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How Jalen Hurts finally got the best of Todd Bowles

His stats weren’t particularly pretty. Two interceptions will do that. Still, there were some very encouraging signs from Jalen Hurts Monday night, and he didn’t hide his happiness – or maybe relief is a better word – for finally leaving Tampa with a win.

It was at Raymond James Stadium where Hurts threw two interceptions in his playoff debut, a 31-15 wild-card loss to the Bucs in 2021.

The game wasn’t even that close. The Bucs led 31-0 early in the fourth quarter before the Eagles got a couple meaningless touchdowns.

Todd Bowles – then Bruce Arians’ defensive coordinator, now the Bucs’ head coach – made Hurts look unprepared and overmatched with disguised coverages, blitzes Hurts couldn’t diagnose and constantly changing looks.

“Obviously, that’s a guy we’ve played in the past, and he has had some success against us in the past,” Hurts said. “He did a lot of similar things (and) we handled them well. 

“Some turnovers were there on my behalf. Other than that, I think we did a really good job of executing. I think the reality is when we look at it and watch the tape, which I’m eager to do, we’ll look at the things that were self-inflicted. Those are the things that we can control, so we’ve got to do a better job of controlling the things that we can.”

The Bucs didn’t just embarrass Hurts and the Eagles two years ago, they rubbed it in. 

NFL Films cameras caught Bucs secondary coach Kevin Ross – a Paulsboro native who played at Temple with Bowles under Arians – telling his players on the sideline, “This guy can’t read. Keep him moving around. He can’t read. He’s going to give us a couple.”

What hurt the most is that it looked like Ross was right.

Before hitting a few 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 in the game and the Bucs leading by 34 points.

It remains the worst game of his career. And Monday night, after leading the Eagles to a 25-11 win over Bowles and Ross and that Tampa defense, Hurts admitted the win was special because of what happened on the same field two years ago.

“It’s a feeling I haven’t forgotten,” he said. “Things have gone very well ever since.” 

How well? Hurts is 17-1 in the regular season since that loss, along with a spectacular performance in the Super Bowl.

Hurts also had a terrible game in the regular season against the Bucs at the 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 during that same span, he’s completed 63 percent of his passes with 48 TDs, 19 INTs and a 93.4 passer rating.

But even though his numbers weren’t spectacular Monday night, Hurts did some very good things. After completing just five passes of 10 yards or more against the Patriots and four against the Vikings for an NFL-low nine double-digit completions going into Week 3, he hit 11 Monday. Six of his nine-longest completions of the season came against that Bucs defense that’s haunted him for two years.

“I think whether we win or lose, I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied,” Hurts said. “That’s always the mentality. So there’s an eagerness – always, win, lose, or draw – to get better.”

As for the two interceptions, one was a miscommunication between Hurts and D’Andre Swift and the other was a great diving play by corner Dee Delaney.

“They happen,” Hurts shrugged.

The biggest thing Hurts did was handle Bowles’ blitzes much better than he has in the past. He beat the blitz by finding his hot receiver, threw the ball away when there was nothing there and scrambled out of trouble a couple times.

Nobody blitzes more than the Bucs, and Hurts was only sacked once Monday night. It was in the fourth quarter with the Eagles already up by 19 points.

“That’s something that Todd Bowles is known for and does a great job with,” he said. “I think the last time we played them, I didn’t do a great job of truly being patient in the pocket. So I feel like that was something that I took a step (forward) with tonight. 

“With those steps you take forward, you want to learn from everything. Learning from that, continuing to build on that, and continuing to learn from the mistakes that we made today. That’s the main thing moving forward. 

“Move forward, continue to grow, and soak up as much as I can. Each experience is a new tool and a new page of knowledge you can learn from.”

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