Jalen Hurts produces four TDs, Eagles defense forces three turnovers, special teams collapse, other observations from 33-26 loss to Cardinals | Marcus Hayes
Wait. Carson who?
Hurts? So good.
Four touchdowns, three through the air, with 338 passing yards. Two chances to tie or win in the last few minutes, on the road, against a playoff-level team, in just his second career start. The Eagles lost, 33-26, but Jalen Hurts had them in the game all night — a rare occurrence when Carson Wentz started the first 10 games.
Wait. Carson who?
Hurts’ detractors had a lot of ammunition even after he beat the first-place Saints and their No. 1 defense in his transcendent starting debut last week.
He can’t go deep, they said; he’d thrown just two passes beyond 20 yards. He did it all day in Arizona.
He’s got to run to be successful, they said; he’d run 18 times against the Saints, all but four of them plays designed to give him an option to run. He ran 11 times Sunday for 63 yards and a touchdown. His two biggest runs: He picked up 17 yards on fourth-and-6 late in the third quarter, then pulled a defender the last 2 yards of his 7-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 26.
He’s inaccurate, they said; he’d completed 17 of 30 passes. That really was a false stat -- five of his incompletions last week were throwaways or spikes -- but he went 24-for-44 Sunday, anyway, and finished with a 102.3 passer rating.
Wentz’s season-best rating: 91.1 in a Game Seven home win over the Giants.
The Eagles’ defense played without three of four starting defensive backs, including safety Rodney McLeod (knee) and lockdown cornerback Darius Slay (concussion). Nevertheless the defense forced three turnovers; a fumble by Murray and red-zone giveaways by top receiver DeAndre Hopkins and Murray, an end-zone interception of Murray 10 minutes into the second half.
Hopkins finished with nine catches for 169 yards and the game-winning touchdown. Murray finished 27-for-36 for a career-high 406 yards and three TDs, and he ran for another score. This was inevitable.
Not so special
Ezekiel Turner blocked Cam Johnston’s attempt from the Eagles’ 42, which bounced backward and went out of bounds at the 6 and quickly became was converted into the touchdown that made it 16-0. came through long snapper Rick Lovato, but Marcus Epps was in the backfield, blocked no one, and looked confused.
Johnston was being evaluated for a head injury in the third quarter, which forced backup holder Zach Ertz into service on the point-after attempt following the Eagles’ fourth touchdown. Ertz was unable to salvage a bad snap by Rick Lovato. Johnston’s unavailability influenced Doug Pederson’s decision to punt on fourth-and-6 late in the third, a play salvaged by Hurts’ 17-yard scramble. Still, kicker Jake Elliott later managed a 42-yard punt in the fourth quarter.
There also was a fake punt. Early in the fourth quarter, punter Andy Lee hit Turner for a 26-yard conversion on fourth-and-2 at the Cards’ 33, but the drive later died.
Former tire salesman and recent practice-squad graduate Kevon Seymour drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for elbowing Dan Arnold in the head, which would have forced a long field goal try. Two possessions later Derek Barnett hit DeAndre Hopkins out of bounds for a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty, which jump-started the Cards’ first touchdown drive.
On the same drive, Jalen Mills failed to properly tackle tight end Maxx Williams at the Eagles, 40. Williams, who is listed at 252 pounds but clearly was weighed before Halloween and Thanksgiving, then burbled his way 33 yards further downfield, setting up the touchdown. Javon Hargrave jumped offsides and gave the Cards a first down on third-and-5 on the late second-quarter drive that ended in a TD and a 26-14 lead.
Hold the line
The Eagles started an NFL-record 13th offensive line combination in just their 14th game of the season. They surrendered six sacks, four of which were their fault. Inexperienced tackles Jordan Mailata and Matt Pryor gave up consecutive red-zone sacks in the fourth quarter that cost the Eagles their best chance to tie or win.