Most of the photos plastered on the walls at the NovaCare Complex are of a happy variety. Playoff wins, joyous occasions, a few from the Super Bowl celebration.
There’s at least one that isn’t.
And it’s one of Nick Sirianni’s favorites in the facility.
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“There's one picture that's up with Jordan Mailata with his hand on Jalen’s [Hurts] back,” Sirianni said. “Jalen has his hands on his knees. He's looking down. Jordan has his hand on his back.
“I thought what an unbelievable picture of teammates being there for each other in a time of a very tough spot, right? That was after the incomplete pass on the last play of the game last year at New York.”
Sirianni likes the image so much because it’s a representation of one of his favorite parts about the sport: Connection.
“I’ll never forget it,” Mailata said.
The image was taken just after the Eagles’ comeback attempt at MetLife Stadium fell short last Nov. 28. The Eagles lost 13-7 and Hurts played what was arguably the worst game of his professional career and injured his ankle along the way.
Hurts completed just 14 of 31 passes for 129 yards and 3 interceptions — a passer rating of 17.5 — in the loss to drop the Eagles to 5-7 on the season.
“When you turn the ball over, good things don’t happen,” Hurts said this week, remembering that game. “That’s something that we learn from any other game. I don’t want to single out this game.”
But that game stands out. The Eagles scored just 7 points and Hurts made way too many mistakes. Still, they were in it with a chance to win late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles got the ball to the Giants’ 27-yard line with 38 seconds remaining but after a spike to stop the clock had three straight incompletions (two to Jalen Reagor) to end the game.
After the last-ditch effort fell short, Hurts was uncharacteristically overcome with emotion. That’s what struck Mailata so much.
“Yeah, because he doesn’t show emotion,” Mailata said. “So when you do see emotion, it’s like, ‘Ah damn.’ Gotta make sure you pick him up. Because he’s human at the end of the day and he has emotions.”
Mailata said he watched all the work that went into each game for Hurts last season, how bad he wanted it to work. And when the Eagles lost that game, they fell to 5-7 on the season, his first season as a full-time starter.
“For me, it was just seeing him go down like this,” Mailata said as he crouched, “that broke my heart. I just wanted to let him know that he wasn’t by himself. It wasn’t on him. It was on me, it was on the guys, everyone who didn’t execute.”
As Hurts and the Eagles prepare to go back to MetLife Stadium on Sunday, things have really turned around for the quarterback and for the franchise. After sitting out the next game against the Jets with the ankle injury last year, Hurts helped guide the Eagles to three straight wins to get into the playoffs, including one over the Giants.
And, obviously, this year has been incredible. The Eagles head into Week 14 with the best record in the NFL at 11-1 and Hurts is legitimately playing at an MVP level.
The Eagles have come a very long way since the loss in North Jersey last year but the thing that still stands out most is that image of one teammate consoling another.
“When you said that game, the first thing that popped into my mind was that picture of Jordan and Jalen,” Sirianni said. “That just speaks to the type of guys we have. That just speaks to the type of team we have.”
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