It's called a Poker Face, and Jalen Hurts wears it very well. He lives it, actually, knowing that one terrific game does not a season make. OK, yeah, he was outstanding on Sunday in Atlanta, completing 77 percent of his passes for 264 yards and three touchdowns, adding another 62 yards on the ground, showing the kind of calm, cool demeanor that you want in your quarterback. That is so old news for Hurts, who understands just what he has in front of him on Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers come to town.
"We're all aware we're going against a really good defense, a really good team, a very good and active front seven," Hurts said Wednesday as he met the media at the NovaCare Complex. "They're really good up front, so we have to be prepared for them."
Hurts welcomes the "electric, passionate" fans who will fill Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday, but his focus is on executing what the coaching staff puts in place. Every week, it seems, we try to study Hurts and get a pulse on what he's thinking, and he delivers with consistency and that Poker Face. There is no magic happening here. Hurts is all football and he's as nit-picky about his performance as you might imagine. Never once in his year-plus time as an Eagle has Hurts expressed satisfaction at his play because, well, the goal is perfection (in the form of a Super Bowl Championship) and until that is attained, Hurts is going to keep grinding.
"The biggest stat I'll look at that the end of a game is if we won or lost," Hurts said when asked about his 77 percent completion percentage from Sunday. "You never want to get too high or low. We're on to the 49ers."
And that's that.
What's great about the NFL is that players and coaches flush from their brains whatever happened – good or bad – the previous Sunday by about, oh, noon on Monday. That's when they start to look ahead, and what the Eagles have seen from San Francisco is a defense that plays a familiar scheme that highlights consistency and an on-the-same-page brand of success. There aren't many surprises in a scheme that is also played by Seattle and by Atlanta for many seasons before 2021 and others, but the 49ers play it especially well.
They are always in the right place at the right time, and they let the front seven – featuring end Nick Bosa and middle linebacker Fred Warner – lead the way. San Francisco is well aware of Hurts' ability to break the pocket with his legs, so this cat-and-mouse game will be especially fun to watch on Sunday.
The key for Hurts is to understand what he's seeing – that comes from a week of preparation – trusting his eyes and making good decisions. The 77 percent completion percentage? That's beautiful for Head Coach Nick Sirianni, who has loved seeing Hurts make so much progress in the short time the two have been together.
"That's just getting the reps of the plays that we know we're going to run. We just needed to get him the reps of things. We feel confident that he's read a lot of these things multiple times throughout camp. We held back a lot of these things, obviously, in preseason to not give a good look – for the opposing defenses to get a good look of it," Sirianni said. "You want to make sure that they know what to do, with your base plays they know what to do versus every different look. That's why the San Francisco 49ers are good at the outside zone play or mid zone play. We want to do that same thing. So that's what's important to me is, 'Hey, where are you going versus this look, where are you going versus this look, where are you going when you think it's this look but then it turns to this look,' right?
"It's just the added reps of getting him to know where to go with the football, because he's a good enough passer. He's a really good passer, right, and he does a lot of other things really well. It's the accumulated reps of decisions of where you are going with the football in time, does that mean you throw in rhythm every single time? No, but you will more if you know where to go with the football. Then if you don't, then he has that great weapon of being able to run the football."
Hurts is an all-around "great weapon," and part of his success comes from his mental approach. Week 1 was Week 1. With only a handful of days remaining before the 49ers game, Hurts understands that Sunday is literally a whole new ballgame.
He has to prove himself all over again. That's just the way he is and that's the way he always will be, so any attempts to take him away from that platform, uh-uh, it isn't going to work.
"I look at it and I say, 'Continue to grow, continue to grow,'" Hurts said. "That goes with learning how we want to attack this week, getting a feel for what they do defensively and who they are as a team, and going out there and trying to attack it. Grow every day. That motto will never change."