How Eagles Jalen Hurts was brilliant, awful vs. Commanders − while matching Mahomes, Brady

PHILADELPHIA − So we learned there is nothing linear in a football game.

Jalen Hurts was getting harassed in the first half against the Washington Commanders, unable to run, unable to throw deep. And yes, he was hearing the boos from the Lincoln Financial faithful after the Washington Commanders had bottled him up behind the line of scrimmage.

Why not? The Eagles gave Hurts a contract extension worth as much as $255 million, and this was hardly the Jalen Hurts from last season, when he was the MVP runner-up, when he seemingly had an answer for everything.

The Eagles trailed the Commanders by 10 points in the final minutes of the first half, and Hurts seemed like he was out of answers.

That's when wide receiver A.J. Brown noticed something different.

"That fire," Brown said. "He kind of woke up a little bit. It gave everybody a boost. ... He’s going to be mellow, but that fire showed today, that desire."

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So there Hurts was Sunday after leading the Eagles to perhaps the ugliest game-winning field goal drive in overtime that you'll ever see. Hurts was called for intentional grounding on second down that ultimately left it up to Jake Elliott to nail a 54-yard field goal for a hard-fought 34-31 win over the Washington Commanders.

It didn't matter. Hurts got the job done. It was like that late in regulation. Tied at 24-24 with 3 minutes left, Hurts led the Eagles down the field and connected with Brown on a 28-yard TD for a seven-point lead with 1:43 left.

Washington tied it again, on the final play of regulation. Then the Commanders got the ball to start overtime, and the defense forced a punt.

In many ways, Hurts was brilliant. He completed 25 of 37 passes for a season-high 319 yards. He threw two long touchdown passes to Brown, for 59 yards and 28 yards.

And he was awful. Often, Hurts couldn't escape Washington defenders when he tried running. He looked slow, indecisive and confused by coverages. Hurts had 34 yards rushing on nine carries. But take away a 24-yard scamper in the second half, and Hurts had 10 yards on his other eight carries.

"My whole career has kind of been a rollercoaster in terms of being in different and unique and unprecedented moments, which you may call pressure and stormy, and that fire," Hurts said. "That’s what I was born in. It’s a unique feeling being in those situations because you work so hard, and you prepare so hard, and you go through so much to put yourself in position where you’re comfortable in those moments."

That, too, means something. The Eagles are 21-1 in Hurts' last 22 regular-season starts going back to the 2021 season. The only quarterbacks since 1950 who have matched that mark in a 22-game stretch are Patrick Mahomes, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Jim McMahon, Joe Montana and Daryle Lamonica.

Not bad company.

Left tackle Jordan Mailata felt that fire from Hurts and center Jason Kelce after the first half. Mailata said it wasn't anything they said at halftime. It was more of a feeling on the field.

"You can just tell after that first half that we weren’t playing our best football," Mailata said. "And that lit a fire under (Hurts and Kelce). I’m glad I’m with them because they brought me out of a dark first half, and it was inspiring."

And it wasn't anything Hurts had to say, or yell at his teammates.

"Jalen doesn’t get pissed off," Mailata said. "If anything, Jalen gets pissed off at himself, more than he does at others. He won’t let it out on someone."

There was so much that went into it, of course.

The helter-skelter game that Hurts had was a microcosm of the Eagles' defense as well.

They were shredded early by Commanders quarterback Sam Howell, who was sacked nine times and threw four interceptions last week in an embarrassing 37-3 loss to Buffalo. Yet the Eagles didn't lay a hand on Howell until Nicholas Morrow sacked him midway through the second quarter, long after the Commanders scored on their first two possessions, both going for 75 yards.

That was the first of Morrow's career-high three sacks in the game. Haason Reddick, who was second in the NFL with 16 sacks last season, got his first of the season in the fourth quarter.

And yet, Howell got the ball back with 1:36 left, trailing by a touchdown. He converted a fourth-and-2 at midfield. He threw a sideline pass to Terry McLaurin, who got out of bounds at the Eagles' 10 with 5 seconds left. He had one chance left with 2 seconds left and hit Jahan Dotson in the corner of the end zone as time expired, forcing overtime.

And then in overtime, safety Reed Blankenship pushed McLaurin by the slightest amount out of bounds on third down forcing a punt.

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts (1) gestures during the first half of an NFL football game against the Washington Commanders on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, in Philadelphia.

Hurts' game-winning drive wasn't pretty, either. But Hurts converted a fourth-and-1 at midfield. After the intentional grounding (Brown stopped running as Hurts threw deep) left the Eagles with a third-and-17 from the Commanders' 45, Hurts completed a 9-yard pass to DeVonta Smith.

That was just close enough for Elliott's game-winning field goal. For the Eagles and Hurts, that was the only thing that mattered.

"I thought he played clutch, just clutch," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said. "I think that’s the best way to say it. Whether it was the overtime drive, whether it was the drive where we scored with about a minute-plus left. We didn’t have a lot of possessions in the first half, and we needed that end-of-half (field goal) to get going.

"Clutch. I think that is the best way to say it."

So what did Hurts learn about himself navigating those pressure-packed moments to lead the Eagles to another hard-fought win?

"Nothing," he said. "It’s who I am. That's what it is."

Contact Martin Frank at Follow on X @Mfranknfl.

This article originally appeared on Delaware News Journal: How Eagles' Jalen Hurts matched Mahomes, Brady in brilliant, ugly win