His stats weren’t particularly pretty. Two objections will do it. However, there were some very encouraging signs from Jalen Hurts on Monday night, and he made no secret of his excitement — or perhaps relief is a better word — to finally leave Tampa with a win.
It was at Raymond James Stadium where Hurts threw two interceptions in his first playoff game, a 31-15 wild-card loss to the Bucs in 2021.
The game wasn’t even close to that. The Bucs led 31-0 early in the fourth quarter before the Eagles got two meaningless scores.
Todd Bowles — Bruce Arians’ defensive coordinator, and now the Bucs’ head coach — made Hurts look unprepared and overwhelmed by masked coverages, blitzes that Hurts couldn’t diagnose and constantly changing his look.
“Obviously this is a guy that we’ve played with in the past, and he’s had some success against us in the past,” Hurts said. “He’s done a lot of similar things (and) we’ve handled it well.
“There were some turnovers on my behalf. Other than that, I think we did a really good job of executing. I think the reality is that when we look at it and watch the tape, which I’m excited to do, we’re going to look at the things that we did to ourselves. Those are the things that We can control it, so we have to do a better job of controlling the things we can control.
The Bucs didn’t just embarrass Hurts and the Eagles two years ago, they succeeded.
NFL Films cameras caught Bucs secondary coach Kevin Ross — a Paulsboro native who played at Temple with the Bowles under Arians — telling his players on the sideline, “This guy can’t read. Get him moving. He can’t read. He’ll give us a couple.”
What hurt me most was that it seemed like Ross was right.
Before hitting some meaningless late passes, Hurts was 16-for-34 for 140 yards with no TDs and two interceptions. His passer rating was 34.0 with 12 minutes left and the Bucs had a 34-point lead.
It remains the worst match of his career. And Monday night, after leading the Eagles to a 25-11 victory over the Bulls, Ross and Tampa’s defense, Hurts admitted the win was special because of what happened on the same field two years ago.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never forgotten,” he said. “Things have gone very well since then.”
Bezel? Hurts is 17-1 in the regular season since that loss, along with an impressive performance in the Super Bowl.
Hurts also had a terrible regular-season game against the Bucs at Linc in 2021, throwing for just 115 yards with an INT.
In three career games against Tampa, Hurts has completed 55 percent of his passes with three TD passes, five interceptions and a 63.0 passer rating.
Against every other team over the same period, he completed 63% of his passes with 48 assists, 19 intelligent strikes and a passer rating of 93.4.
But even though his numbers weren’t amazing Monday night, Hurts did do some very good things. After completing just five passes of 10 or more yards against the Patriots and four against the Vikings to complete an NFL-low nine double-figures in Week 3, he reached 11 on Monday. Six of the nine longest games he completed this season came against a Bucs defense that hounded him for two years.
“I think whether we win or lose, I don’t think I’ll ever feel satisfied,” Hurts said. “That’s always the mentality. So there’s a passion – always, win, lose or draw – to improve.
As for the two interceptions, one was a miscommunication between Hurts and D’Andre Swift and the other was a great dunk play from cornerback Dee Delaney.
“It happened,” Hurts shrugged.
The biggest thing Hurts did was handle Bowles’ blitzes much better than he had in the past. He beat the offense by finding his hot receiver, threw the ball away when there was nothing there and got out of trouble multiple times.
No one attacks more than the Bucs, and Hurts was sacked just once Monday night. It was in the fourth quarter with the Eagles already leading by 19 points.
“This is something Todd Bowles is known for and does a great job at,” he said. “I think the last time we played, I didn’t do a great job of being patient in the pocket. So I feel like that’s something I took a step (forward) tonight.”
“With those steps you take forward, you want to learn from everything. Learn from that, keep building on it, keep learning from the mistakes we made today. That’s the main thing moving forward.
“Move forward, keep growing, and absorb as much as I can. Every experience is a new tool and a new page of knowledge for you to learn from.”
“Coffee ninja. Web fan. Hipster-friendly beer enthusiast. Professional creator.”