Jalen Hurts Equals Lamar Jackson's Record in First NFL Start

Jalen Hurts' first NFL start could have hardly gone any better. The rookie quarterback inspired the Philadelphia Eagles to a surprisingly 24-21 win at home against the New Orleans Saints, breathing some much-needed life into his team's moribund offense and providing exactly the kind of spark Eagles head coach Doug Pederson had been looking for when he named him the starter last week.

Hurts completed 17 of his 30 passes on Sunday for a modest 167 yards and one touchdown, but avoided turnovers and wasn't sacked once—a significant improvement from Carson Wentz, who threw 15 picks and was sacked 50 times through Philadelphia's first 12 games of the season.

Hurts did most of the damage with his legs, carrying the ball 18 times for a total of 106 rushing yards, the second-most by any quarterback this season.

The latter figure marked a major statistical milestone for the former Alabama and Oklahoma star, who became only the fifth Eagles quarterback to rush for at least 100 yards in a single game in the Super Bowl era and the first since Michael Vick in Week 15 of the 2010 season.

Hurts is also only the second quarterback since 1950 to rack up at least 100 yards on the ground in his first NFL start.

The only quarterback to have pulled off the feat is reigning MVP Lamar Jackson, who rushed for 119 yards in his first career start as the Baltimore Ravens defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 24-21 in Week 11 of the 2018 season.

Jackson, incidentally, is also the only quarterback to have accumulated more yards on the ground in a single game this season. The Ravens quarterback rushed for 108 yards in Baltimore's 30-28 in Philadelphia in Week 6.

While Hurts rushed for 20 touchdowns and 1,298 yards in his senior year at Oklahoma, there were doubts he could replicate those numbers in the NFL.

While one game is a small sample size, his efforts on Sunday came against a Saints defense that hadn't allowed a single player to reach the 100-rushing yard mark in the last 55 consecutive games.

Arriving into Week 14, New Orleans had won nine consecutive games and allowed the fewest points and total yards—8.8 and 233.4 respectively—of any NFL team since the beginning of Week 9.

"Everybody played together, believed in one another and we put an emphasis on that this week—playing together, playing as one, bringing the energy and creating our own energy," Hurts said after the game.

"Moving with urgency and scoring out there and believing in one another. I'm happy this group got it done today."

The win marked the first time the Eagles have scored more than 17 points since they defeated the Dallas Cowboys 23-9 in Week 8 and kept Philadelphia's slim playoff hopes alive, at least mathematically.

The Eagles improved to 4-8-1, but still trail the 6-7 Washington Football Team and 5-7 New York Giants in the NFC East.

Significantly, however, the win against the Saints may have given Pederson a major headache. The Eagles head coach benched Wentz last week but declined to commit to Hurts as the starter against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 15.

"I'm going to repeat myself again that it takes a village to get this stuff done, and Jalen was a part of it, yes," he was quoted as saying by The Athletic.

"But it took a team effort to win, honestly. I talked about the defense earlier, the plays that they made just time and time again. Again, Jalen was a part of it."

With Wentz under center this season, the Eagles offense ranked 29th in total yards and 28th in passing yards respectively and 31st out of 32 teams in the NFL in DVOA—a metric that gauges a team's offensive efficiency by comparing success on every play to a league average based on situation and opponent.

Wentz, who signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension in June 2019, has endured the worst season of his NFL career so far with career-highs in sacks and interceptions.

Pederson and the Eagles may have a major decision to make over the next four weeks.

Jalen Hurts of the Philadelphia Eagles
Jalen Hurts #2 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball against the New Orleans Saints at Lincoln Financial Field on December 13 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Mitchell Leff/Getty