Jalen Hurts didn’t have to carry the team on his back. He didn’t have to throw 300 yards or run 100 yards. He didn’t have to be Superman.
He just had to be himself. And he did that flawlessly.
In a masterpiece of minimalist quarterbacking, Hurts threw only 24 passes, passed only for 154 yards, ran only for 34.
He didn’t do a ton. But he did exactly what he had to do to help the Eagles record an easy 38-7 victory over the Giants at the Linc in the NFC conference semifinals on Saturday night.
Hurts was in complete charge of the offense, in full command of the team. There is a certain elegance in not trying too much and only doing what you have to do. And Hurts did that brilliantly.
“It looked like the old Jalen,” Miles Sanders said. “I’m not going to lie. Just proud of him. He asks everyone for the best of themselves, and we’re only going to do that for him because he gives us the best.”
Since 1960, the only time an Eagles quarterback to start and finish a playoff game threw fewer passes was in 1979, when Ron Jaworski went 12-for-23 in a wild card win over the Bears at the Vet.
It had been 15 years since an NFL team scored 38 points in a playoff game with 24 or fewer pass attempts. That was the Packers in a 42-20 victory over the Seahawks in 2008, when Brett Favre went 18-for-23 and Ryan Grant ran for over 200 yards.
This time it was Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott and Hurts who combined for 268 rushing yards. That kept Hurts under pressure, who made just seven passes in the second half.
The formula has been pitched all year round to build a lead and run to keep it. The Eagles switched from pass to run just earlier than usual Saturday night against an overmatched Giants defense.
But Hurts was brilliant when he had to. He went 7-for-7 with TD passes to Dallas Goedert and DeVonta Smith in the first quarter, and the Eagles pretty much went unpunished from there.
“I think it was very important for us to come out and start quickly,” said Hurts. “As a football team we just came 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 ball.
“I really never put a limit on myself and I never put a limit on what this team can do, so there is always more for us to get. To come out and play like we did tonight, I’m proud of this group, I’m proud of this team and I’m proud of the preparation we’ve done to get to where we are today. There’s a lot to be thankful for, but it’s earned during the week. I’m excited to get another chance to play for something big.”
This was the Jalen Hurts we saw before he hurt his shoulder against the Bears five weeks ago. The MVP candidate from September to mid-December.
He may not be 100 percent, but he sure looked 100 percent.
“To have him there is like – I know this is high praise, but to have him there is like – I shouldn’t even be going there – it’s like having Michael Jordan there,” said Nick Sirianni. ‘He’s your leader. He’s your man.
“This man leads. He brings this peace to the whole team. He plays great football. He’s as tough as they come.
“For me, no one has played better football than him this year.”
Hurts’ 112.2 passer score was the 4th highest in Eagles postseason history, behind Rodney Peete’s 143.3 in the 1995 58–37 wild card win over the Lions at the Vet, Nick Foles’ 141.4 in the 2017 NFC Championship Game win over the Vikings at the Linc and Tommy Thompson’s 127.3 in the 1947 Semifinal win over the Steelers at Forbes Field.
He is the youngest Eagles quarterback to reach the NFC Championship Game — nine months younger than Donovan McNabb in 2001 — and with a victory over the 49ers or Cowboys a week from Sunday, he becomes the eighth QB to take his team to a Super Bowl before his 25th birthday.
A year ago, Hurts stumbled through a nightmare on his playoff debut in Tampa.
That was one of the worst postseason performances in Eagles history. This was one of the best.
“I think every experience is useful, not just that game, but all of last season and the last 15 games I’ve played,” he said. “I think they have all been very helpful. There is a lot to learn from that. I just wanted to come here and play good football. Knowing what that looks like and finding a way to do it.”
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