Instant analysis: Jalen Hurts breathes new life into the Eagles

NFL: DEC 13 Saints at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) passes to tight end Dallas Goedert (88) against New Orleans Saints on December 13, 2020 at the Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire)

Somehow, someway, the Philadelphia Eagles found a way to beat the New Orleans Saints. The 10-2 New Orleans Saints. The ‘Best defense in the league’ New Orleans Saints. The first start of Jalen Hurts was ultimately a resounding success. They didn’t make it easy. But it wouldn’t be on-brand if they did.

Jalen Hurts thrives

Prior to tonight’s game, the Saints had now allowed a player to post 100 rushing yards in 56 games. Rookie QB Jalen Hurts broke that astonishing record in his first ever start.

With 106 yards to his name on 18 rushes, Hurts was lethal any time he was afforded even the slightest of windows to dart through. The real difference between Carson Wentz and Jalen Hurts is that the franchise QB is mobile, but Jalen Hurts is a punishing runner, as evidenced by his 1,298 rushing yards for Oklahoma last year.

Hurts spent most of the afternoon running for his life, turning dead plays into first downs, and taking advantage of man-coverage concepts that would clear the shorter areas of the field for him to run into.

As a passer, it’s hard not to be impressed. Hurts stood tall in the pocket and took a huge hit from a free rusher on a touchdown strike to Alshon Jeffery, showcasing his toughness. He wasn’t perfect, but it’s safe to say that a lot of the routine throws he was making, Carson Wentz simply wouldn’t have (this season).

Hurts protected the ball (0 turnovers), was smart with his decision-making, and ultimately gave the offense a much needed spark of life. Whether or not that can be sustained is the next question.

Hey Miles!

Hurts wasn’t the only player to post 100 rushing yards against the Saints. Miles Sanders led the team after an incredible 82-yard touchdown run. This was his third TD dash of 70+ yards this season.

Sanders had 15 carries in the huge win along with 21 receiving yards. Having previously been almost eliminated from the passing-game entirely, this was refreshing to see.

While the addition of Hurts clearly changed things, it’s safe to say it’s amazing what happens when you run the ball, huh.

Doug failed and saved the Eagles?

Doug Pederson was a man of his word. After simplifying the offense for Jalen Hurts, Eagles fans everywhere were met with a sense of joy and anger. On one hand, the offense was thriving. Jalen Reagor had 46 receiving yards and was actually used in open space to utilize his speed, and Pederson called a plethora of shorter timing-based routes that were inundated with checkdowns and release valves. But on the other hand, a sense of heartbreak. Where were these adjustments in the first 13 weeks?

The Eagles weren’t a magically different team. They still had their woes and there is clearly a long way to go. But it’s only fair to wonder how different this season would have been if Wentz was afforded that facilitated change. Would the outcome be any different? Who knows. But it shouldn’t take 13 weeks of terror, the benching of a franchise QB, and a job hanging in the balance for these changes to be made.

Hello darkness, my old friend

The Eagles were once again visited by the injury bug. It sank its teeth in deep…very deep. Like, deeper than a supermassive black hole or the lyrical content in Taylor Swift’s new album.

Darius Slay, Rodney McLeod, Malik Jackson, Josh Sweat, and Avonte Maddox all ended up being pulled from the game. Not ideal for a secondary that’s already light on CB depth and had just released Will Parks, who conveniently ended up balling out in his first game back in Denver.

Hopefully these injuries aren’t severe, but there does seem to be a pattern of late-season Eagles injuries all occurring at once.

The Eagles did Eagles things

The defense very almost choked a 17-0 lead and I’m still not quite over it. Tackling was sloppy throughout, there were miscommunications across the board, and ultimately, injuries caught up to a unit that was already wobbling.

But the pass-rush demands a huge round of applause. Josh Sweat balled out with two sacks, Javon Hargrave is finally showing signs of life and added two more, and the front four as a whole were a large reason why the Saints couldn’t find their footing offensively. Credit where its due, anything less than the effort given tonight and this game would have been a lost cause.

Up next

The Eagles will face the Arizona Cardinals next week who just thumped the New York Giants so hard that they’ll be listed as ‘day-to-day’. It will be a tough challenge, but after overthrowing the 10-2 New Orleans Saints, maybe there’s a new hope after all?

Photo by Stephen Lew/Icon Sportswire