelling toward the sideline to keep feeding him. They smartly did.
This time, it’s Alshon Jeffery who provides the rub that gives Sproles a little extra time on the wheel route. Thanks to that split-second head start, Sproles gets separation and comes up with a big, 31-yard reception.
The one part of Sproles’ game that should never get overlooked is his ability to block. He’s the Eagles’ best running back in pass protection, using his natural leverage to pop unsuspecting linebackers and defensive linemen.
Several plays after his big 31-yard catch, the Eagles were still trying to punch in a touchdown and they wouldn’t have done it without Sproles blocking.
Check out his block on 3rd-and-10, when the Eagles completed a pass to Zach Ertz for nine yards. He pops Jadeveon Clowney, who had been terrorizing Big V all afternoon. It allows Foles to step up on the pocket and deliver the pass.
And here’s his block on the touchdown pass to Ertz on 4th-and-1. He hits blitzing Pro Bowl linebacker Benardrick McKinney enough to give Foles time to throw the TD.
This was a huge touchdown in the game. At the time, it put the Eagles up 13-9 in the second quarter. But Sproles wasn’t done making a big impact on the game.
It’s 2nd-and-10 from the Houston 35-yard line on the final drive of the game and Pederson dials up a draw play to Sproles. Loved this call and it worked to perfection. After seven straight passes to start this drive with 2:00 on the clock, the Texans weren’t ready for this.
At the snap, the Texans tried to overload their right side to go after Big V and Stefen Wisniewski. Good idea, but the Eagles countered with a draw and they had more bodies and bigger bodies on their right.
At the mesh point, this play is already going to go for a big gain. Cunningham has his momentum going the wrong way, again worried about Ertz, which leaves just Tyran Mathieu on that side and he’s not going to get through Brandon Brooks to make a tackle.
The important thing to note about that game-winning field goal drive is that Sproles was on the field for every play. It’s clear the coaching staff has more trust in him than their other backs, and they should.
Expect to see a heavy dose of Sproles in Week 17, but even he doesn’t know if his career is over after this year. He previously said this was his final season, but that was before a hamstring injury robbed him of a couple months.
Selfishly, and I’ve said this before, I hope this guy never retires. He’s just too much fun to watch.
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