The old man still has it

Spro­les, 36, con­trib­utes 109 all-pur­pose yards in vic­tory

The Morning Call - - SPORTS - Nick Fierro

MPHILADELP­HIA — ak­ing some­thing out of noth­ing is one of the many abil­i­ties that makes Philadel­phia Ea­gles run­ning back Dar­ren Spro­les so spe­cial. That magic was gen­er­ated once again on Sun­day by the an­cient Spro­les, play­ing in his 190th ca­reer game at age 36.

But of the nine runs, three pass re­cep­tions and four punt re­turns he had to gen­er­ate 109 yards in the Ea­gles’ 32-27 vic­tory over the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins, what might have stood out most was a play that didn’t count on the stat sheet but was crit­i­cal in al­low­ing his team to breathe eas­ier at the end.

Spro­les was charged with try­ing to get into the end zone for a 2-point con­ver­sion fol­low­ing their fi­nal touch­down. The prob­lem was that he was at the 5-yard line try­ing to turn the cor­ner around the left side, with two un­blocked de­fend­ers be­tween him and the goal line.

Spro­les cut back against the grain, ab­sorbed con­tact just short of the goal line but some­how found a way for his 5-foot-6 body to squirm his way in for a 29-20 lead fol­low­ing the first play of the fourth quar­ter — a back pass that Al­shon Jef­fery turned into a touch­down with a sim­i­lar sec­ond-ef­fort move at the goal line.

Once again, Spro­les had made some­thing of noth­ing, just like he did prob­a­bly a half-dozen other times in this game with his run­ning (nine car­ries, 47 yards), re­ceiv­ing (three catches, 16 yards) and re­turn­ing (four punts, 46 yards).

“I was just go­ing out there try­ing to make plays for my team,” Spro­les said.

His eyes lit up while talk­ing about the 2-pointer, though.

“I kind of knew when I got it that if there was a safety out­side [which there was] that I wasn’t go­ing to make it to the py­lon,” he said. “So I knew I had to cut it back. I had to get the D-line­man re­ally run­ning, re­ally sprint­ing [side­ways], and I knew he couldn’t stop. So that’s what I tried to do.”

Spro­les’ im­pro­vi­sa­tional skills have helped make his bosses look like bet­ter de­ci­sion-mak­ers over the years — 14 of them and count­ing — than they might ac­tu­ally be.

And it’s why coach Doug Ped­er­son wel­comed him back at his ad­vanced age with­out hes­i­ta­tion this year, de­spite Spro­les be­ing lim­ited by in­jury to just nine of 32 reg­u­lar-sea­son and two of five post­sea­son games over the pre­vi­ous two sea­sons.

The way it worked out on this day was Spro­les get­ting nine car­ries, Jor­dan Howard six and rookie Miles San­ders 11. But that can and will change from week to week based on op­po­nents and what plays work best against them.

“As you know, when we con­struct games, we have mul­ti­ple run schemes and they are de­signed for dif­fer­ent guys,” Ped­er­son said. “The ones that were kind of click­ing today were the Dar­ren ones, and so just kept call­ing his num­ber there. Those other two guys I thought ran well also.

“Un­for­tu­nate we get the late hold­ing call late in the game there on that one [wip­ing out a 21-yard TD run by San­ders], but Miles is ex­plo­sive, as you know. Jor­dan ran ex­tremely hard. So ex­cited for all three of those guys.”

Still, it has to be most com­fort­ing for the Ea­gles to know that if they want to use Spro­les as a work­horse ev­ery now and then, he’s as able as he is will­ing, and that he doesn’t care how many touches he gets.

“The way we roll is … we all get our touches,” Spro­les said.

That Spro­les is not be­ing phased out of this of­fense says a lot about how much the coaches be­lieve in him. He wasn’t brought back just to chase the five play­ers (all re­tired) ahead of him on the NFL’s all-time, all-pur­pose yards list and have a bet­ter chance of land­ing in the Hall of Fame.

For the record, Spro­les is up to 19,629 and on pace to pass Tim Brown (19,682) as early as next week. Once he does, the only ones ahead of him will be Jerry Rice, Brian Mitchell, Wal­ter Pay­ton and Em­mitt Smith.

That’s some big-time com­pany.

But what he wants more than any­thing is to play in a Su­per Bowl. He was robbed of that chance by a dev­as­tat­ing knee in­jury in the 2017 sea­son. The Ea­gles won it all any­way.

They still be­lieve their best chance to do it again is with him play­ing of­fense as well as spe­cial teams.

And that says it all.

MATT ROURKE/AP

Dar­ren Spro­les of the Ea­gles cel­e­brates with Lane John­son af­ter scor­ing a two­point con­ver­sion dur­ing the sec­ond half against the Red­skins on Sun­day.

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