Extra Points: Love Hurts
Eagles coach Doug Pederson didn't want to admit it, so allow me.
Jalen Hurts played well Sunday.
The rookie displayed poise, confidence and composure amidst the chaos swirling around him on and off the field. Hurts delivered timely plays with his arm and legs in a 24-21 upset over the Saints
"Jalen had a hand in this," Pederson said. "But this was not about one guy. The entire team played well and showed resiliency. I'm proud of them."
No, it was all about one guy.
Sure, there were other players who contributed to the Eagles' first victory in over a month. Running back Miles Sanders rushed for 115 yards, including an 82-yard touchdown scamper - the fourth-longest in TD run in franchise history - that saw him jolt former teammate Malcolm Jenkins to the turf at Lincoln Financial Field with a stiff-arm.
Sort of like when Eagles general manager Howie Roseman stiffed him in the offseason by refusing to offer him a contract that reflected Jenkins' value to the team.
Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery finally caught a TD pass. The revamped offensive line provided adequate protection for Hurts and opened holes for Sanders. The Eagles actually intercepted a pass. Linebacker Duke Riley's pick was their fourth of the season. The defensive line, especially end Josh Sweat and tackle Javon Hargrave, applied relentless pressure on Saints backup quarterback Tasom Hill.
After the game, social media was filled with Saints fans calling for coach Sean Payton to start Jameis Winston until Drew Brees is ready to return.
Locally, Eagles fans don't want to see Carson Wentz again for the rest of the season and perhaps ever again. Hurts was impressive enough that he should remain the quarterback for at least the last three games.
The second-round pick played better against the Saints than Wentz did in any of the Eagles' first 12 games. Some of it was Pederson's doing. He called for more rollouts to buy Hurts some time. Hurts' danger as a runner - he rushed for 106 yards - also added to the effectiveness of RPOs. The Saints had to respect his running ability, which opened things up for Sanders.
His decision-making was just as impressive. There were occasions when he was flushed out of the pocket and Saints pass rushers were closing in. Rather than try to force a completion, however, Hurts was content to fling the ball 20 yards out of bounds instead of taking a sack. His lone peccadillo came late in the game, when he coughed up a costly fumble. The Saints capitalized on the turnover with a touchdown and nearly recovered the ensuing onside kick that could have led to a disasterous Eagles collapse.
Hurts was so good that fans sought to give him a nickname.
Some of the contenders included Hurts So Good and Love Hurts.
You may want to wait a while before lauding him as a Hall of Famer, however, for five quarters does not a legend make.
Need I remind you of Bobby Hoying? In 1997, coach Ray Rhodes decided the Eagles needed a spark. Hoying, a third-round draft pick in 1996 out of Ohio State, relieved Ty Detmer late in a loss to San Francisco and got his first career start the following week against Baltimore. At the time, Rhodes and offensive coordinator Jon Gruden said the offense would be redesigned to take advantage of Hoying's passing and running abilities.
In his first three starts, Hoying threw for a combined 835 yards with six touchdown passes against one interception. Included in that run was a epic performance against Cincinnati. Hoying passed for 313 yards and four TDs while outplaying Bengals quarterback Boomer Esiason in a 44-42 Eagles' win. Eagles play-by-play radio announcer Merrill Reese and WIP host Angelo Cataldi considered him a budding superstar.
That is, until he threw nine interceptions and no touchdown passes in eight games in 1998 under offensive coordinator Dana Bible. Two years later, Hoying was out of the NFL.
There's little reason to think Hurts will be a bust, but let's wait a few more games before making any predictions. Besides, Pederson has not given up on Wentz. Despite his struggles this season, his potential and fat, $128 million contract mean he will be with the Eagles for at least one more year. Look for an open competition in training camp next summer and may the best quarterback win.
Speaking of training camp battles, they better bring in someone to challenge place-kicker Jake Elliott, who shanked a 22-yard field goal attempt off the left upright in the first half Sunday after missing extra points in back-to-back games.
That field goal attempt prompted some fans to suggest Vanderbilt kicker Sara Fuller should be signed. Fuller became the first woman to score for a Power 5 Conference team when she split the uprights with a PAT Saturday.
And don't forget Carli Lloyd, the Olympic and World Cup star from nearby Delran, who booted a 55-yard field goal during Eagles training camp in 2019. Yes, she got a running start, but it was still impressive.
But for now, let's wait and see how Hurts fares next week at Arizona, then at Dallas and against Washington in the last three games of the season. At 4-8-1, the Eagles no longer have playoff aspirations, but Hurts would at least give fans a reason to watch.
I even have a nickname for him. With apologies to the late heavyweight contender Carl Williams, The Truth Hurts.
Eagles Head Coaching Wins All-Time