CHICAGO – As it turns out, the persona Jalen Hurts projects to the media, and thus fans, is who he really is with his teammates.
So when Hurts has a terrible first half like he did Sunday, throwing two interceptions, or one fewer than he threw in the Eagles’ first 13 games, you might expect him to slam his helmet, or shout a few curse words, or , perhaps throwing a death stare at a wide receiver who might have run the wrong way.
After all, we’ve seen Tom Brady do it throughout his illustrious 23-year career, not to mention many other elite quarterbacks.
It didn’t hurt, even though he was playing through a sprained shoulder suffered in the third quarter of the Eagles’ 25-20 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
The NFL Network reports that Hurts’ status is in question for the Eagles’ game against the Dallas Cowboys this Saturday. If Hurts is unable to play, backup Gardner Minshew will make his first start of the season. Eagles coach Nick Siriani is scheduled to address the media on Tuesday.
But you could hardly tell Hurts was hurting during the game — and that was true of his teammates, too.
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“He is what you see him as,” wide receiver AJ Brown said. “He doesn’t show any emotion. I told him something and he said, “I’m cool, don’t worry, I got it.”
There’s a reason Hurts acts the way he does.
And that was evident in the Eagles’ hard-fought win over the Bears. No, Hurts wasn’t about to have the game of his life. But he completed 22 of 37 passes for 315 yards, taking hits every time he ran the ball.
Hurts was slow to get up on the run, which resulted in a shoulder injury. But he got up and went on. Hurts brushed off the question about that hit the way he brushed off the Bears’ defenders.
“It wasn’t the first time I was slow (rising), and it won’t be the last,” he said. “They play a really physical game and it was really cold as well.”
However, Hurts’ best throw of the day, a perfectly placed 68-yard deep ball to Brown, came after the injury. Brown had a career-high 181 yards receiving. In the first half, Hurts completed three passes for 104 yards to DeVonta Smith, who finished with 126 yards receiving.
There was never any panic from Hurts, so there was never any panic from his teammates.
“I want those guys to look me in the eye and know there’s no doubt,” Hurts said of why he didn’t show his anger. “And to know that with the training we’ve put in together, we’ll find a way. I want them to trust me.”
They trust Hurts so much and more.
Hurts threw his first interception on the Eagles’ first possession. He threw his second later in the inning, trying to hit Kez Watkins over the middle.
Still, Hurts just reacted the same way he did when he threw a 68-yard bomb to Brown.
“He doesn’t say a lot,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “He goes to the bench. A lot of it is communication. So when something bad happens, he goes and talks to (quarterbacks coach) Brian (Johnson) and (offensive coordinator) Shane (Steichen).
“We’re just trying to regroup.”
But it also sends a message to the rest of the team.
“It’s all about how you respond,” Smith said. “Even after those two (interceptions), he still responded the right way. He walked out, not letting it go to his head. He kept doing what he had to do and led us to the win.”
All this was not easy.
The running game didn’t work well except when Hurts needed it most.
So the Eagles were trailing the Bears, who entered the game 3-10, by 3 points at the end of the first half. Harts lined up under center on third-and-eight from the Bears’ 22-yard line.
Hurts recognized the quarterback’s draw and ran untouched into the end zone, giving the Eagles a 10-6 halftime lead. They made it 17-6 after opening the second half with another TD drive that included Hurts’ 29-yard pass to Brown to the Bears’ 2.
What did Hurts see on the TD run?
“I don’t want to answer that,” Eagles coach Nick Siriani said, perhaps fearing he would give opponents a picture of Hurts’ mindset when he approaches the line of scrimmage.
But in reality, it is not difficult for anyone to see the brilliance of Hurts.
“He checked it (because) the safety (took) a blitz,” Johnson said. “Then Kelce (blocked) him. … It was just wide open. It’s good when I see him wide open.”
There are so many great words that could be used to describe the performance of Hurts. He has just 35 touchdowns this season, tying Randall Cunningham’s all-season record he set in 1990. Hurts also set the Eagles team record for TDs by a quarterback with 13, a record Hurts set last season.
And he is the youngest quarterback in NFL history to lead his team to a 13-1 record.
So no, Hurts won’t be embarrassed by two interceptions on a cold day when it was 18 degrees with a 16 mph wind during the game.
“I’ve known this guy for so long,” said Brown, who has been close friends with Hurts since Brown was a high school senior. “I feel like he’s faced more difficult things in his life than going out there and throwing two picks. When he does things like that, I think it’s just from what I see from him.
“He’s a tough guy. He won’t let the bad times get him down.”
Do not confuse this with a laissez-faire position. Hurts may not have shown much emotion when he made the interceptions, but Hurts was seething nonetheless.
“Everyone is trying to destroy it (this team),” he said. “Everyone is waiting for you to fail.”
That being said, Hurts said he would be celebrating as usual: “Listening to my Anita Baker. I’m going to get candy on the plane, on the way home, watch the tape, learn from it and move forward.”
And to Hurts’ teammates, it’s like the title of one of Baker’s songs: “Sweet Love.”
Contact Martin Frank at email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Mfranknfl.