PHILADELPHIA - If the Eagles thought the rest of the 2020 season would serve as the CTRL-ALT-DEL in front of the Carson Wentz reset, they can forget that now.
Jalen Hurts threw a wrench into any of that with a dynamic performance as the moribund Eagles beat ostensibly the best team in the NFC, the New Orleans Saints, 24-21 at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday.
Granted it was a New Orleans team that was without Drew Brees and at the mercy of the headstrong Sean Payton's desire to stick with the limited Taysom Hill but beating any 10-2 outfit in your first professional start is an eye-opener, especially one that had won three in a row with Hill at the helm.
Or at least it should be.
The Eagles offense under Hurts showed the spark Doug Pederson was looking for, piling up 413 yards of total offense and 247 of that on the ground.
A clean game for Hurts was ruined late when Kwon Alexander punched out the football during a Hurts run with under two minutes to go but that was too little, too late for Hill, himself a run-heavy QB who was put behind the 8-ball early when the Saints fell behind.
The Week 14 Report Card:
Jalen Hurts - A: By halftime, Hurts had already done the heavy lifting, finishing the first 30 minutes 12-for-21 for 129 yards with a beautiful back-shoulder TD throw to Alshon Jeffery when the blitz was bearing down plus 75 more yards on the ground on just 7 carries.
The Eagles were up 17-0 at that point and without Brees, the Saints had to be virtually perfect from that point forward and Hurts did enough to close his first start, finishing 17-of-30 for 167 yards with 106 more yards on the ground becoming the first Eagles QB to crack the century mark since Michael Vick in December of 2010.
His presence had the No. 1 Saints defense guessing and helped Miles Sanders get loose for an 82-yard TD run, the fourth-longest in team history. The Eagles had 302 yards of total offense in that first 30 minutes, an awe-inspiring number considering how poorly the team was playing.
Even though the clean game was ruined by the fumble late but not enough from handing out the easiest A since Emma Stone was starring in the movie.
The Running Game - A: The Saints hadn't allowed a 100-yard runner in 55 games and the Eagles had two: Miles Sanders (14-115) and Hurts. Most of it came on the one run by Sanders but Hurts was killing the NOLA top-ranked defense and a consistent fashion and his presence altered the landscape for a team that somehow entered Week 14 without being tested by a dual-threat. On Sunday the Saints failed.
Jalen Mills - A : The Eagles lost 75 percent of the starting secondary in the game, first Avonte Maddox and then both Darius Slay and Rodney McLeod. Mills' versatility to move from safety to left cornerback when the oil was leaking a bit in the second half settled down the defense and enabled the Philadelphia D to get to the finish line. He also was the man who came up with the football at the bottom of the scrum on the Saints' last-ditch onside kick attempt.
The Defensive Line - A: Javon Hargrave's late-season run continued with two sacks from the interior and Josh Sweat continued his strong play as a rotational edge rusher this season with two sacks, including a big strip-sack on a fourth-down stop. The Eagles needed to win in the trenches and they did it on both sides of the football.
The Offensive Line - A: With Jason Peters being shut down for the season and Nate Herbig being re-inserted at right guard the Eagles started their 12th different unit in 13 games against a fearsome front. On paper, it could have been a disaster and there were some issues - false stars by Herbig and Jordan Mailata - and Jason Kelce getting stuffed on a 4th-and-1 QB sneak but overall the group more than held its own.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John every Monday and Friday on SIRIUSXM, and every Tuesday and Thursday with Eytan Shander on SportsMap Radio. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
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