When a player puts forth a valiant performance in a Super Bowl loss, you hope he’s not remembered by the one play that — literally — went the wrong way.
For Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts in Super Bowl LVII, that was obviously his fumble with 9:39 left in the first half, which Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton returned 36 yards for a touchdown. That tied the game at 14-14, and had that not happened, we may be talking about Hurts as the winning quarterback, and Super Bowl Most Valuable Player.
— Aaron Ladd (@aaronladd0) February 13, 2023
Hurts should not be remembered solely by this. Because in this game, and at the end of his first season as the Eagles’ absolute, undoubted starter, Hurts did everything else about as well as it could be done. He completed 27 of 38 passes for 304 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, and a passer rating of 103.4. Hurts also ran 15 times for 70 yards… and three touchdowns.
Per ESPN’s Stats & Info, in this Super Bowl, Hurts put together his second NFL performance in which he threw for at least 300 yards, ran for at least 50 yards, and had three rushing touchdowns.
No other quarterback has done that even once. The other time Hurts did it was against the Chicago Bears in Week 15 of the 2022 season. Then, Hurts completed 22 of 37 passes for 315 yards, no touchdowns, two interceptions, and a passer rating of 64.6 — but he made up for that in a 25-20 Eagles win by running 17 times for 61 yards and three touchdowns.
So, even with his ability to tie the passing game and the run game together as very few other quarterbacks in pro football history have been able to do, Hurts showed graphic improvement on the biggest stage when it was time to get the ball downfield.
One observer who was singularly impressed by Hurts’ performance was the guy who did walk off with the Lombardi Trophy, and the Super Bowl MVP award.
Patrick Mahomes on Jalen Hurts performance.
— Jeff Kerr (@JeffKerrCBS) February 13, 2023
After the game, Hurts told his teammates that the 38-35 loss was on him, due to that fumble.
“I always hold myself to a very high standard in everything I do,” Hurts concluded. “Obviously, I try to control the things I can. I touch the ball on every play. I want to protect it. It hurt us. You never know what play it will be.
“I don’t do this to be loved. I don’t do this to be hated. I don’t do this to seek anybody else’s approval. I do it for the guys in the locker room. I do it for all the time we invested in this. I do it for the thrill and love of something that we put work into. It is a tough feeling to come up short. But I know the only direction is to rise and that will be the mentality going forward. We’ll sit back and reflect on it and learn from it.
“I’ve already challenged everyone to think about those things. Look yourself in the mirror and be able to learn from everything. You either win or you learn.”
Hurts didn’t win, but he did learn, and anybody watching Hurts in this game learned quite a bit about what kind of special quarterback he can be.
Winning as a pure passer from the pocket.
(Syndication: Arizona Republic)
There was some low-level garbage from 49ers kicker Robbie Gould in the week leading up to the Super Bowl about Hurts as a pure quarterback. Gould, who was salty after his team got eviscerated by the Eagles in the NFC Championship game, had this to say.
— The 33rd Team (@The33rdTeamFB) February 9, 2023
“I think, from experience and talent, I like Kansas City over Philadelphia. And I’m not taking anything away from Philly, I think they’re a really good football team. Obviously you have to be a good football team to get there, and they’ve done it pretty convincingly. They haven’t really had to play, in the playoffs, a full game, right? So you get in a game where they’re down? Obviously if Kansas City gets up on them early, it might take them a little bit out of their game, their run plan, which I assume they’re going to try to get going first, to get Jalen Hurts going. But if you make Jalen Hurts play quarterback, you’re going to have a pretty solid day on defense.”
Gould was right about the winning team, but he couldn’t have been more wrong about Hurts as a quarterback — especially when asked to win from the pocket.
