Eagles on brink of clinching top spot, home field in NFC
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Just when the Philadelphia Eagles seemed on easy street — as they imagined a Super Bowl parade down Broad Street — they hit their first significant calamity.
Jalen Hurts is hurt.
The star QB and NFL MVP candidate suffered a sprained right shoulder and his status for this week's game at Dallas is uncertain, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the team hadn’t announced the injury.
It's not quite time to panic in Philly — yet.
The Eagles are still 13-1 as they to head to rival Dallas poised to clinch both the NFC East and the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a win. Already boasting the best record in the NFL, the Eagles would be guaranteed a bye and home-field advantage in the playoffs with the top spot.
The last time the Eagles played two postseason games at the Linc?
That’s right, 2017.
The Eagles already tied their single-season record with 13 wins set in 2004 when they lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl and matched in 2017 when they beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl. At 24 years, 133 days, Hurts was the youngest QB in NFL history to lead a team to a 13-1 start after the Eagles outlasted the struggling Chicago Bears 25-20 on Sunday.
The Eagles would turn to backup QB Gardner Minshew against the Cowboys. He stepped in last season when Hurts suffered an ankle injury and missed a game against the New York Jets.
Minshew was 20 of 25 for 242 yards and two touchdowns in a 33-18 victory over the Jets. The Eagles have tried to keep Minshew sharp this season by running the second team in drills against the first-team offense and leading 7-on-7 drills at the end of each practice.
“I'll always forever refer to that as the Gardner Minshew drill," Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said recently. “We’ve seen Gardner play. We all know how Gardner is."
The Eagles are sack-happy this season and kept the QB crunching going against the Bears. The Eagles have at least six sacks in a game in three straight games for the first time in franchise history.
Javon Hargrave, Haason Reddick and Josh Sweat became the first Eagles trio with two sacks apiece in a game since 2007. Hargrave increased his single-season career-high sack total to 10 and has the most sacks by an Eagles DT since Fletcher Cox in 2018 (10 1/2). Sweat set a single-season career high in sacks with 9 1/2 and has a sack in four straight games, the longest by an Eagle since Cox in 2020.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
It was a game full of rare mistakes from some of the most effective players on the team. Hurts, who entered with only three interceptions all season, threw two interceptions in a game for the first time since the Eagles lost in the playoffs last season to Tampa Bay. Miles Sanders fumbled for the first time this season.
The turnovers kept the game closer than it needed to be for the Eagles.
Receivers — A.J. Brown had nine catches for a career-high 181 yards, while DeVonta Smith had five catches for 126 yards. Brown has 1,201 yards receiving this season. His previous career high was 1,075 yards in 2020 for Tennessee. Smith has five receptions of 30-plus yards in the last three games, including two receptions of 40-plus yards.
Sirianni became the third coach since the 1970 merger to start 13-1 or better in his first or second career year as a head coach, joining Jim Caldwell (2009 Colts) and George Seifert (1990 49ers). But Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen oddly stuck to passing plays early, despite bone-chilling temperatures and whipping wind that made it hard to see and throw, and an efficient running back in Sanders. Hurts took a beating early but still rushed for three TDs.
Outside of the QB, there is good news ahead that tight end Dallas Goedert could return this week from a shoulder injury that cost him five games.
136 — Center Jason Kelce moved into second in franchise history for most consecutive games started with 136. Jon Runyan holds the mark of 144 from 2000-2008.
The Eagles plan to enjoy the holiday with the Dec. 23 release of their Christmas album and the Dec. 24 game that can clinch the top spot in Dallas.