Jalen Hurts rebounded from a brutal turnover-filled first half to lead the Eagles to an improbable victory.
The Philadelphia Eagles surged back from the brink several times Sunday evening against the Buffalo Bills, a talented team fighting to keep its season alive, to pull off an overtime win in one of the most memorable regular season games in franchise history.
The Birds trailed 17-7 at half, then 24-14 with 1:40 left in the third quarter, then 31-28 with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter and 34-31 in overtime before prevailing 37-34 and improving to 10-1 on the season, inching ever closer to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs.
The Eagles pulled this off without their future Hall of Fame right tackle Lane Johnson and go-to tight end Dallas Goedert.
Jalen Hurts rebounded from perhaps the worst first half of his career with the Eagles to register perhaps the finest second halves of his young career.
Hurts was 4 of 11 for 33 yards with an interception and a lost fumble in the first half.
He finished 18 of 31 for 200 yards, three touchdown passes, two rushing touchdowns including the game-winner in overtime, 65 yards rushing on 14 carries and, at this time, a near lock to win league MVP.
“We just continue to find ways to win,” Hurts said at his postgame press conference. “We play together and we have shown our resiliency day in and day out. Game in and game out, we have been challenged in a number of different ways. We always find a way, and that’s something that you can’t really take for granted. It’s hard to quantify.”
Hurts admitted he has to look at himself first.
“Obviously, I have had a ton to clean up and I have not executed to the level of my standard,” He said. “What that is yet? It seems to be enough. But in terms of the standard that I like to play to consistently and I’d like us to play to consistently.
“As a team, enough is never enough. So, you just want to continue to strive for more and play to that standard. But in those moments, you just truly never want to get too high or get too low. But we found a way in the end and made it happen.”
Edge rusher Haasan Reddick said he wasn’t surprised Hurts shook off his poor first half, then went on to lead the Eagles to the win.
“Shooters shoot, baby!” The former Haddon Heights High School and Temple star said at his locker after the game. “Shooters keep shooting. That’s what it really is. Shooters keep shooting no matter what goes on. Jalen’s a competitor and he’s going to keep going until there’s no time on the clock.”
Jack Driscoll said he found out he was probably going to start for Lane Johnson at about 11:30 AM. Johnson reported to the team his groin was bothering him. He was seen in the field a few hours running a few plays with coaches to see how he felt and it was decided to go with Driscoll.
Driscoll said he did not want to downplay the significance of the situation but was adamant that going in for anyone is just his job.
“It’s our job,” Driscoll said at his locker after the game. “Our job is to be ready at any time. It’s no different if it’s the first play of the game, before the game or whatnot. My mindset is to always be ready. I don’t want to be the reason why we go in there and can’t execute or we can’t be good on offense. When my number is called, regardless of position, be ready to go.”
The Eagles took at 7-0 lead with 1:06 left in the first quarter when Hurts lunged over his lineman to score from the one-yard line in a play – the “Philly Shove” that is considered nearly unstoppable.
But Buffalo, behind a brilliant performance by quarterback Josh Allen, scored 17 consecutive points to take a 17-7 lead into the locker room at the half.
Tyler Bass hit a 48-yard field goal, Allen scored on a nine yard run after Hurts’ interception.
Allen threaded a needle to hit Stefon Diggs with a 13-yard touchdown to take advantage of Hurts’ fumble at their own 35-yard line with 1:08 left in the half.
It could have been worse. With 1:27 left in the half-before Hurts’ fumble- Jalen Carter block a 34-yard field goal attempt Bass.
The third quarter would end with the score 24-14. The Eagles scored on a six-play, 62-yard drive that ended with a three-yard pass from Hurts to A.J. Brown
The Bills scored when Allen scrambled for a 16-yard run capping off a nine-play, 70-yard drive.
A FOURTH QUARTER AND OVERTIME FOR THE AGES.
The fourth quarter started with Hurts hitting DeVonta Smith with a 15-yard TD strike capping a seven-play, 75-yard drive making the score 24-21 Bills.
On the second play of the Bills ensuing drive, James Bradberry picked off Allen at the Buffalo 29-yard line.
