Eagles

Collecting yards, TDs and ankles: How Hurts changes everything with his legs

Eagles

Carl Granderson probably thought he was going to get a key third-down stop.

Instead, he’ll be immortalized on a highlight reel.

For all the wrong reasons.

Granderson is the Saints’ No. 96. You know, the guy whose ankles are probably still resting at the 25-yard line at the Linc thanks to Jalen Hurts.

“He hit that L1 juke,” Lane Johnson said.

It was Granderson who tried to set the edge on Hurts only to have Hurts stick his right foot in the ground and accelerate the other way to a 24-yard touchdown to seal the Eagles’ 40-29 win over the Saints. It was an incredible play to cap an incredible rushing performance from the Eagles against the NFL’s top-ranked run defense.

And poor Granderson was left in a heap and Hurts scampered for the score.

“When he made that move, I was like, ‘Oh, snap,’” cornerback Avonte Maddox said. “I was looking for the trainer so that I could find some tape to help [the defender].”

Hurts on Sunday finished the game with 18 carries for 69 yards and 3 touchdowns. He threw for just 147 yards but he was dynamic on the ground.

And the thing is, Hurts doesn’t even have to run to change games. Just the threat of his legs was enough to make the Eagles confident about running right at the Saints’ defense, which had given up an NFL-best 72.9 yards per game on the ground this season coming into Sunday.

“I think Jalen is a special player that forces defenses to play different,” head coach Nick Sirianni said. “You look at the tape and, again, I think I told you guys early in the week, you look at the stat sheet, you look at where they are, you look at their defense, but you also want to do what you do well. We know we have been running the ball well and it’s a little different when Jalen is in there.

 

“You try to look at some teams that they've played that are similar to that, but you want to make them stop what you do well first and that's definitely what our goal was going out there.”

So Sirianni’s message was basically this: Yes, the Saints have a great run defense. But they hadn’t seen Hurts yet.

Now they have.

It’s a fun chess game the Eagles play every week. Because there just aren’t a ton of quarterbacks around the NFL like Hurts. There are a couple. The most obvious, from a stylistic standpoint, is Lamar Jackson. But the former NFL MVP is in a different offense and the Ravens haven’t played the Saints this season.

Each week when the Eagles’ game plan, they have to figure out how opposing defenses will play Hurts … and how they won’t play Hurts.

“I think each week, we have to go in prepared for everything because he's a unique player,” offensive coordinator Shane Steichen said on Tuesday. “Obviously, they're going to play him different than a typical drop back quarterback that's not going to do the zone read game.

“So, I think we got to look through those things and expect the unexpected week in and week out with him at quarterback.”

The Eagles called it right on Sunday. Because against the NFL’s top run defense, they went off for 242 yards on the ground. They ran it down their throats.

And that probably doesn’t happen without Hurts at quarterback, not just because of his running ability but because of how it opened up lanes for the Eagles’ running backs.

When Hurts did carry it himself, he was great. He had 69 rushing yards and tied a franchise record with three rushing touchdowns.

This season, Hurts already has eight rushing touchdowns. That’s the second-most ever for an Eagles quarterback in a season, trailing Michael Vick, who had nine in 2010.

The Eagles still have six games left the season.

Plenty more opportunity for Hurts to collect yards, touchdowns and ankles along the way.

“Sometimes you are in scramble drill and you see him take off,” Dallas Goedert said. “You just watch and say, ‘Dang, this man is special.’”

Poor Granderson probably had the same thought from the seat of his pants as he watched Hurts race away.

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