ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Eagles’ control of Sunday’s eventual 31-13 victory over the host Buffalo Bills was looking a little slippery, late in the third quarter.
Inexperienced running back and returner Boston Scott had fumbled away a punt, just after giving the visitors a little breathing room, a 24-13 lead on his first career touchdown run.
Now the Bills, who’d gone three-and-out before the punt, seemed energized. They moved from the Eagles’ 43 to the 27. But on second-and-8, quarterback Josh Allen had to throw the ball away. Brandon Graham sacked Allen for a 2-yard loss on third down. Fourth-and-10, Allen went deep down the middle to wide receiver John Brown -- but Eagles corner Ronald Darby, playing for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury Sept. 22, knocked the ball away.
Darby is a former Bill who was traded to the Eagles in 2017. He said after Sunday’s game he was thinking more about how great it was to be healthy. Darby injured his hamstring, against Detroit, while struggling to get back to full speed in the wake of ACL surgery.
“Just to come back, be back out there with my buddies, was good,” Darby said. He started across from Jalen Mills, with Sidney Jones playing the nickel role.
“Broke on the ball, read the ball, came across, reached around and I made the play. The team needed it. It was important,” Darby said.
Darby is more than a month closer now than he was against Detroit, to that magical one-year mark for ACL recovery; he went down after nine games in 2018.
“The more time you get, the better you get,” said Darby, who noted that he was cleared for practice just a week before the season started.
“It kind of showed on certain stuff,” said Darby, who said he was “feeling more and more like myself.”
“That boy was out there hustling, working,” defensive end Brandon Graham said of Darby.
Tight end Zach Ertz said Sunday’s conditions included “the craziest wind I’ve ever played in,” with flags standing straight out all afternoon and a steady 20-to-25-mph flow pushing to 40 mph or more at times. But Darby, who played 29 games for the Bills in 2015 and 2016, said he’d “seen weather like that a few times here.”
The Eagles’ defense was far from perfect but it held Allen to 169 passing yards (16 for 34), while sacking him four times.
The big one was rookie running back Miles Sanders, who left the game with a shoulder problem in the third quarter, just as the Eagles’ speediest weapon seemed to be breaking out. Sanders said X-rays were negative, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he will be A-OK for next Sunday’s game against the visiting Chicago Bears.
Wide receiver DeSean Jackson (abdomen), corner Avonte Maddox (neck), running back Darren Sproles (quad), linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle), left tackle Jason Peters (knee) and defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (foot) were all declared out heading into the weekend. The only healthy Eagle who was inactive in Buffalo was undrafted rookie center Nate Herbig.
The Eagles hope Jackson will be able to do at least a little in practice this week. They also hope Maddox, out since the Green Bay game, can practice and play. The team also could get corner Cre’Von LeBlanc (foot) back from injured reserve for Chicago.
Last week, fourth-round rookie defensive end Shareef Miller, from Philly and Penn State, was active for the first time but did not take the field. Miller got onto the field Sunday at Buffalo, with the outcome decided. Defensive tackles Anthony Rush and Albert Huggins made their NFL debuts after being signed this week, and Bruce Hector, up from the practice squad, made his first Eagles start, opposite Fletcher Cox.