News Stations reported it all week, Jalen Hurts was going to get roughed up in his first career NFL start. A 4:25 kickoff in South Philly against the top seed in the NFC. The number one defense in the NFL against a rookie quarterback making his NFL starting debut. A very different story was told this Sunday evening as the Eagles not only ended a historic Saints NFL record but would win 24-21. Jalen Hurts would become just the second QB all time to defeat a team on a 9+ win steak in his first career start. The other quarterback to achieve this? None other than Philly’s own, Ron Jaworski.
Eagles Dominate a Scoreless First Quarter
The Eagles defense came to play in this game. The Saints received the ball to start, and the Eagles had them off the field with just 1:59 missing from the clock. Philadelphia would take over at their own 27 yard line, and Jalen Hurts was ready for his first career start. Hurts helped Philly move the ball down the field, converting a third and a fourth-down before failing to convert a fourth-and-two at the New Orleans 34 yard line. The Eagles defense held strong forcing the Saints to a field goal attempt, which Wil Lutz missed, his second in as many weeks. Now here’s where the fun began. Hurts would hit Jalen Reagor for a 39 yard completion on 3rd & 7 as the first quarter expired on the ensuing drive. That completion set up a beautiful touchdown to WR Alshon Jeffery on a back-shoulder pass. Hurts stayed in the pocket and withstood a big hit to deliver the pass.
More of the Same in the Second Quarter
The Eagles defense would force another punt, but their offense would be unable to capitalize. The Eagles punted following their first three-and-out. Their offense didn’t have to wait long for another opportunity, though. Saints QB Taysom Hill delivered a high pass to Alvin Kamara that resulted in a Duke Riley interception, the Eagles fourth of the year. Following their first two plays, Hurts hit Zach Ertz for what looked to be a first down. However, the ruling on the field was an incomplete pass. Doug Pederson would challenge the play and fail, regardless of Dean Blandino explaining on the broadcast that it should have been ruled a completed pass. Philadelphia would have to settle for a Jake Elliott 44-yard field goal, making the score 10-0 with 6:09 to play in the 2nd quarter.
One thing to note about this game so far, the Eagles still struggled mightily on third-downs. Fortunately, they were able to make due, despite those struggles. Eagles defensive lineman Javon Hargrave started the next Saints series with a first-down sack, the first of five for Philadelphia on the day. Nickell Robey-Coleman missed an easy interception on second down, which ultimately allowed the Saints to convert on their drive. Later on, Mr. Clutch himself, Derek Barnett, stuffed Hill on a third and one, forcing another Saints punt. With the Eagles up 10-0, Miles Sanders could smell the blood in the water.
Sanders would take it 82 yards to the house, giving the Eagles a 17-0 lead with just 1:35 left in the second quarter. The Eagles defense made another stop as Fletcher Cox got a critical third-down sack. Hurts would take the Eagles down the field with his legs, giving the Eagles a 22-yard field goal attempt to end the half. Unfortunately, Elliott could not connect, leaving the score 17-0 to end the first half.
A Worrisome Third Quarter
Philadelphia would open the third with the ball and get six yards on first down. They would follow that up with a second down loss, a false start, and eventually a punt. Some momentum seemed to have been lost following Elliott’s botched 22-yard attempt to end the first half. The Saints would take advantage of Philly’s three and out, swiftly marching down the field to make it a 17-7 game. Philadelphia would lose both Rodney McLeod and Darius Slay on the same play during the Saints scoring drive. This comes after losing Avonte Maddox earlier in the game. The Eagles would again fail on a fourth-down attempt, as Hurts attempted to sneak for a first. All the momentum had shifted to the Saints. Hill would hit Emmanuel Sanders for a 37 yard touchdown four plays later, making it a 17-14 game.
Eagles Rely on Their Defense
Heading into the fourth quarter, the Saints were driving but faced a crucial 4th and two. Eagles defensive end Josh Sweat would make a huge play, stripping Hill and giving the Eagles excellent field position with 9:57 left to play. Doug Pederson would dial-up an end-around for Jalen Reagor, picking up 19 yards and setting Philly up at the Saints 11 yard line. Miles Sanders pounded it into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day. The Eagles now lead 24-14 with just over six minutes left in the game. On the ensuing Saints drive, both Sweat and Hargrave would tally a sack, leaving the Saints with no options. New Orleans lined up to try a 57-yard field goal, which Lutz missed to the left. All that was left to do was run out the clock, as the Saints only had one timeout remaining.
After 58 minutes of turnover-free football, Jalen Hurts made his rookie mistake. Hurts fumbled on a run up the middle, giving the Saints excellent field position with under two minutes remaining. Hill would hit the tight end, Jared Cook, for an impressive 20 yard touchdown. Could the Eagles find a way to blow this? Wil Lutz would kick one of the more peculiar onside kicks of the season, hitting an Eagles heel in the process. Following multiple replays, it makes absolutely zero sense how the Eagles managed to recover the onside kick. Doing so helped stave off the New Orleans Saints, 24-21.
Eagles End Saints Historic Run Defense Record
The New Orleans Saints had gone 55 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher. The Eagles had not one but TWO 100-yard rushers. Miles Sanders rushed 14 times for 115 yards, while Jalen Hurts rushed 18 times for 106 yards. Hurts became the first Eagles QB to rush for 100 yards since Mike Vick in 2010. In total, the Eagles ran the ball 36 times for 246 yards and two touchdowns. Philadelphia had all but abandoned the rushing attack in prior weeks, so to see such staggering numbers against the number one defense in the NFL is eye-opening. One question remains for this Eagles team. Is this type of performance repeatable?