Kyle Shanahan watched his San Francisco 49ers defense hold a $6 million star at just 190 yards in that player’s first home start in September just 16 months ago.
But that was before Jalen Hurts fully established himself as the Philadelphia Eagles’ starting quarterback, and before he received his first Pro Bowl nod in 2022. Now, the Eagles’ $6,025,171 signal caller has ridden a new wave of production and confidence — and it’s officially the final NFC quarterback hurdle Shanahan and the 49ers’ defense will have to clear as they advance to the Super Bowl want.
Hurts lost his 2021 home debut that date, September 19, 2021, and led a high-profile Eagles offense into the NFC Championship game on Sunday, January 29. Shanahan himself told reporters on Wednesday, Jan. 25, that he witnessed a changed Hurts compared to the one who went 12 of 23, advanced 190 yards and was sacked twice in that 17-11 loss to the Niners.
“He’s just become more consistent,” said Shanahan, with the NFC Championship game logo banner now behind him. “You can see in this game what skills he has and what he came close to doing a few times.”
Shanahan didn’t look at the final stat Hurts had when he last met the 49ers. Instead, he saw the potential he showed as he faced the heat of the 49ers.
“He made some big throws in that game and we contained him pretty well,” Shanahan recalled. “But I think we were 17-3 up with five minutes to go and then he got the momentum back and they took it straight into a one-goal game. So you could see his abilities early on and I know he started playing a role towards the end of the year. And that’s why they made it to the playoffs last year, because he’s gotten so good after that.
But as far as Shanahan remembered that day, that 49ers contest was the beginning of Hurts’ rise as a true starter and future league star.
“We could see signs of that in this game,” Shanahan said. “And now just looking at him this year and hearing about it, he’s borderline NFL MVP and then he shot the movie these last two days, he’s exactly how he was with potential and now he’s making it to the point smallest detail.”
Hurts has compiled six 300-yard games since that loss to the 49ers and has posted new season bests of 3,701 yards, 22 touchdowns, a 66.5% completion rate and a career-high 13 rushing touchdowns.
Wednesday marked official starting week for teams preparing for their conference title games. And the Eagles also reached out to the media before hosting the 49ers.
Hurts himself spoke to the 49ers about the upcoming tilt. Among other things, he discussed: His respect for Brock Purdy.
“He’s always been a really good player,” Hurts told Philadelphia reporters, who will soon face him a second time after facing him in college. “He’s got a lot of moxie, he does plays and he’s been doing it since college.”
But while he’s sharing the field with Purdy for the first time since the Oklahoma/Iowa State Meeting in 2019, Hurts will be on the field against the league’s best defense — with a collection of guys from that 21-meeting.
“I mean, they’re really good across the board,” Hurts said. “I think it starts with their front seven and then has a really good defensive back group. They fly to the ball, they interfere in every position and they are well trained… so we have a job to do and a really big challenge ahead of us. And as always we want to try to go out there and perform and try to be efficient.”