January 29, 2023   5 MIN READ

Super Story

QB Jalen Hurts Leads Birds To Super Bowl


PHILADELPHIA – As fans began to enter Lincoln Financial Field and disperse to their seats, Jalen Hurts emerged from the tunnel 51 minutes prior to the conference title showdown between the Eagles and 49ers.

While standing at the goal line, he proceeded to toss the ball to running backs Kenny Gainwell and Boston Scott, seemingly undisturbed by the enormity of the stakes.

More than a year has elapsed since Hurts and the Eagles were unceremoniously ejected from last season’s Wild Card round by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, which raised skepticism about Hurts’ potential and long-term viability. Exploring veteran trade options were often rumored.

But on this Sunday, the 24-year-old signal-caller had only one hurdle to clear before reaching the NFL’s pinnacle.

The same quarterback whom many had written off as a mere placeholder for the eventual face of the franchise stood 60 minutes from taking the Eagles to their second Super Bowl in five years on the heels of an MVP-caliber season.

As it turned out, Hurts was a far cry from MVP form against the San Fransisco 49ers, but he delivered enough to extinguish the undermanned Niners in the NFC Championship, 31-7, as San Fran lost starting quarterback Brock Purdy after six plays.

Hurts’ 15-of-25 pass completions for 121 yards and 39 rushing yards, along with one touchdown, proved to be more than enough to slay a formidable Niners team at the Linc as the Eagles punched their ticket to Super Bowl LVII in Glendale, Ariz.

“We put a lot of work in to have this opportunity and to be here it’s a moment we want to enjoy as a team,” Hurts said after the game. “We’re reflecting on everything we’ve overcome to have this opportunity right in front of us and we want to take advantage of it. The atmosphere here tonight was amazing. The fans showed up with the energy and we need to bring that to Arizona.”

GETTY IMAGES: Jalen Hurts and the Eagles’ offense steamrolled the top-ranked 49ers defense in the NFC Championship.

In a rare twist for the Eagles, the visiting team won the opening coin toss and elected to defer to the second half, giving a sold-out crowd their first glance at Hurts and the Eagles’ offense pitted against the top-ranked Niners defense.

Boston Scott returned the opening kickoff to the 34-yard line, paving the way for a stoic Hurts – still nursing a weeks-long shoulder injury – to lead an 11-play, 66-yard march, culminating in a Miles Sanders 6-yard touchdown run.

Hurts, who completed 5-of-7 pass attempts for 54 yards (93.8 QB rating) on the opening drive, artfully navigated the pocket and largely eluded a ferocious pass rush – Arik Armstead registered a sack — to strike a 29-yard connection to DeVonta Smith on 4th-and-3 to the San Francisco 6-yard line, the table-setter for the game’s first score.

The opening possession inspired an impassioned Philadelphia crowd and alleviated concerns about Hurts’ ailing throwing shoulder. He absorbed multiple hits and persevered against the suffocating 49ers defense.

A temporary air of confidence was conveyed as well, almost as if Hurts was a boxer winning his opening round.

The offense encountered some turbulence on the ensuring three drives, which netted a paltry 13 yards – Hurts sailed a deep shot too far in front of an open A.J. Brown and just barely evaded a safety on another possession – but Hurts steadied the ship midway through the second frame and architected a pair of scoring drives before the break to extend the lead to 21-7.

“I think sometimes when you get to this part in the season and things get tight you want to make the big plays, but all of this comes down to the details, the attention to details and the football IQ to do the fundamental things,” Hurts explained. “Whether you want to keep the clock running or not, snapping the ball quickly, knowing situational awareness and knowing whether it’s 3rd and short or 4th and one.

“I know a couple of things I would probably like to have back on that end but there are a lot of things we did well on our end. We put ourselves in this position, there are definitely things we’re going to learn from, but this team played a great game today. [Eagles LB] Hasson Reddick, he’s been a bad dude all year and that’s what we need going forward.”

Hurts threw for just 33 more yards the rest of the half as the Eagles took to the ground to establish a rhythm and control the clock, amassing 69 yards and three touchdowns on 18 carries.

Carrying a two-touchdown lead into the break, the Eagles seemingly approached the third frame intent on controlling the clock and simplifying the game plan to preserve health and keep an aggressive Niners front at bay, which ultimately minimized Hurts’ impact from a stats perspective.

But like he’s done all season, Hurts delivered the goods when needed.

Surely, the Eagles will need the best version of their MVP candidate when they play for the coveted Lombardi Trophy in two weeks.

“We want to go out there and play to our standard,” Hurts said. “That doesn’t change regardless of the magnitude of the game. Today was good enough to get the win and advance, but we still want to go out there and play to our standard. In the end however the chips fall, I’ll be able to get to enjoy it or not.”

– Andrew DiCecco (@ADiCeccoNFL) is a Staff Reporter/Content Producer for InsideTheBirds.com.

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