Hurts, Eagles pound Giants early, coast to NFC title game
By DAN GELSTONAP Sports Writer
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — All it took was one throw. Jalen Hurts let it fly on his first pass attempt of the game and suddenly the unease that crept into that often worrisome Philly sports psyche — yeah, but how is his banged-up right shoulder, really? — seemed to dissipate.
Hurts' shoulder was fine. No doubt about that.
With Hurts in complete control, the Philadelphia Eagles once again look like the team that was rarely challenged during an NFL-best 13-1 start.
Hurts threw two touchdown passes and ran for a score during a dominant first half, and the Eagles overwhelmed the New York Giants 38-7 on Saturday night in an NFC divisional playoff game.
“To have him out there, I know this is high praise, it's like having Michael Jordan out there,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “He's your leader. He's your guy. That's the biggest respect I can pay to him.”
Top-seeded Philadelphia will host the NFC championship game next Sunday against either Dallas or San Francisco.
Hurts missed two late-season losses with a sprained right shoulder and then showed the Giants nothing in the season finale when the Eagles ran a vanilla offense designed to protect the Pro Bowl QB.
Under bright postseason lights at the Linc, the Eagles unleashed an offense designed to clobber the Giants. Hurts dazzled early with his arm and Philadelphia's offensive line opened big holes for Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell as the Eagles finished with 268 yards on the ground. Hurts finished 16 of 24 for 154 yards.
“Seemed like the old Jalen to me," Sanders said.
Hurts showed he was fine when he aired out a pass on the second play of the game and hit DeVonta Smith in stride for a 40-yard reception. The fun was just starting in Philly.
Hurts was flawless on the drive, completing passes of 9 yards, 5 yards, and then — boom — a 16-yard TD pass on a one-handed grab by tight end Dallas Goedert.
Second drive, more of the same. Hurts had completions of 12 yards and 9 yards en route to a 9-yard TD pass to Smith.
It was 14-0 in the first quarter and the Giants already needed a standing eight count. New York turned the ball over on downs on its first possession, and Daniel Jones was intercepted by James Bradberry on its second.
The Linc was bonkers with full-throated chants of “E-A-G-L-E-S!” filling the air and Sirianni went wild chest-bumping assistants on the sideline.
“Philly’s been drinking since 8 a.m,” Goedert cracked of the raucous atmosphere.
Hurts’ shoulder may not have been 100 percent.
But his passing was: He went 7 of 7 for 89 yards in the first quarter.
“This guy leads, he brings this calmness to the entire team,” Sirianni said. “He’s as tough as they come. To me, there’s not anybody that’s played better football than him this year.”
Even when the calls were obvious for the Eagles, the Giants were helpless to stop them. Case in point: The Eagles had the ball on the New York 3. Give the ball to Boston Scott? Yes they did. Scott scored his 11th touchdown against the Giants for a 21-0 lead. He has only 19 TDs in his career. Giants defensive coordinator Wink Martindale riled up Philly fans this week when he insisted Scott wasn’t a “Giant killer.”
Hard to argue against that point now.
Hurts wrapped the half with a 5-yard touchdown run — he bobbled the shotgun snap but still coasted untouched into the end zone — for a 28-0 lead. There have been only four more lopsided first-half playoff shutouts in NFL history.
“I’m so proud of this team, how we came out here. I’m so proud of these fans. It’s a Philly thing, you know? It’s special,” Hurts said.
Gainwell finished with 112 yards on 12 carries, including a late 35-yard touchdown. Sanders had 17 rushes for 90 yards.
Coach Brian Daboll’s Giants were discombobulated from the start and looked nothing like the team that beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-24 last week for their first postseason win since their Super Bowl victory under Tom Coughlin 11 years ago.
Matt Brieda had an 8-yard TD run for the Giants in the third quarter. Daniel Jones was 15 of 27 for 135 yards and a pick.
“Give Philly credit, they did everything better than we did tonight,” Daboll said.
Hurts ran, threw and directed the offense with the same authority as he did when he led the Eagles to a 14-1 start and won over a city that still wasn’t so sure about him in the preseason. In last year's playoff loss to Tampa Bay, Hurts threw two interceptions and was just 23 of 43 for 258 yards.
A year later, Hurts is a fan favorite and has the Eagles in the hunt for their first Super Bowl since 2018.
“We’re close to the top,” Sirianni said. “But don’t look at the the top yet.”
NEVER BREAK THE CHAIN
There was a busted link at the Linc.
The game was briefly stopped in the opening quarter because of a broken first down chain. The NFL still uses chains connected to two signal poles to measure the distance to a first down. With the Giants driving midway through the quarter, the game was delayed because of an “administrative stoppage.” The chain was quickly replaced and the game resumed with the Eagles ahead 7-0.
Two-time NL MVP Bryce Harper, who led the Phillies to the World Series, narrated a hype video. Three-time AL MVP Mike Trout, a New Jersey native and Eagles fan, attended the game and exhorted the crowd to get louder.
The Eagles moved to 6-0 and Hurts threw two touchdown passes in a 26-17 win over the Cowboys in October. The Cowboys won 40-34 on Dec. 24 against Hurts' backup, Gardner Minshew.
The Eagles last played San Francisco in 2021 and lost.
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