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PHILADELPHIA — Much maligned quarterback Jalen Hurts turned the Eagles’ Monday night game into a personal showcase of his arm talent in what became a 24-7 victory over the overmatched Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field.
Operating almost exclusively in the pocket, Hurts completed his first 11 passes, the 10th a 53-yard scoring laser to Quez Watkins for a two-touchdown lead. He would throw for 251 yards in just the first half, connecting on 17 of 20 passes (85 percent) for 251 yards, a 135.4 rating and an obscene 12.6-yards-per-attempt average. His career yards per attempt average entering the game was 7.3. His career completion was 58.8 percent. Hurts finished with 333 passing yards and a 108.7 passer rating on the night.
“I think we just came out and played very efficient,” Hurts said. “We operated at a high level early in the game and that’s something we have to sustain the whole game. A hell of a game tonight but a hell of a lot to learn.”
Hurts also rushed for a couple of touchdowns, a three-yarder to begin the scoring, capping an 82-yard drive on the first possession, and a backbreaking 26-yarder with 1:58 left in the first half to produce a 21-7 lead.
That last play by Hurts was breathtaking. He read the safety, Harrison Smith, running up to blitz then ran 26 yards around him while picking up a block from Dallas Goedert, who had a huge day.
“He never surprises me,” said Goedert, who caught five passes for 82 yards. “He’s an explosive player. When he starts scrambling, people are in trouble.”
Hurts later ran the two-minute offense to perfection, marching the Eagles 75 yards to set up a 38-yard field goal by Jake Elliott to give the Birds a 24-7 lead at the intermission.
That was just about it for Kirk Cousins and the Vikings (1-1), who had their moments, just not enough of them. When the final frame began Cousins had been intercepted by Darius Slay and Avonte Maddox. Slay had two interceptions on the night.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon and his unit limited the Vikings to just a touchdown in that first half. Game breaking receiver Justin Jefferson had just six receptions for 48 yards on the night, about 136 yards and two TDs fewer than in Week 1.
“We left some plays out there still,” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We’re trending upward. I’m not really worried. I’ll start getting worried if we aren’t getting better.”
The only Viking who hurt the Eagles was Jalen Reagor, the 2020 first-round bust the Birds shipped to Minnesota. His 17-yard end around produced their initial first down and was their longest play of the first half. OK, so it didn’t hurt that much.
Hurts has guided the Eagles to victory in seven of his last eight regular season starts. He’s 11-10 as the starter, not including the playoffs.
In a league where Josh Allen, Patrick Mahomes and Tua Tagovailoa have been garnering much of the headlines, Hurts made his case as a passer on a national level. Don’t think those quarterbacks weren’t watching, particularly Tagovailoa, who took the starting job away from Hurts while they played at Alabama.
Hurts was 9 of 9 for 102 yards in the first quarter, Cousins 2 of 4.
After losing the coin flip, the Eagles elected to received and opened the scoring on their first series.
Hurts was in complete control thanks in part to a solid game plan from head coach Nick Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen. It was completely unlike the offense the Eagles unveiled in Detroit.
At the end of the march, there were five runs, five passes and a sack of Hurts on an 11-play drive that the quarterback capped with a twisting three-yard run. Hurts was 5-for-5 for 63 yards. He connected with DeVonta Smith, who was shut out in the opener, on the first play, and later hit A.J. Brown with a 19-yarder and Goedert for 18 yards.
That set the tone for the evening.
After the Eagles went ahead by two touchdowns, the Vikings got to within 14-7 on Cousins’ two-yard lob to Irv Smith. Cornerback James Bradberry was the only defender close to Smith. Cousins was 6 of 6 on the march.
It was Reagor who kickstarted the Vikings as his 17-yard end around. Fans booed Reagor each time he hit the field, mostly as an ineffective punt returner.
Jordan Hicks, another former Eagle, intercepted Hurts with 7:25 left in the game, the ball skidding off the fingertips of running back Kenneth Gainwell. Hicks returned it 18 yards to the 9. Slay, however, ended that threat with a pick in the end zone.
The Eagles also got some breaks. Tight end Smith got behind the Birds’ defense but dropped what would have been a 63-yard scoring pass.
Slay got away with interference on Jefferson, Bradberry on Smith, both on third down in the first quarter.
But it wasn’t going to be the Vikings’ night. One more example: Veteran Patrick Peterson blocked a 41-yard Eagles field goal attempt, Kris Boyd collecting it and returning it 27 yards. He was caught from behind by punter-snapper Arryn Siposs. Three plays later, Maddox got his interception.
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