The Philadelphia Eagles got beat by Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6, getting down 28-7 midway through the third quarter before rallying to make the game tighter. The 28-22 defeat was part of a 2-5 start to the season during which the Eagles were still finding themselves.
Nick Sirianni's club located a groove down the stretch, winning seven of its final 10 games to set up a wild-card rematch with the Bucs on Sunday afternoon.
Part of the surge into the playoffs came with improved play from second-year quarterback Jalen Hurts, who has performed much better, steadying the offense and becoming more adept at moving the chains with his arm.
Sirianni was asked Wednesday how much Hurts has improved since the Week 6 matchup with the Bucs.
"I think significantly," the coach responded. "He has definitely gotten better throughout that time, which doesn't surprise me at all because Jalen is a student of the game. Jalen wants to get better and craves to get better. He has high football character and, like I have said plenty of times, guys that are tough, guys that have high football character and guys who love football are going to reach their ceiling."
Hurts had a 90-plus passer rating in each of his last three games (101.3 passer rating since Week 15); he was a DNP in Philly's Week 18 game versus Dallas as the Eagles rested many starters.
The second-year signal-caller led all QBs in carries, rush yards, and rush TDs in 2021, but the improvement with Hurts' arm as the season progressed made the Eagles dangerous entering the postseason.
"I think you're just seeing him grow closer and closer to his ceiling," Sirianni said. "Yeah, he's definitely better and he's just going to continue to get better because of who he is as a person and as a player."
In the first meeting with Tampa, Hurts completed 12 of 26 passes for 116 yards, one TD and one INT, and added 44 rushing yards and two rushing scores late to make the close.
Philly needs a more well-rounded effort from Hurts if they're to pull the road upset against the defending Super Bowl champs.
The Eagles went 0-6 against 2021 playoff teams during the regular season -- five of the six losses came prior to Week 8, with the sixth coming in Week 18 vs. the Cowboys when the Eagles rested their starters. Was the 0-fer happenstance, or did Philly simply take advantage of a soft schedule to get into the postseason?
Hurts and the Eagles will have a chance to prove they belong in the tournament by balling out against Brady and the Bucs.