Eagles Rewind: Jalen Hurts shocks the Saints in NFL debut

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NFL: DEC 13 Saints at Eagles
PHILADELPHIA, PA – DECEMBER 13: Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) carries the ball out of the endzone in the first half during the game between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles on December 13, 2020 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

The Eagles and Saints are two teams that have grown to be very familiar with one another. Entering Sunday’s matchup, this will be the 5th meeting of these teams since 2018, including playoffs. For two squads that are not in the same division, that is a lot of games over a pretty short period of time. Jalen Hurts is also 2-0 in his 2 starts versus New Orleans, and everyone remembers last season when he broke a defender’s ankles for a touchdown. However, I want to revisit the 2020 game, where Hurts made his first start and got his first career win.

December 13, 2020

The Eagles are in the middle of one of their worst seasons probably ever. They sit at 3-8-1, falling far below expectations, thanks to a woeful offense. After Carson Wentz had played like the worst quarterback in the league for most of the season, head coach Doug Pederson would fall to the pressure and bring in rookie second-rounder, Jalen Hurts. While most fans aren’t optimistic about his future in Philadelphia, there is an unknown to Hurts’ ability that has people excited to see what he can do. And thanks to playing in possibly the worst division ever, if Hurts and the Eagles can pull out a win, they’ll be back in the mix for the division title. 

The Saints on the other hand come into the game as 7.5-point road favorites. They are legit Super Bowl contenders with a nasty defense and an efficient, yet not very explosive offense. Future hall-of-famer Drew Brees was injured due to some broken ribs and a punctured lung, so utilityman Taysom Hill took over as the starting quarterback. The Saints are still very much in position for home-field advantage and a first-round bye at 10-2, but they have to keep winning to keep the 9-3 Green Bay Packers off their tail.

First Quarter

The game started pretty promisingly, as the Eagles won the coin toss and forced a 3 and out on the New Orleans offense. On their first drive, the Philly offense looked pretty good compared to previous weeks. Hurts and Miles Sanders methodically led the team down the field to the Saints’ 34 before things stalled. In true Dougie P fashion, he went for it on 4th and 2 but lost 3 yards on a Sanders run, slamming shut a promising drive. The Saints got good field position but couldn’t capitalize thanks to a missed Will Lutz field goal. Thanks to mistakes by both teams, they end the quarter scoreless.

Second Quarter

The Eagles got things started pretty early in the next frame. Thanks to a 39-yard reception from rookie Jalen Reagor and a few Miles Sanders runs, the Eagles quickly got the ball deep into Saints territory. They finished the drive this time, with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Alshon Jeffrey from Hurts. After each team punted, Eagles linebacker Duke Riley picked off Taysom Hill to set up a Jake Elliot field goal. The Eagles got the ball back with under 2 minutes left in the half, and capitalized with an 82-yard Miles Sanders touchdown run. Surprisingly, the Eagles stood over the playoff-bound Saints with a 17-0 advantage at halftime

Third Quarter

To start the half, the Eagles immediately went 3 and out. Hill and running back Alvin Kamara moved the ball down the field quickly and Kamara scored from 5 yards out for the Saints’ first points. The Eagles then got stopped on 4th down in Saints territory for the second time and gave the ball right back. Hill hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 37-yard touchdown pass and was quickly a 1-possession game, 17-14. 

Fourth Quarter

The Eagles’ defense was again on their heels, with the Saints in their zone and looking to take the lead. However, Josh Sweat got home with a sack-fumble and Javon Hargrave recovered the ball, giving the Eagles the needed momentum play. Again it was the Hurts and Sanders show as they moved the ball to the Saints’ 1-yard line and had Miles punch it in to bring the lead back up to 10.

The Saints threatened on the next possession but Hargrave and Sweat both got sacks to move them back, and Will Lutz missed a 57-yard field goal. This should have iced the game for Philadelphia but Hurts fumbled the ball on the second play of the next drive, giving New Orleans life. Hill connected with tight end Jared Cook on a 20-yard score to make things 24-21. However, Jalen Mills recovered the onside kick for the Eagles with 1:24 left on the clock and the offense kneeled to victory.

In his first career start, Jalen Hurts had shown a lot of promise. He wasn’t polished by any means, but 167 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, and over 100 rushing yards were things to build on. The offense did just enough to win, with Sanders being the other 100-yard rusher for the Eagles. The defensive line came alive as well, with 5 sacks on Hill, and were pressuring him all day long. The Eagles pulled off the upset to keep their faint playoff hopes alive, while the Saints’ chances at the number 1 seed greatly diminished.

January 1, 2023

2 years later, the Eagles and Saints find themselves in opposite positions. The Saints are 6-9 but are clinging to their small playoff odds, thanks to a terrible NFC South Division. The Eagles are 13-2, and looking to clinch the division and the 1st overall seed in the NFC, but will possibly be playing their backup quarterback. There are some parallels between these two games, but hopefully, the better team ends up winning, unlike last time.

Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire