Jalen Hurts didn’t have to carry the team on his back. He didn’t have to throw for 300 yards or run 100. He didn’t have to be Superman.
He just had to be himself. And he did it flawlessly.
In his minor quarterback masterpiece, Hurts threw just 24 passes, only passed for 154 yards, and ran for just 34.
He didn’t do much. But he did exactly what he had to as the Eagles posted an easy 38-7 victory over the Giants Saturday night at the Link in the NFC Conference Semifinals.
Hurts was in complete command of the offense, in complete command of the team. There is some elegance in not trying to do too much and only doing what you need to do. And Hurts did it brilliantly.
“He sounded like old Galen to me,” said Miles Sanders. “I’m not going to lie. I’m just proud of him. He asks everyone to give their best, and we’ll just do it for him because he gives us our best.”
Since 1960, the only time an Eagles quarterback started and finished a playoff game short of passes was in 1979, when Ron Jaworski was 12-for-23 in a Cardinal win over the Bears at the vet.
It’s been 15 years since an NFL team scored 38 points in a playoff game with 24 or fewer pass attempts. Such was the Packers in a 42-20 win over the Seahawks in 2008, when Brett Favre was 18-for-23 and Ryan Grant ran for over 200 yards.
This time, Sanders, Kenny Ginwill, Boston Scott and Hurts would combine for 268 yards. This kept the pressure off Hurts, who threw only seven tackles in the second half.
The formula has been rolled out all year to build a lead and strive to maintain it. The Eagles just went from passing to running earlier than usual Saturday night against a superior Giants defense.
But Hurtz was a genius when he had to be. He was 7-for-7 with TD passes to Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith in the first quarter, and the Eagles largely fell behind from there.
“I think it was very important for us to get out there and start quickly,” said Hurtz. “As a football team we just went out and played with a lot of energy. We prepared really well all week and you always talk about challenging everyone to play their best.
“I really never put a limit on myself and never put a limit on what this team can do, so there’s always more we can have. To go out there and play the way we did tonight, I’m proud of this group, I’m proud of this team, I’m proud of the setup that We put him through to get to where we are now. There’s a lot to be grateful for, but it was earned during the week. I’m excited to get another chance to play for something big again.”
This was the Jalen Hurts we saw before he hurt his shoulder against the Bears five weeks ago. MVP candidate from September through mid-December.
He may not be 100 percent, but he sure looked 100 percent.
“To take him out there is like – I know that’s high praise, but to take him out there is like – I don’t have to go in there – it’s like having Michael Jordan in there,” said Nick Siriani. “He’s your captain. He’s your man.”
“This guy leads. He brings that calmness to the whole team. He plays great football. He’s as tough as they come.
“For me, no one has played better football this year than him.”
Hurts’ 112.2 passer rating was the fourth-highest in Eagles postseason history, behind Rodney Petty’s 143.3 in the 58-37 wild card win over the Lions in the 1995 Vet, and Nick Foles’ 141.4 in the 2017 NFC Championship Game over the Vikings On Link and Tommy Thompson run 127.3 in a 1947 semifinal win over the Steelers at Forbes Field.
He’s the youngest Eagles quarterback to reach the NFC Championship Game — nine months younger than Donovan McNabb in 2001 — and by beating the 49ers or Cowboys a week as of Sunday, he’ll become the eighth QB to take his team to the Super Bowl by his 25th birthday .
A year ago, Hurts faced a playoff nightmare for the first time in Tampa.
It was one of the worst postseason performances in Eagles history. This was the best.
“I think every experience is helpful, not just that game but the whole of last season, the last 15 games I’ve played,” he said. “I think all of those have been very useful. There’s a lot to learn from that. I just wanted to get out here and play good football. Knowing what that’s like and finding a way to do it.”
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