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Eagles 31, Bills 13: Birds’ running backs bulldoze Buffalo in must-win game, and 4 other observations | Marcus Hayes

The Eagles needed and got big performances from their biggest-name players.

Eagles running back Jordan Howard (24) celebrates his fourth-quarter touchdown with center Jason Kelce (62).
Eagles running back Jordan Howard (24) celebrates his fourth-quarter touchdown with center Jason Kelce (62).Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

It was the offensive line’s finest hour this season. The Birds ran for a season-high 218 yards against the Bills’ No. 3-in-the-NFL run defense, behind Jordan Howard’s 23 runs for 96 yards. The line powered a 14-play, 83-yard touchdown drive that began with 14:29 to play and ended with 6:12 -- 8 minutes, 17 seconds of season-saving domination. Jordan Howard ran nine times for 34 yards. Carson Wentz was protected long and well enough to convert two third downs with runs of 13 and 11 yards. Rookie left tackle Andre Dillard shared a sack with Bills end Shaq Lawson, who consistently drove Dillard into the lap of Wentz. Dillard started for a second consecutive game in place of 37-year-old Jason Peters (knee), and he struggled for much of the game, but his line-mates compensated.

Big-name players make big plays

Just after the first-half 2-minute warning, $40 million defensive end Brandon Graham stripped Bills quarterback Josh Allen on a designed run and recovered the fumble himself at the Bills’ 24. The Eagles turned that into a touchdown that made it 10-7 at halftime. Graham added a sack in the third quarter, his fifth of the season and one more than he collected in all of 2018. Fletcher Cox, the $102 million defensive tackle, strip-sacked Josh Allen on the Bills’ first possession, which forced a punt. Derek Barnett, a first-round pick in 2017, blocked a point-after attempt, which kept the Eagles ahead by more than just a field goal. He collected a sack in the fourth quarter, his fourth of the season. And second-round rookie Miles Sanders had a 65-yard touchdown run and hit a 25-yard screen pass.

Weapon "S"

Sanders busted a 65-yard touchdown run at the beginning of the second half and pulled off a 25-yard gain on a screen pass-and-run in the middle of the first quarter. The play set up the Eagles’ first-half field goal. That gave Sanders nine plays of at least 19 yards this season, the most on the team. Zach Ertz has six, Nelson Agholor, four, and Alshon Jeffery, after his 38-yard catch in the third quarter, now has four. Sanders plays about 40 percent of the time. The others play about 80 percent of the time. Sanders left soon after with a shoulder injury and did not return.

Wentz Wagon slow-rolling

Carson Wentz clearly has adapted the quarterback’s Hippocratic Oath: First, he does no harm. On a rainy day with 20-mph winds and gusts up to 40 mph, Wentz was 17-for-24 for 172 yards and a touchdown, but he threw no interceptions. He occasionally held on to the ball too long, which led to his two other sacks, but that’s preferable to forcing passes and eating turnovers. And, in the end, he was polished. Nursing an 11-point lead, he ran for first downs twice in the fourth quarter. His late passes were thrown with care and discretion. He finished with a 104.9 passer rating. He snapped a 5-yard TD pass to Dallas Goedert in the second quarter and he connected on a 38-yard double-move to Alshon Jeffery that turned into a touchdown and gave the Eagles a 24-13 lead. Wentz hit didn’t win the game, but that wasn’t his first job. His first job was to not lose it.

In the spotlight

Eagles safety and team spokesman Malcolm Jenkins, who on Friday was criticized for insufficient leadership by former teammate Orlando Scandrick, hit quarterback Josh Allen helmet-to-helmet, then hit Allen after he slid to end a long run. The personal fouls accounted for 24 of the 75 yards of the Bills’ first touchdown drive.