Jalen Hurts was in his customary cozy pocket, bouncing on his toes as his offensive linemen provided a sturdy wall of protection. He looked right and saw his friend and wide receiver A.J. Brown streaking down the sideline.
Hurts flicked the ball with a high arc, perfectly — and I mean perfectly — delivering the ball into Brown’s outstretched hands. Hurts’ delivery had to be precise because the Steelers had Brown well covered with a cornerback and a safety right there.
In the NFL, an open receiver means maybe a foot of separation from a defender. When you hear “threading the needle” this is the definition.
Hurts hit Brown in stride. Remember when the skeptics didn’t think timely, exact passes were part of the Eagles quarterback’s skill-set? Or, questioned whether he could throw the deep ball?
Wait, touchdown Eagles.
And, touchdown Eagles.
On which play did Hurts and Brown connect? Try all three.
THREE TOUCHDOWNS FOR BROWN
Hurts connected with Brown three times for scores — from 39, 27 and 29 yards. Full disclosure: The first touchdown was thrown slightly ahead of Brown, who easily caught the ball and cut between two defenders to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.
The skill and touch required to connect on such passes is off-the-charts difficult, yet Hurts and Brown truly made it look easy. Brown had six catches for 156 yards.
The Eagles defeated the Steelers, 35-13, Sunday at the Linc, improving their record to 7-0. The Eagles have been the NFL’s only undefeated team for the *entire month of October*.
“The thing I enjoy the most is being single-covered,” Brown said. “My eyes light up because I know I have a possibility of getting the ball. It’s my ball or nobody’s ball …
“Jalen gave me a great ball on both of those sidelines passes and I just OTS’d it — over the shoulder.”
Hurts was 15-of-22 for 191 yards and three touchdowns in the first half. Pass-run balance was gone — the Eagles ran the ball only six times. Hurts was slinging it all around the Steelers’ secondary.
Hurts won his 10th consecutive start, a franchise record. His four touchdowns were a career high.
- “It’s a testament to the receivers we have, to the protection we had all day,” a typically humble Hurts said.
- “We were unwavering. We kept focused and played to the standard and chasing that. Helluva game by A.J. making big-time plays. I know he wants a couple of them [dropped passes] back, for sure.”
This is the second time the Eagles started 7-0. The other was 2004, a Super Bowl year. No matter how humble Hurts is, there is no denying his growth, leadership and passing prowess have the Eagles charging toward a potentially historic season.
- “We don’t know [how good he can be],” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Jalen’s just the type of guy that is going to continue to get better because the type of person he is, the type of football IQ he has, the type of football character he has, the toughness he has, how much he loves football.
- “I was always taught these are the types of guys that reach their ceiling. I don’t know if we know what his ceiling is going to be.
- “I know this: He’s getting better every day. He’s committed [to] that and that’s a good thing for the rest of your football team when your best player and your captains are committed every day.”
WINNING EVERY WHICH WAY
One trademark of the Eagles’ season has been the ability to win in different ways. Sometimes, it’s the running game. Sunday it was the passing game. The defense also has played a major role in the team’s success.
So often, it comes back to Hurts.
- “You want to able to win in different ways,” Sirianni said. “He went out there and executed. He threw some great deep balls, he read the defense well. He just continues to develop.
- “Jalen is ultra-focused and he’s focused on the process of how to get better every day … All he’s focused on is day-by-day. And [as] the leader of our team that’s huge because everybody all falls with that.”
DEFENSE GETS IT DONE
The Eagles’ defense continued their winning formula — getting turnovers and making sacks. The Eagles intercepted Pittsburgh rookie Kenny Pickett once and recovered a Pickett fumble. They sacked him six times, disrupting an offense that was moving the ball some, gaining 144 yards on the ground and 156 yards through the air.
In the first drive of the second half, the Eagles ran Miles Sanders ran twice for 31 yards. Hurts connected with Zach Pascal for a 34-yard touchdown and a 28-10 lead.
Whether through the air, on the ground, over the river and through the woods, the Eagles keep winning.
“I have a lot of trust in A.J. I think that’s a lot of the reason why he’s here,” Hurts said.
“We’ve always had a great relationship and I think it’s beautiful to see how it’s unfolded throughout the year. I’ve always had a lot of admiration for his mentality, his want-to.
“He’s been doing great things for us. I’m proud of him as a friend and as a quarterback.”