Why Jalen Hurts rushing success is not because of his legs, and one Eagle has a warning
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PHILADELPHIA -- It's easy to let the Eagles' running success catch up with them Sunday night and think it's like last season, when they had no other way to win.
After all, Jalen Hurts hasn't surpassed 200 yards in any of the Eagles' last three games. That includes his performance Sunday night when Hurts completed 16 of 28 passes for 153 yards.
But that is misguided.
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The Eagles are 10-1 and are having success with the ball this season precisely because Hurts has shown he can pass the ball. And when something is working at an exceptional level, like the Eagles' running attack in the 40-33 win over the Green Bay Packers, why stop?
So not the Eagles.
Hurts rushed for 157 yards and Miles Sanders added 143 yards, both career highs. Hurts set a team record for rushing yards in a game for a quarterback, breaking Michael Vick's record of 130 yards set against the Giants in December 2010.
Only two quarterbacks have rushed for more yards in a game in NFL history -- the Bears' Justin Fields with 178 yards earlier this season and Michael Vick with 173 and 166 yards while playing for Atlanta.
As a team, the Eagles rushed for 363 yards, just 14 yards from breaking the franchise record set 74 years ago.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) runs for a first down in the first quarter of an NFL football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, November 27, 2022 in Philadelphia. The Eagles defeated the Packers 40-33. (AP Photo/Rich Schultz)
It was going so well that Eagles coach Nick Sirianni told offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, who is calling the plays, "Hey, run it again, run it again, run it again."
Then he added: "You can feel it. I love it when (tackle) Lane Johnson comes off the field and he's full of juice.
"It's so much fun," said left stacker Jordan Mailata. "Forcing your will on others. It's the simple saying of moving a man from point A to point B against his will. In the trenches, that's a real thing; we love that."
So the Eagles moved the Packers up and down the field all night, from point A to point B to point C to the end zone.
Occasionally, Hurts would throw a strike, whether it was a 30-yard touchdown pass to Quez Watkins or a 6-yard TD to A.J. Brown.
That was the difference from last year and why Hurts is an MVP candidate. Hurts couldn't make those passes last season, so the Eagles had to run because they had no choice.
"This is playoff football," Brown said. "Whenever you can run the ball, that's what you want. Passing helps with running. If we do that well, it opens things up. I think if we run the ball that well, there aren't any need for (the passing game) to do certain things."
But the Packers had to respect it.
Because they did, Hurts ran at them from the start. In the first series of the game, with a third and a ten, Hurts started and gained 24 yards. Later in the drive, he picked up 28 yards and the Eagles eventually scored.
"The game plan could go either way," Sanders said. "We can take the top off or drag the ball out throughout the game."
After the Eagles led 13-0 and fell a point later in the first quarter, Hurts ran 45 yards to the Packers' 3. The Eagles scored in the first game of the second quarter. At this point, Hurts already had 102 rushing yards.
Why was he so successful there early on?
"To be honest, I don't know how to answer that question," Hurts said. "I ran and they couldn't get me."
The Packers attempted to use a linebacker to spy on hurts. It did not work. They brought a fuse closer to the line of scrimmage. That didn't work either.
They cheated towards the center, so Hurts passed the ball to Sanders, who ran to the outside. They cheated to the outside to stop Sanders, so Hurts ran to the center.
"Oh he opened it, yes he did," Sanders said of Hurts. "I appreciate him for that. It's good to have a quarterback like him when you can just fall behind, and when you can't see anything and it's looking cloudy, you can just take off and go ... 20 yards.
"That's going to kill a defense and make them change the way they play with covers and things like that. It confuses them all as they try to contain all the talent that we have with this offense."
That is the point.
Hurts' death made all of this possible. He ranks among the NFL leaders in terms of completion percentage of 67.3 and passer rating of 105.8.
Just think about defending a guy who's just as likely to pull the ball and run away as he is to hit an open receiver. That wouldn't have happened last season. Hurts only completed 61.3% of his passes and his rating was an 87.2 pedestrian.
Hurts threw three interceptions in last January's playoff game. That's his 11-game total this season.
Sirianni described what it's like to figure out how to defend against hurts.
"If I have to use another man to make sure Jalen doesn't break loose, that's one man down from cover," he said. "If I have to tell the defensive line not to rush in a certain direction because Jalen can break out, you usually tell them not to just dash onto the field because this guy is going to come through the line of scrimmage and make a game."
In other words, a defensive end can't just take a detour in his passing frenzy because hurts can take off into open space. This limits the aggressiveness of the defensive end and gives hurts more time to throw. Unlike last year, Hurts can make a team pay either way.
But there's a level of concern, something Brown mentioned when asked what it's like for him and receivers to see Hurts go like this.
"Number one, I want him to be safe and come down," Brown said. “He only creates on his legs. As long as he's safe, we're fine.”
Actually they are more than fine.
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow @Mfranknofl on Twitter.
This article originally appeared in the Delaware News Journal: Jalen Hurt's overwhelming success in winning the Eagles wasn't because of his legs
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