Hurts has Eagles off and running toward best record in NFL

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Aaron Rodgers entered the Packers’ game against the Eagles as the reigning two-time NFL MVP. Jalen Hurts showed in the head-to-head matchup why he could be the one to take the award from Rodgers.

Hurts cemented his status as a top MVP candidate with a game that goes down as one of the greatest for a QB in Eagles’ history. Yes, even for a franchise that boasts Donovan McNabb, Michael Vick and Randall Cunningham, Hurts topped them all in the rushing department.

Hurts ran for 157 yards in the 40-33 victory to set an Eagles record for a quarterback. He also threw for 153 yards and two touchdowns and became the first player since at least 1950 with 150-plus yards rushing and 150-plus yards passing with multiple passing touchdowns.

Consider as well that Hurts had 254 combined yards, including 126 on the ground, and threw a TD pass in the first half.

How so dominant?

Let Jalen sum it up:

“I ran,” he said, “and they couldn’t get me.”

Hurts topped Michael Vick’s 130 yards rushing set in December 2010 against the New York Giants as best for an Eagles QB.

“To be in a city like this with a quarterback history that this city has, and that he set a record for most yards by a quarterback rushing, is pretty special,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. “Those are some unbelievable names that he is following.”

The personal milestones are a nice touch for the 24-year-old QB, but it’s team goals he is chasing. Hurts helped the Eagles move to 10-1 for the fifth time in history, which puts them in pretty heady company. The Eagles won NFL championships after starting 10-1 in 1949 and 2017. The other times they did it, they lost the Super Bowl (1980, 2004).

“I know in a profession where things change all the time, we really want to appreciate the time we are having now and just take advantage of our moments, take advantage of the opportunities when they present themselves and just play ball the way we want to play ball,” Hurts said.

WHAT’S WORKING

Led by Hurts and Miles Sanders, the Eagles ran for 363 yards, the second-most in franchise history. The record is 376 yards rushing on Nov. 21, 1948, against Washington. Steve Van Buren ran for 171 yards in that one. Seems like Hurts could challenge that mark at some point in his career.

WHAT NEEDS HELP

The nightmare scenario for the Eagles is a dazzling outing from Hurts and a sack-happy defense leading the team to the brink of a playoff victory until the effort is derailed by special teams. The unit has largely been disaster, especially on coverage, and it crumbled against the Packers. Keisean Nixon had a 38-yard kickoff return to set up Green Bay’s first touchdown, he opened the second half with a 52-yard kickoff return and then had a stunning 53-yard kickoff return with 2:09 left in a 10-point game.

Even kicker Jake Elliott missed an extra point that would have put the final at 41-33 — yes, the final score of the Eagles’ lone Super Bowl championship. Special teams coach Michael Clay has been on the hot seat for most of the season because of a glaring weakness that has yet to get corrected and could cost Philadelphia a shot at a second Super Bowl win.

STOCK UP

How often does a player rush for 143 yards and still not lead the team? Put Sanders on that list. He had a career-best outing for yards rushing and scored two touchdowns. He had a long run of 28 yards and averaged 6.8 yards on 21 carries. Hurts and Sanders became the first teammates to run for at least 125 yards apiece since San Francisco’s Frank Gore (158) and Colin Kaepernick (151) on Dec. 20, 2014.

STOCK DOWN

WR A.J. Brown. Brown missed practice and lost weight because of an illness that he couldn’t shake on game day. Yet even the usually sure-handed Brown would not make excuses for a second straight game with a lost fumble (he had three total over his first three seasons) and a dropped pass. Hurts showed his faith in the No. 1 target and hit him with a 6-yard TD in the third quarter for a 14-point lead, but ball security is suddenly an issue with Brown.

“I wouldn’t change how aggressive I am with the ball in my hand because that’s who I am,” Brown said. “But I’ve just got to do a better job with the details and protecting the ball.”

INJURED

C.J. Gardner-Johnson, the NFL’s interception leader with six, suffered a rib injury in the first half.

KEY NUMBER

14 — The number of 10-plus win seasons since Jeffrey Lurie’s first full year of ownership in 1995, which ranks fifth in the NFL over that span. Also of note, each of Lurie’s five head coaching hires have won at least 10 games in a season within their first two years: Sirianni (10-1 in 2022), Doug Pederson (13-3 in 2017), Chip Kelly (10-6 in 2013; 10-6 in 2014), Andy Reid (11-5 in 2000) and Ray Rhodes (10-6 in 1995; 10-6 in 1996).

NEXT STEPS

Brown gets his first shot at his old team when the Eagles host the Titans on Sunday. Brown had wanted a new deal that the Titans were unwilling to pay, so they traded him to the Eagles. The Eagles gave him a $100 million, four-year contract with $57 million guaranteed upon completing the trade.

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