Jalen Hurts didn’t have to carry the team on his back. He didn’t have to throw for 300 yards or run for 100. 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 only threw 24 passes, only passed for 154 yards, only ran for 34.
He didn’t do a ton. But he did precisely what he had to for the Eagles to record an easy 38-7 win over the Giants Saturday night at the Linc in the NFC conference semifinals.
Hurts was in complete command of the offense, in complete command of the team. There’s a certain elegance in not trying to do too much and only doing what you need to do. And Hurts did that brilliantly.
“Seemed like the old Jalen to me,” Miles Sanders said. “I’m not going to lie. Just proud of him. He asks everybody for their best, and we’re going to do that just for him because he gives us our best.”
Since 1960, the only time an Eagles quarterback who started and finished a playoff game threw fewer passes was in 1979, when Ron Jaworski was 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 win over the Seahawks in 2008, when Brett Favre was 18-for-23 and Ryan Grant ran for over 200 yards.
This time, it was Sanders, Kenny Gainwell, Boston Scott and Hurts combining for 268 rushing yards. That kept the pressure off Hurts, who only threw seven passes in the second half.
The formula all year has been throw to build a lead and run to keep it. The Eagles just transitioned from pass to run earlier than usual Saturday night against an overmatched Giants defense.
But Hurts was brilliant 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 pretty much coasted from there.
“I think it was very important for us to come out and start fast,” Hurts said. “As a football team, we just came out and played with a lot of energy. We prepared really well throughout the week, and you’re always talking about challenging everybody to play their best ball.
“I truly never put a limit on myself and I never put a limit on what this team can do, so there’s always more out there for us to get. To come out there and play the way that we did tonight, I’m proud of this group, I’m proud of this team, and I’m proud of the preparation that we put into getting to where we are. There is a lot to be grateful for, but it was earned during the week. I’m excited to have another opportunity to play for something big again.”
This was the Jalen Hurts we saw before he hurt his shoulder against the Bears five weeks ago. The MVP candidate of September through mid-December.
He might not be 100 percent, but he sure looked 100 percent.
“To have him out there is like — I know this is high praise, but to have him out there is like having — I shouldn’t even go there — it’s like having Michael Jordan out there,” Nick Sirianni said. “He’s your leader. He’s your guy.
“This guy leads. He brings this calmness to the entire team. He plays great football. He’s as tough as they come.
“To me, nobody has played better football than him this year.”
Hurts’ 112.2 passer rating was 4th-highest in Eagles postseason history, behind Rodney Peete’s 143.3 in the 58-37 wild-card win over the Lions in 1995 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’s the youngest Eagles quarterback to reach the NFC Championship Game – nine months younger than Donovan McNabb in 2001 – and with a win over the 49ers or Cowboys a week from Sunday he’ll become the eighth QB to take his team to a Super Bowl before his 25th birthday.
A year ago, Hurts hobbled through a nightmare in 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 helpful, not only that game but the entire last season, and the past 15 games I’ve played,” he said. “I think all of those have been very beneficial. There’s a lot to learn from that. I just wanted to come out here and play good football. Knowing what that looks like and finding a way to do that.”
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