Eagles’ Jalen Hurts are not afraid to face Tom Brady, Buccaneers

Jalen Hurts wanted no part of it.

While most opposing players – especially quarterbacks – dutifully fall into various states of genuflection when Tom Brady’s name is mentioned, the 23-year-old Eagles quarterback did not have time to toot or reflect.

The Hurts and the Eagles (9-8) will face the Brady and the Buccaneers (13-4) on Sunday in an NFC wild-card playoff game at 6 p.m. 1pm at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. When asked this week what his first memory of watching 44-year-old Brady play was, he gave a concise, uninterested answer.

“I do not remember,” Hurts said, without giving a follow-up statement.

OK then.

Hurts was 6 years old when Brady led the Patriots to a 24-21 victory over the Eagles, then quarterback of Donovan McNabb, at the end of the 2004 season.

It was the third of Brady’s seven Super Bowl titles in his career. Sunday will mark Brady’s 46th career start after the season (he is 34-11) and the first for Hurts, who is in his second season but his first as a full-time starter.

Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady
Jalen Hurts and Tom Brady
Getty Images; AP

Consider Hurts, who will be the youngest quarterback in Eagles history to start in a playoff game and is 21 years younger than his quarterback opponent, untouched.

“We just want to keep doing the things that got us here,” Hurts said. “As a crime, we have revolutionized and evolved in terms of who we are and our identity. I have said various things to ignite growth. Early on, we searched for who we were.”

Asked about his own development, Hurts said: “I have improved in each [aspect] of the game. “

Hurts’ indifference to the Brady reference was not surprising given his personality makeup, which can be described as stoic. His facial expressions rarely tell the story of what is going on on the pitch. You would be hard pressed to discern his mood after throwing a touchdown pass or being intercepted.

Former Eagles coach Doug Pederson last season told Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury of Hurts: “You have to check his temperature a few times to see if he has a pulse.”

Eagles tackle Lane Johnson told reporters after Philadelphia’s week 17 victory over Washington: “I still have never seen him happy, really, as far as [being] enthusiastic.”

Hurts, the son of a high school football coach (his high school coach), is no stranger to big games and big moments.

He was an 18-year-old starter in Alabama for the 2016 season, and he led Crimson Tide to the national championship game at Raymond James Stadium on January 9, 2017, which they lost to Deshaun Watson and Clemson, 35-31.

Not surprisingly, Hurts declined to comment this week on the importance of returning to the same stadium where he played that match.

Hurts is also no stranger to adversity and disappointment.

He helped lead Alabama to a 26-2 record during his two seasons as a starter, but was benched in favor of Tua Tagovailoa in the 2018 National Championship against Georgia. He played one more season in Alabama, supporting Tagovailoa and then moving to Oklahoma in search of a fresh start.

After a successful season with the Sooners, the Hurts were drafted by the Eagles in 2020, pushing Carson Wentz from the starting job.

Hurts produced 26 TDs for the Eagles in 15 starts this season – 16 through the air and 10 rushing – completing 61.3 percent of his passes in 3,144 yards and rushing 784 yards.

The Eagles lost to the Buccaneers, 28-22, on October 14 to fall to 2-4 at that point. They lost the following week to the Raiders to fall to 2-5. They closed out the season on a 7-3 run, though their 51-26 loss in the season finale against the Cowboys was essentially a give-away game, given that they rested their starters.

“They are a completely different team than what we saw in Week 6,” Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “[Hurts] has a big pocket presence and he runs like a halfback but he can throw the ball very well. Jalen in a way drives the offense. You can see the maturity, you can see the control over the attack, and I think he has done a damn job. ”

The Buccaneers, who returned all 22 starters from their Super Bowl championship team and followed that up by winning NFC South to win the NFC No. 2 seed for the playoffs, are more polished and experienced than the Eagles – especially as a quarterback with Brady, the most talented postseason- playing in NFL history.

“Some of our guys have never been in the playoffs, or who are rookies,” Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni said. “But they have played in national championship matches and those matches are huge. They have the same type of hoopla that surrounds them [as the NFL playoffs]. We have winners on this football team. ”

Starting with Hurts.

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