After an exciting back-and-forth battle, the Cardinals emerged victorious with a 33-26 win against the new-look Eagles. The loss all but mathematically eliminates the Birds from playoff contention. While that news is disappointing, Eagles’ fans can look optimistically at the performance of Jalen Hurts, who played incredible in just his second full outing. Find out more about the game’s major storylines below.
A Hurts Explosion
Last week, Hurts showed off his legs with over one hundred yards against a stout Saints rushing defense. This week, his arm was unleashed, albeit against a beatable Cardinals defense. He completed 24 of 44 passes for 338 yards, three touchdowns, and zero interceptions. He also added 63 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
It was a slow start for the rookie and the Birds paid the price, trailing the Cardinals 16-0 after the first quarter. A major mistake by Hurts, in the form of an intentional grounding in the endzone which resulted in a safety, contributed to this deficit. He avoided this sort of glaring rookie mistake last week, but it was bound to happen eventually. Importantly, Hurts bounced back from this hiccup and played with incredible poise down the stretch, further proving that he should remain the starting quarterback for this franchise.
…And a Quarterback Conundrum
The prolific play of Jalen Hurts while he’s been the starter does result in added drama for the Eagles’ front office as it relates to the question of what to do with Carson Wentz. Wentz made a public statement over the weekend indicating that he has absolutely no desire to serve as a backup quarterback for the future of the Eagles. He would rather leave the organization and try his luck with another franchise.
During his tenure as Hurts’ backup, Wentz has grinned and beared it, doing everything asked of him by the coaching staff. Head coach Pederson stated as much, continuing with “He’s a pro. He’s engaging. He’s helping Jalen…I see him helping Jalen and helping our offense.”.
The conundrum for the Eagles isn’t so much who the starter is, Hurst has certainly flashed enough to be fully deserving of that role. Rather, they have to make a choice about their future with Wentz with a lot of money on the line. If they choose to cut him, they would incur a dead cap hit of over 60 million. If he is traded, that cap hit would still be upwards of 30 million.
This regrettable decision will need to be made by the second day of the 2021 league year so that his 22 million salary won’t become guaranteed.
Murray/Hopkins Combo Just Too Tough
Stopping the lethal combination of Kyler Murray and DeAndre Hopkins is always a tough task. That challenge was made nearly impossible following a series of crucial injuries to the Eagles’ secondary last week. The Birds felt those absences in a big way as Murray picked apart their defense all day, particularly with several hookups to his favorite target, DeAndre Hopkins.
While many were impressed with the passing ability of Jalen Hurts, Kyler Murray still got the best of him in that department. He completed 27 of 36 passes for 406 yards, three touchdowns, and one interception. He also contributed 29 yards and one touchdown on eight carries on the day. His lone interception was a horrific one, as it occurred in the red zone and really swung the momentum of the game, but his lights out play the rest of the way more than made up for it.
A full third of those Murray completions went to Hopkins, who caught 9 of 11 targets for a whopping 169 yards and a touchdown. After this massive yardage outing, Hopkins is once again the leading receiver in the entire NFL with 1,324 yards (just edging out Travis Kelce by six yards). This also extends a worrying trend for the Eagles who continue to allow back-breaking games to elite wideouts. It was Hopkins this game but in the recent past it has been the likes of Davante Adams and DK Metcalf.
A Look Ahead
While so many things need to go right for the Eagles to remain in playoff contention, they may as well hope. That hope for next week starts with a victory when they square off against in a divisional matchup with the 5-9 Dallas Cowboys. The Cowboys are coming off a win against the San Francisco 49ers and also need outside help to have a shot at the playoffs. Check back for a preview of the matchup later this week.