NFC East Reporter
PHILADELPHIA — There is a feeling inside the Philadelphia Eagles locker room that no matter how bad things get, they’ll always find a way to win. They believe that because they’ve done it and because they know what they’re capable of doing.
Mostly, they believe it because their quarterback is Jalen Hurts.
“You know that he’s clutch,” said Eagles coach Nick Sirianni. “He’s been clutch for us, he’s been clutch for this city and clutch for this team for the past three years now. He just keeps going.”
Added defensive end Brandon Graham: “We love putting it in his hands to give us a chance.”
The Eagles did that again on Sunday, and once again Hurts proved them right with a wild and fantastic finish in a 37-34 overtime win over the Buffalo Bills. He won the game with a 12-yard touchdown run with 2:37 left in overtime. And that came after he saved the game with two fourth-quarter touchdown passes and a drive that set up a game-tying 59-yard field goal in the final minutes of regulation.
All in all, Hurts accounted for five Eagles touchdowns — three through the air and two with his legs. Four of them came after a dismal first half. And three of those came after a miserable three quarters after the Eagles entered the fourth trailing, 24-14.
The gap seemed far larger than that, though. Through three quarters the Eagles had 77 net passing yards, while Josh Allen and the Bills were ripping through the Philly defense for 385 total yards, on their way to 505. The Bills were completely in control and everything was going wrong for Hurts and the Eagles offense.
Nobody would’ve known how bad it was, though, by looking at him.
“That’s him, man. Laid back and calm,” said Eagles receiver DeVonta Smith. “That’s how he is. And that kind of keeps everybody else calm. Everybody gets frustrated and things like that, but you just look at him and it brings everybody back down calm.”
The importance of that can’t possibly be overstated. If the Eagles’ leader isn’t rattled when things are going wrong, it’s unlikely that anyone else is going to get rattled either. And that builds a trust that every team needs in their franchise quarterback. Even when nothing is going right, one look at Hurts and they all feel like he’ll find a way.
Like, for example, on the 15-yard touchdown pass he threw to Smith early in the fourth quarter that pulled the Eagles within 24-21. He had two receivers heading to the end zone to his right, with only Bills safety Micah Hyde back in coverage. Only one of them would end up open and Hurts correctly figured it would be Smith.
“He read the defense perfectly,” Sirianni said.
Or, for example, on the next drive, after Eagles cornerback James Bradberry picked off Allen — the only blemish, really, on Allen’s otherwise stellar day (29 of 51, 339 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and nine runs for 81 yards and two touchdowns). On third and 15 from the Buffalo 29, Hurts scrambled to his left and saw nobody was open.
That’s when Hurts stared down receiver Olamide Zaccheaus. “We kind of locked eyes a little,” Zaccheaus said. “When he scrambled I could kind of see him looking towards where I should be running. So I was like ‘OK.’ The open space was in the end zone.”
It was, and Hurts through it up to where he wanted Zaccheaus to be, and where the receiver made a tremendous catch for a 29-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 28-24.
Hurts may have saved his best clutch moment for last, though. It came after Allen rallied the Bills to a touchdown with 1:52 left in regulation, and after Hurts calmly drove back down the field to set up Jake Elliott’s game-tying, 59-yard field goal — a field goal Elliott said was the “toughest” he’s ever made due to the wind, the wet field and the rain. It even came after the Bills went ahead 34-31 with 5:52 left in overtime.
Hurts, with his pulse barely raised — at least as far as any of his teammates could tell — marched the Eagles right down the field, all the way to the Buffalo 12-yard line. That’s when offensive coordinator Brian Johnson called for a quarterback draw — “A staple of ours,” said left tackle Jordan Mailata. The only problem was the Bills lined up a safety right where Hurts was going to run, which Mailata said meant: “It was a bad look to run that play.”
But Hurts stayed with the play anyway and waited. “Jalen was like, ‘He’s going to move,'” Mailata said. And Hurts was right. The safety moved out of the way. “He kept the play on,” Mailata added. “He said he knew.”
“I saw the safety leave the box and I thought, ‘Oh, it’s happening,'” the left tackle added. “I could not believe they gave us that. We executed that play so many times. I thought they would do something different. Jesus, I can’t believe that happened.”
Hurts said he didn’t know the safety was going to move, but it really didn’t matter. He took the snap, ran up the middle and had almost nobody between him and the end zone for the score that gave the Eagles another come-from-behind win. It was the second straight week he rallied his team from a 17-7 halftime deficit, coming just six days after their 21-17 win in Kansas City over the Chiefs.
“They always talk about Tom Brady with the drives at the end,” Graham said. “I’m hoping Jalen starts getting that name. He finished the deal. Keep ‘em coming.”
Hurts — who threw for only 200 yards, but had 116 of them in the fourth quarter and overtime — might not be Brady-like yet, but he’s starting to mount quite a resume of his own. He is now 24-2 over his last 26 regular-season games — 26-3 including the playoffs. The Eagles are 10-1 and pulling away in the NFC, knowing home-field advantage in the playoffs for the second straight year is within reach, and maybe another trip to the Super Bowl, too.
Sirianni gave plenty of credit to his “mentally tough” team, but he knows that toughness all stems from his cool, calm and collected quarterback. More than anyone or anything else, Hurts is the reason that everyone in Philadelphia feels that the Eagles are never out of a game, no matter how bad things may seem.
“Just clutch in clutch moments,” Sirianni said of his quarterback. “He really made some big-time plays when it mattered the most.”
Yes, he did. Again. And even Hurts can’t explain it. He doesn’t want to even try.
“What am I supposed to say? What do you guys want me to say?” he said. “We just continue to find ways to win. We play together. We showed our resiliency day in and day out, game in and game out. We’ve been challenged in a number of different ways, but we always find a way. That’s something you can’t really take for granted.”
The Eagles don’t. And they especially don’t take it for granted with their franchise quarterback and leader — the man they look to when they need someone to follow and rally behind. He’s the one they can count on when they need someone to be clutch.
“That’s who he is. That’s what he does,” Zaccheaus said. “He’s shown that over and over and over again. I always say, when someone shows you who they are, believe it.
“I believe that’s who Jalen is.”
Ralph Vacchiano is the NFC East reporter for FOX Sports, covering the Washington Commanders, Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants. He spent the previous six years covering the Giants and Jets for SNY TV in New York, and before that, 16 years covering the Giants and the NFL for the New York Daily News. Follow him Twitter at @RalphVacchiano.
Get more from National Football League Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more