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January 08, 2023

Jalen Hurts calms the Eagles down, gets them to NFC East title

Jalen Hurts didn't set the world on fire in his return, but sometimes the best thing a QB can do is just settle everything down

Sometimes the best thing a quarterback can do is just step in and settle everything down. 

Jalen Hurts returned under center Sunday, and while it wasn't a performance for the ages, it was more than enough to put the Giants' second stringers away, 22-16, and finally nab the Eagles that elusive NFC East title and No. 1 seed in the playoffs

The Eagles didn't pummel New York like they probably should have with a team resting most of their starters – which may be initially concerning until you think about it – but one of the big takeaways from Sunday's Week 18 finale is that Jalen Hurts stepped in and, all things considered, looked like Jalen Hurts.

And the Eagles' offense looked far calmer because of it. 

He was scanning the field, taking (mostly) great care of the football, and the right shoulder? Well, it didn't seem like there were any issues there, not on that 37-yard bomb down the left sideline to A.J. Brown midway through the first quarter at least:


"It's not like he was perfect out there as far as what he felt like," head coach Nick Sirianni said afterward. "We didn't feel like there was more risk, but I know he was hurting. He was hurting bad, but that's the kind of competitor that he is, the kind of person that he is, the kind of teammate and leader that he is, that he was able to go out there and tough through it."

So he still has pain?

"Yeah, of course, he's still sore," Sirianni added. "Of course."

"It's been tough, but I don't really want to make it about me," Hurts said of his recovery from the shoulder sprain sustained back in Week 15. "We just accomplished a great goal of ours.

"My whole thing moving forward is let's prepare to play our best ball. It's been a great ride this year, but the job isn't finished. Keep on going."

At the half, Hurts was 12-for-18 passing for 140 yards and the Eagles built up a 16-0 lead, but they were struggling to execute in the red zone and Sirianni never reached a point where he was comfortable enough to pull the starters. 

Still, they stayed ahead.

Hurts found his top targets in A.J. Brown four times for 95 yards and DeVonta Smith seven times for 67 yards, with the first completions to each setting new franchise records – Brown a 35-yard catch and run for the single-season receiving yards record and Smith for the single-season receptions record by a wideout

Dallas Goedert also caught six passes for 46 yards. 

The Giants' defense did get more aggressive in the second half, and in the third quarter specifically, some plays and decisions were pretty rushed and maybe unnecessarily so. 

With the Eagles facing a third and goal from the Giants' 7-yard line – after an ineligible receiver call negated a Smith touchdown the play before – Hurts scrambled right with pressure coming and threw an interception into a sea of white jerseys trying to force the ball to Smith again. 

There were a few more passes that Hurts tried to force through also that, luckily, only amounted to incompletions. 

But in the fourth, after the defense failed to stop a touchdown drive capped off by a Davis Webb run straight to the end zone, Hurts and the offense went back out and pulled a signature drive that bailed them out numerous times before. 

They drove 71 yards downfield for just a field goal, but drained 6:43 of clock to leave the Giants with little time to come back even after they scored an immediate touchdown on a 25-yard shot to Kenny Golladay. 

Hurts' final line: 20-for-35 passing for 229 yards, an interception, and a 65.0 passer rating. Not great, but enough, which is exactly what Hurts said when asked if he was 100 percent postgame. 

"Enough," he responded. "Good enough to win today."

Notable as well was that Hurts' running attempts were kept pretty limited, taking off for only 13 yards on nine carries. Understandable if the plan was to keep him protected, and perhaps encouraging that he still did get sacked three times and bounced right off of all three. 

"Won't get into too much of that but, sure, you didn't want to take any unnecessary risks," Sirianni said. "We had to win the game however we needed to win the game."

Hurts was good enough to get the job done, his shoulder was well enough to get it done too, and now the Eagles have that extra week they needed to get healthy, iron out the kinks, and ready up for a home-field playoff run. 

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