PHILADELPHIA (AP)Jalen Hurts held a clipboard, wore a headset and paced the sideline with the same the look of consternation on his face as furious Philly fans in the stands as their stress tightened in another Eagles loss without the franchise quarterback.
Hurts and the Eagles didn’t like what they saw – and now, fully healthy or not, the banged-up, show-stopping QB might have to come to the rescue with everything he helped build on the brink of unraveling with one game left in the season.
”If Jalen’s able to go,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said, ”he’ll go.”
That’s bit of a reason to exhale after the Eagles lost their second straight without Hurts, putting their hopes of securing the NFC’s top seed in jeopardy. Marshon Lattimore returned an interception 11 yards for a late touchdown, and the New Orleans Saints beat Philadelphia 20-10 on Sunday.
The Eagles need to beat the New York Giants next week to secure the top seed. A loss by Philly and a win by Dallas would give the Cowboys the NFC East title. Hurts is recuperating from a sprained right shoulder.
”His health is the No. 1 priority,” Sirianni said.
The Giants can rest their starters after clinching a playoff berth with a 38-10 win over Indianapolis. The Eagles can’t rest easy at the thought of a third straight start by backup QB Gardner Minshew.
”We have everything we ever wanted in front of us,” Minshew said.
And yes, that’s true. But their prospects of beating the Giants – or doing anything in the playoffs – are cloudy without Hurts.
”I’m not anybody that’s ever going to hit a panic button,” Sirianni said.
But in Hurts’ case, how about breaking some glass in case of emergency?
The Saints (7-9) won their third straight game, an impressive late-season run under first-year coach Dennis Allen, but were later eliminated from playoff contention when Green Bay beat Minnesota. Taysom Hill had a 1-yard TD run in New Orleans’ surprising first half. Cameron Jordan had three sacks and set the Saints’ career record with 115 1/2.
”We found a way to close them out the last three weeks,” Allen said. ”That’s been good to see. That’s the kind of team I think we can be.”
Andy Dalton, who threw for 204 yards, completed his first 13 passes, including a 58-yard reception by Rashid Shaheed. That play set up one of two field goals by Wil Lutz in the first half that gave the Saints a 13-0 lead.
Minshew had a pass intercepted by Lattimore, who had missed 10 straight games with an abdominal injury, late in the fourth. The backup QB finished 18 of 32 passing for 274 yards, one touchdown and one interception in his second straight start and showed no signs he could ably lead the Eagles on a postseason run should Hurts get hurt again.
Minshew connected with A.J. Brown for a 78-yard touchdown late in the third that made it 13-10 and temporarily woke up the crowd – which had voraciously booed the Eagles most of the game – and an inept offense. But Minshew failed to convert on a fourth-down dive late in the fourth that cost his team as much as his late pick.
The Eagles were shut out in the first half for the first time this season, and their 10 points was a season low.
”We just played terrible. That’s that,” wide receiver DeVonta Smith said.
The Eagles hadn’t allowed more than four sacks in a game this season but – playing without injured right tackle Lane Johnson – allowed five in the first half. The Eagles didn’t convert a first down until there were 12 seconds left in the half.
Even the play-calling was questionable. Instead of trying to help their backup QB by leaning a bit more on 1,000-yard rusher Miles Sanders, the Eagles gave him only two carries in the half.
Hurts seemingly solidified his MVP credentials without taking a snap. He most likely won’t win the award now, but the Eagles are significantly worse without the QB who tied a franchise record with 35 total touchdowns.
Eagles fans booed the team off the field and suddenly a team that expected to play two home games in the postseason is just trying get there with its confidence intact.
Jake Elliott kicked a 56-yard field goal for the Eagles.
”We never panicked or stressed or pressed,” Minshew said. ”We just couldn’t make it happen.”
And the chances they can make it happen – that Super Bowl run that was in their grasp just three weeks ago – may be nonexistent without Hurts.
The Eagles sacked Dalton seven times, their fifth consecutive game with six or more sacks – the longest streak by any team in the Super Bowl era.
They also became the first team to have four players with 10-plus sacks in a single season (Haason Reddick, Josh Sweat, Javon Hargrave and Brandon Graham) since individual sacks were first recorded in 1982.
Saints: OT Ryan Ramczyk suffered a hip injury.
Eagles: Sweat suffered a neck injury while trying to make a tackle but had movement in all his extremities. The Eagles said Sweat was taken to a hospital as a precaution. The defensive end, who has 11 sacks this season, pounded the ground with his hands before he was removed from the field on a stretcher in the first quarter.
The Saints finish at home against Carolina next Sunday, with both teams playing only for pride.
The Eagles host the New York Giants next weekend with the No. 1 seed at stake.
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