It’s not like he’s been awful. He hasn’t. It’s just that he hasn’t been the Jalen Hurts we’ve all come to expect.
And when Hurts isn’t at his best, it’s hard for the Eagles to be at their best.
Hurts muddled through a second consecutive pedestrian performance Sunday night in the Eagles’ 33-13 loss to the Cowboys at AT&T Stadium.
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For the first time this year, Hurts didn’t run or throw for a touchdown. He had a costly fumble at the Cowboys’ 20-yard-line when this was still a one-possession game. He converted only one of his first six 3rd-down passes. He targeted only three receivers. He was thoroughly outplayed by Dak Prescott.
This was the first time in Hurts’ career the Eagles have failed to score an offensive touchdown, the first time it’s happened at all since the 17-9 playoff loss to the Seahawks at the Linc in 2019, the first time in a meaningful regular-season game since a loss to Washington at FedEx in the middle of 2016.
Hurts’ ability to rise above mediocre play around him made him an MVP candidate last year and again this year. But the last two weeks he hasn’t been able to, and the Eagles have suffered a couple lopsided losses as a result.
“We all have to be better,” Hurts said. “That starts with me. That starts with me as a quarterback. That starts with me as a leader. The tone that I set. And so I embrace that challenge.”
Hurts similarly was OK but not special in the 49ers loss. He threw for 298 yards, ran for a TD and threw for a TD in a game that was largely non-competitive. Most of his production came after the game was out of hand.
Sunday in Dallas, he passed for just 197 yards. He threw as many completions of 25 or more yards as punter Braden Mann. He didn’t throw an interception, but he lost a fumble for the fifth time this year.
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith also lost fumbles deep in Dallas territory, although theirs came in the second half after the Cowboys had built a hefty lead.
“You talk about executing every week and how important that is,” Hurts said. “I felt like we put ourselves in a good position to get into that high red zone area many times and we turned the ball over when we got there.
“So I have to do a better job of protecting the ball and creating that energy for us. I just have to be better with that.”
It had been more than two years since Hurts lost back-to-back starts. You have to go back to Week 6 and 7 of 2021, his first year as a starter, and losses to the Bucs and Raiders.
The Eagles haven’t scored a touchdown before halftime since the Bills game and they have only two in their last four games. Hurts hasn’t thrown a 1st-half touchdown in the last five games. The Eagles have trailed by at least a touchdown at halftime in four straight games.
“It’s always a self-evaluation – win, lose or draw,” Hurts said. “It’s always a self-evaluation on how I could be better for my teammates and what can I do to help us be a better football team, how can I do my job better. It simply starts with an honest evaluation of that and then leading, taking action in doing things and leading by example. And then bringing guys along with you.
“I think it’s a beautiful opportunity for us. You have to have a hunger. You have to have a will, a want-to, and I think we’ve got the right guys to do that.”
The good news is the Eagles finish the season with four straight teams that currently have a losing record, starting with the Seahawks Monday night in Seattle. If they win all four, they’ll win the NFC East and be the No. 2 seed in the NFC at worst.
But they’re going to have to play a lot better than they have the last couple weeks. And Hurts has to lead the way.
“You don’t win without losing,” Hurts said. “You don’t win without some type of adversity. That’s just the name of it. We’d love to come out here and be perfect. But perfection is only an illusion. It’s about challenging yourself, learning from your mistakes and being better.
“There’s going to be bumps in the road. There’s going to be adversity you have to come through. But it’s all about how you respond to it. The beautiful thing about it is we control how we respond to it. We just have to keep pushing to win. It’s as simple as that.”