Jalen Hurts makes history in his first NFL start




Jalen Hurts made history in his first NFL start and helped the Philadelphia Eagles break a four-game losing streak on Sunday.

But that doesn’t mean the former Alabama standout will be Philadelphia’s starting quarterback again when the Eagles play the Arizona Cardinals next week.

Philadelphia defeated the New Orleans Saints 24-21 as Hurts completed 17-of-30 passes for 167 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions and ran for 106 yards on 18 carries.

Hurts became the first quarterback in NFL history to run for 100 yards and throw a touchdown pass in his first NFL start. Only one other quarterback – the Baltimore Ravens’ Lamar Jackson in 2018 -- had rushed for 100 yards in his first NFL start.

Hurts also became the second quarterback to win his first start when facing a team that had won at least nine games in a row. The Saints came in on a nine-game winning streak and with the best record in the NFC at 10-2. Ron Jaworski was the first to do so when the Los Angeles Rams posted a 10-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1975 that broke an 11-game winning streak.

Not only did Hurts crack the 100-yard rushing mark, but so did Philadelphia running back Miles Sanders, who ran for 115 yards and two touchdowns on 14 carries, including an 82-yard scoring run. New Orleans had gone 50 consecutive games without allowing an opposing ball-carrier to reach 100 rushing yards, the fourth-longest streak in NFL history.

Philadelphia coach Doug Pederson decided to replace Carson Wentz with Hurts against the Saints. The Eagles entered the game with a 3-8-1 record, and Wentz led the NFL in interceptions and turnovers and had been sacked more than any quarterback in the NFL this season. (Hurts was not sacked on Sunday.)

In announcing his decision to pull his five-year starter last week, Pederson didn’t commit to more than the Sunday start for Hurts, and he declined to say which quarterback would start the Eagles’ next game after Sunday’s victory.

“I’m going to enjoy this one,” Pederson said when asked about the team’s QB against the Cardinals. “I’m going to go home and relax and be with my family tonight and enjoy this win and get ready for the week.”

Pederson said Hurts had done what he hoped the rookie would do in his first start.

“I thought overall there were some good things and kind of gave us a spark overall as a team that I was looking for,” Pederson said, “and I think we were looking for as a team.

“This win today is not about one guy. This win is about this team and how resilient this team is. … He, obviously, was a part of the win, but my hat’s off to a lot of guys in this football game.”

Pederson continued to sound that theme during his postgame press conference when asked about Hurts’ play against the No. 1 defense in the NFL.

“Jalen played well, obviously – we won the game,” Pederson said. “There’s a lot of good performances out there tonight, and as I said, defense stepped up, offensive line, some of our young receivers and, obviously, Jalen. It’s a start, and we’re excited to get the win. …

“It took everybody in uniform to win this game. Not just one guy. And I’m going to repeat myself again: It takes a village to get this stuff done, and Jalen was a part of it, yes, but it took a team effort to win, honestly.”

Hurts delivered a similar message when his turn came to speak with reporters.

“I think, first and foremost, it’s a great team win,” Hurts said. “Everybody played together, believed in one another, and we put an emphasis on that this week – playing together, playing as one, bringing energy and creating our own energy, moving with urgency and just going out there and believing in one another. I’m happy this group got it done today.”

When asked if he thought he should start the next game, too, Hurts said: “I think going into next week, I just want to continue to impact the guys around me and just work hard every day.”

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Hurts connected with wide receiver Alshon Jeffery on a 15-yard touchdown toss on a fourth-down snap to open the scoring with 13:25 left in the second quarter. Philadelphia got a field-goal and Sanders’ 82-yard TD run before the period ended. But Jake Elliott missed a 22-yard field goal on the final snap of the first half after Hurts ran for 24 and 16 yards on back-to-back snaps.

After the Saints cut the Eagles’ lead to three points in the third quarter, Philadelphia moved 53 yards in six plays for a touchdown with 6:22 to play.

New Orleans pulled within three points by scoring a touchdown with 1:24 left after linebacker Kwon Alexander, a former Oxford High School star, punched the football away from Hurts. The Eagles recovered the onside kick, and Hurts kneeled out the clock.

Hurts said the Eagles’ performance was not up to “their standard of play.”

“One thing when I look back on this game – a lot of money on the table for us,” Hurts said. “A lot of money on the table we left out there, so we’re very excited we got a ‘W’ today against a really good team, but we’re going to go back to work. We got a 24-hour rule on this team, and we clearly understand that. Lots to work on, lots to build on. I’m excited to go back to practice and get ready for the next game.”


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