PHILADELPHIA – One day, Jalen Hurts might actually admit how much his shoulder was hurting him as he gutted his way through a game the Eagles had to win.
But that wasn’t happening Sunday, even though it was clear enough watching Hurts not run, and thus not be himself.
All you’ll get from Hurts after the Eagles’ 22-16 win over the Giants is this:
“I had some things I had to battle within myself,” Hurts said. “I knew I wanted to be available for my team.”
MISSION ACCOMPLISHED, BARELY:Jalen Hurts ‘good enough’ with ailing shoulder, Eagles struggle to clinch top playoff seed
HURTS RESCUE:How Jalen Hurts can save the Eagles’ Super Bowl dream in the finale that suddenly means everything
Hurts had to be available for the Eagles to beat the Giants’ backups. There was no choice. Hurts missed two games after spraining his shoulder Dec. 18 against the Chicago Bears when he was slammed to the frozen Soldier Field.
The Eagles lost both. They still needed the one win to lock up the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs and the all-important first-round bye.
“He told us he was going to play,” running back Miles Sanders said.
When did he say that?
“I heard (miss) 2 weeks, then Giants,” Sanders said. “That’s all I heard, so I knew he was going to play.”
But really, no one knew if he’d actually played. Not Eagles coach Nick Sirianni, who listed him as questionable on Friday after Hurts did not make it through a full practice all week.
“I know he was hurting. He was hurting badly,” Sirianni said. “But that’s the kind of competitor that he is. That’s the kind of person that he is and the kind of teammate and leader that he is that he was able to go out there and tough through it.”
Not even Hurts’ best friend, wide receiver AJ Brown, knew that Hurts was going to play, even though Brown said last week that he would.
“I really didn’t know,” Brown said. “I thought he was going to play, but it was still up in the air. I just expected him to play, to be honest.”
It’s no wonder that Sirianni has said for weeks that Hurts is “tougher than you and me,” making Hurts out to be some super-human freak with special healing powers.
Maybe he has those powers, but not on Sunday. Hurts had to make some concessions for his shoulder. He didn’t look to run. And there were plenty of instances when he slid, or ran out of bounds, rather than lower his shoulder and gain extra yards.
He threw for 229 yards and ran for only 13. That was good enough to beat the Giants with a practice-squad QB. It won’t be good enough in the playoffs, but Hurts played so that he’ll get an extra week to make it good enough.
“I’m just playing the game – playing the game and protecting myself,” Hurts said. “I think that’s what you all want to hear. I’m protecting myself.”
What about the game plan?
“(The coaches) were protecting me, too,” he said.
Some of that can explain why the Eagles were 1-for-5 in the red zone even though they came into the game converting 72% of red zone trips into TDs. They settled for five field goals and allowed the Giants to hang around.
The Eagles had no choice. They were a mess last week against the Saints with Gardner Minshew starting his second straight game in place of Hurts. They didn’t get a first down until 12 seconds left in the second quarter in their 20-10 loss.
The week before, Minshew threw for 355 yards, but he also threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in the Eagles’ 40-34 loss to the Cowboys.
There was no more room for error. Hurts, even at whatever percentage, was the Eagles’ best option at quarterback.
Good luck getting Hurts to tell you what that percentage was.
“Good enough to win (Sunday),” he answered.
“Coming into this game, I’ve been really pushing myself beyond measure to try and be available,” he added. “It wasn’t an easy thing. It’s still not easy.”
But here’s why Hurts is a leading MVP candidate, and here’s why the Eagles desperately needed Hurts to play: “He’s a very driven competitor,” center Jason Kelce said. “So you’re always going to feel it from that guy. He’s been like that since his rookie year. He’s a fun guy to play football with. He’s a natural competitor in the fullest sense. I think you feel all of that stuff.
“It was killing him the last couple of weeks, even though Gardner did a phenomenal job. But obviously, Jalen wanted to be out there.”
So appreciate his toughness, appreciate his leadership. But mostly, appreciate the way he gutted out a game that he probably had no business playing in.
“I take pride in being the quarterback for this team and being the leader of this team,” Hurts said. “I know that that is all earned. When I talk, (my teammates) really feel me. I try to speak in a way and go about my day-by-day actions so that (my teammates) can hear me, and they have a right to
“I just simply challenge everybody to do what they need to do to bring their best. That comes from accountability, that comes from self-awareness, and that comes from knowing the things that you need to grow on.”
And now Hurts and the Eagles get their reward: a bye week, a chance for Hurts’ shoulder to heal even more and a chance for the Eagles to reach the Super Bowl by winning two home games – the easiest possible path.
So Hurts was asked one more time, what percentage was his shoulder?
“Good enough,” Hurts said about beating the depleted Giants.
Because it was, Hurts can make sure it’s “good enough” to win in the playoffs.
Contact Martin Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.