Three plays later, Hurts found wide receiver Olamide Zaccheaus behind two defenders in the back of the end zone. The Eagles were now up 28-24.
Allen and the Bills would answer later in the quarter with a ten-play, 74-yard drive that ended with a slick seven-yard strike to Gabe Davis in the end zone regaining the lead 31-28 with 1:55 left in the fourth quarter. Davis would finish with six catches for 105 yards and the TD.
Hurts though, was not finished.
He led the Eagles 31-yard drive that took nine, plays and was hindered with two pre-snap penalties by Jason Kelce.
But Jake Elliott made his case for All Pro kicker when he drilled a 59-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the fourth to tie the score 31-31.
The Bills won the toss and of course took the ball first. Allen was 0-5 in NFL overtime games and would soon be 0-6.
The Bill QB1 – who finished 29 of 51 for 339 passing yards and two TDs plus 81 yards rushing and two-more TDs – drove his team 53 yards to the Eagles 22-yard line where, on third down, missed a throw to Davis in the end zone…the Bills has to settle for a 40-yard Bass field goal.
After the game, Allen was asked about the miscommunication on the last pass to Davis.
“Yeah, it’s an option route," Allen said. "They were in zero, so we max protected it. Understand they were coming to get me. I made a guess, and I guessed wrong.”
The next Eagles drive will be etched in Eagles folklore for all time.
Hurts picked apart the Bill secondary…death by a thousand cuts.
One the ninth play of the drive, at the Buffalo 12-yard line, and 2:41 left in overtime, Hurts took matters into his own hands running over his left guard for a relatively easy touchdown to win the game.
Setting up the final play was D’Andre Swift, who had just three carries for seven yards in the first half, ran 16 yards on third-and-three from the Bills 28-yard line. He would finish with 80 yards on 14 carries.
Hurts talked about the final touchdown.
“Yeah there are reads on every play but I think it was just a great ball play,” Hurts said. “For us, I just shake my head and I don’t really know how to feel at times. I just want to lead and play to the standard at all times. As a team we play together, we lean on each other and have each other’s backs. We just find ways to win against really good teams. So we just need to continue to get better.”
REDDICK TALKS ABOUT WINNING CLOSE GAMES
The Eagles sack leader was asked if it is better to have these crazy games like they’ve had against Dallas, Kansas City and Buffalo? Iron sharpens Iron for the playoffs, right?
“I believe so,” said Reddick, who recorded two tackles and a quarterback hit that effectively ended a drive inside the Red Zone. “When you’re looking at the teams we’re playing, these are great caliber teams, coming down to wire, it’s already feeling like playoff football.
“With that much on the line. KC last week gave us their all. Bills this week gave us their all. Someway, somehow we’ve been able to keep fighting and finding a way at the end.”
Reddick continued to talk about winning is all that matters, regardless of how they get there.
“It doesn’t matter how close the game is,” he said. “‘W’ in that win column is all that matters…10-1? For consecutive years, back-to-back, I know it hasn’t been done in a long time.”
Reddick was asked about Hurts’ resilience. Playing as poorly as he did in the first half then turning in a Hall of Fame effort in the second half and overtime.
“Jalen is what Jalen is…QB1” Reddick said. “A baller…playmaker…that’s what he do!”
“It doesn’t matter … it’s not a half of football, it’s two halves…four quarters…and you’ve got to play them all. That’s the thing about us…even when things don’t go right in the first half…things might not go right for three quarters…we just continue to be relentless and find a way.”
A pool reported asked the referees after the game about Reddick's tackle of Allen late in the game that resulted in a intentional grounding call. Many thought he should have been called for a horse collar penalty. The official said Reddick pulled Allen down from the front of his pads. The penalty is called when a player is pulled down by his equipment from the back.
The Eagles defense was led by Kevin Byard once again. The safety recorded 13 tackles (nine solo). Nicholas Morrow notched 12 tackles (seven solo) and Reed Blankenship and Zach Cunningham each recorded ten tackles.
Driscoll was asked about playing in a game like this.
“It’s a game you remember for the rest of your life.” *
Email Al Thompson at firstname.lastname@example.org