Jalen Hurts from the pocket this season: 309 of 429 for 3,644 yards, 1,799 air yards, 21 touchdowns, four interceptions. Of all quarterbacks with at least 200 attempts from the pocket, Hurts' passer rating of 109.9 is the NFL's best. His EPA from the pocket of 56.58 is 5th-best. https://t.co/qhqe5dCyco
— Doug Farrar ✍ (@NFL_DougFarrar) February 10, 2023
Those were Hurts’ numbers coming into the Super Bowl, per Sports Info Solutions. In Super Bowl LVII, Hurts completed 25 of 32 passes from the pocket for 213 yards, and his one touchdown — a 45-yarder to A.J. Brown with 14:52 left in the first half. This throw is a great place to start when discussing Hurts’ development as a pure passer in the 2022 season.
There are throws into double coverage, and there are throws designed to beat double coverage. Anybody can do the former; to do the latter consistently is rare. Here, Brown had cornerback Trent McDuffie and safety Juan Thornhill bracketing him in Quarters coverage, and Hurts had to navigate that. He had running back Miles Sanders open in the left flat, and receiver DeVonta Smith open on the intermediate crosser. It was first-and-10, so Hurts could have taken either easy throw. Instead, he went for the deep bull’s eye.
And here’s the 17-yard Hurts third-quarter throw to Goedert that was challenged by Andy Reid — another dart to elude converging coverage. This time, cornerback L’Jarius Sneed and safety Bryan Cook couldn’t quite get there. We can debate whether Goedert had control with two feet in bounds, but you can’t really argue with the quality of the throw.
Testing a defense outside the pocket.
(Syndication: Arizona Republic)
Given Hurts’ functional mobility, it may surprise you to know that throwing outside the pocket has been a relative weakness for him this season — he had completed 27 of 73 passes outside the pocket coming into the Super Bowl for 303 yards, 163 air yards, three touchdowns, two interceptions, a passer rating of 52.5, and an EPA of -40.93 that ranks dead last in the NFL among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts outside the pocket.
But in Super Bowl LVII, when Hurts did want to throw outside the pocket, he did his best to at least avoid trouble. He attempted six passes outside the pocket, completing two for 32 yards. There was this nine-yard completion to Zach Pascal with 11:58 left in the second quarter that had him bailing to his left and hitting his target from an unstable base…
Hurts is more prone to run the ball if he needs to bail outside the pocket, but in the Super Bowl, he didn’t hurt his team when he had to throw on the move.
Dominating in a defined run game.
(Syndication: Arizona Republic)
Defenses have been trying to figure out Hurts as a runner all season, to little avail. He has been by far the NFL’s most dangerously efficient quarterback in the run game. Coming into the Super Bowl, Hurts had 184 rushing attempts for 823 yards, 259 yards after contact, 15 touchdowns, and an EPA of 42.41.
Hurts has been great as a runner out of empty formations this season — 20 attempts for 149 yards, a touchdown, and an EPA of 8.59 — and this 14-yard run out of empty against the Chiefs with 9:39 left in the first half showed the kinds of challenges he presents.
The Eagles put it all on Hurts' shoulders, and he responded brilliantly.
(Patrick Breen/The Republic via USA TODAY Sports)
Much was made of the fact that Super Bowl LVII was the first to have two Black starting quarterbacks, and for good reason. The NFL’s history with players of color, from the Black player ban in the 1930s and 1940s, to insisting that Black college quarterbacks change positions to those that allegedly required less intelligence, to modern-day stuff that we hear from the likes of Robbie Gould that diminish and marginalize the efforts of players who have done everything possible to mine the ore of their talent.
For me, the most remarkable thing about the game plan the Eagles had for Hurts is that they were perfectly comfortable sending their 24-year-old second-year starter out there with a primary mission to be a great pocket quarterback, and that’s exactly what Hurts accomplished. He may have been on the losing end of the Super Bowl, but anybody who watched him in this game with an unbiased eye would be hard-pressed to knock him down for anything he didn’t do.
“I don’t think we know what Jalen’s ceiling is,” Sirianni said after the game. “He left it all out there. He led us to 35 points. I told him I was happy for him. It wasn’t just this game. It was the entire season.”
This game, the entire season, and beyond. Jalen Hurts has officially arrived, and as his head coach said, who knows what the ceiling might be?