Jalen Hurts jogged lightly onto the field, his first public action in three weeks. The SC sprain-ologists among the fans and media locked in on his gait, his facial expressions, his every movement.
Hurts was back as the Eagles’ quarterback — to the delight and consternation of the sellout crowd.
Welcome to the Anxiety Bowl. Could Hurts play? Should he play? If so, how well could he play? How much pain was he enduring from his sprained right shoulder?
Hurts didn’t play any numbers game with the media after the game. Was he 100 percent? Would he be 100 percent for the first playoff game?
- “Good enough to win today,” Hurts said about his health after Sunday’s 22-16 victory over the Giants. He also could have been talking about his team.
- “I had some things I had to battle within myself. I knew I wanted to be available for my team.
- “It’s really tough being out, let alone taking some losses when you’re out. I really feel if you want something, you gotta do what you gotta do to go get it. Today, we did just enough to get that goal.”
HURTS WAS HURTING
Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, flat-out, that Hurts was in pain.
- “It’s not like he was perfect out there as far as what he felt like,” Sirianni said. “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. That’s the kind of person that he is. That’s the kind of teammate that he is that he was able to go out there and tough through it.
- “Of course, he’s still sore.”
The week started with the Eagles publicly unsure if Hurts and his injured right shoulder would play against the Giants, a game they needed to win to clinch the NFC East and the bye in the playoffs.
CAME OUT FIRING
Well, the 14-3 Eagles didn’t exactly ease him in, did they?
Hurts threw passes on the first eight plays. It seemed as if the Eagles were trying to show the Giants that Hurts’ shoulder was healthy and the New York defense was in for a long day.
The final score wasn’t as relevant as the final result. The Eagles needed to win and they did. The second half got a bit dicey — and if rookie Reed Blankenship didn’t garner an onside kick with 1:38 to play, it would have been downright scary.
There were flaws. Hurts clearly was rusty. The offensive line missed Lane Johnson. The well-oiled offensive machine we’ve become used to just wasn’t clicking that efficiently.
The Giants moved the ball on the ground. Giants quarterback Davis Webb, making his first start, put up 16 points on the Eagles’ top-ranked defense. Giants pass-rushers harassed Hurts too frequently.
NO DESIGNED RUNS
But Hurts was back, he didn’t appear to re-injure his shoulder, and the mission was accomplished.
Hurts competed 20-of-35 passes for 229 yards. He carried the ball nine times for 13 yards.
We didn’t see any runs designed for Hurts. No quarterback draws. When he rolled out, he carefully threw the ball away or headed out of bounds instead of plowing into defenders. He got hit several times but there appeared to be no damage.
His passes mostly looked precise, on target. We didn’t have a JUGS gun on Hurts’ passes, but they certainly seemed to have plenty of zip and depth.
He made several bad decisions, one that cost him the Eagles points on an interception in the end zone. Hurts told the CBS broadcast crew he didn’t start throwing until Dec. 29 and that he should have taken himself out of the Bears game when he was injured on Dec. 18.
Hurts’ worst moment came on the first drive of the second half. With the Eagles ahead, 16-0, he threw into double coverage at the goal line. The pass was intercepted. The play before, left guard Landon Dickerson was ineligibly downfield, costing the Eagles a touchdown.
Jake Elliott kicked five field goals, the margin of victory. When Hurts was cooking though his MVP-like season those field goals would have been touchdowns.
- “Where I thought the offense wasn’t good today was in the red zone,” Sirianni said. “We were able to move the ball. We were able to get some short fields because of our special teams …
- “More of my concern was with the red zone plan and execution. I’ll always put those together.”
We expected the Eagles to rely on the running game more than they did — if for no other reason than to take heat off Hurts.
The Eagles threw the ball 35 times and ran it 34 times. Boston Scott was sprung from the running back witness protection program and scored the only touchdown on an 8-yard run. He gained 54 yards on nine carries to lead the team.
- “Walking off the field today?” Hurts said. “It [NFC playoffs] comes through Philly. Job’s not done. Those were my thoughts.”
Jalen Hurts was back. Philadelphia was happy with the victory, if not totally content with how it happened.