Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts passes against the Buffalo Bills during the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Photo: AP/Matt Rourke)

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Sure, Jalen Hurts says, he did have something to prove after he returned from a concussion check with the Eagles down 22 points.

Hurts wasn’t interested in trying to convince the Eagles he was a tough guy. He wanted to show the Eagles still had a shot.

“It was more so that the game was not over. We were just trying to keep fighting,» Hurts said.

The Eagles kept up the fight, even as they ran out of time.

Hurts did throw and rush for a score in Philadelphia’s 42-19 loss to San Francisco on Sunday night in a game that tightened the race for the top spot in the NFC.

The Eagles (10-2) could have had a breezy path toward No. 1 with a win.

The 49ers (9-3) are very much in the race, and so are the Dallas Cowboys (9-3). The Cowboys will come off a 10-day break when they host the Eagles on Sunday — with a share of the NFC East and the top spot in the NFC at stake.

The Eagles beat the Cowboys 28-23 last month at home.

Last season’s NFL MVP runner-up, Hurts, gave the Eagles a scare late in the third quarter when his head was sandwiched on a tackle between linebackers Fred Warner and Oren Burks. Hurts needed a quick check in the blue medical tent, then jogged to the locker room just ahead of the fourth quarter.

Hurts is easily the Eagles’ MVP — they went 0-2 without him last season, including a 40-34 loss last December in Dallas — and missed time down the stretch would surely doom their Super Bowl hopes. Marcus Mariota attempted three passes in relief, the first action of the season for the backup QB.

Hurts was cleared, jogged to the sideline, and gamely tried to steer a comeback. Hurts replaced Mariota mid-drive with about nine minutes left. He marched Philadelphia into the red zone and completed a 2-yard TD to DeVonta Smith (the conversion failed). That only made the score 35-19 with 5:33 left.

So why risk Hurts’ health by keeping him in the game?

“I thought he was fine when he came back in; he was running the show and operating fine,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “Went down, drove, got a touchdown. Then we just stalled out on the next drive. They’re playing soft or giving us the stuff underneath, but I thought he operated fine when he came back in. Obviously, we’ll see how he’s feeling and everything.”

The Eagles clearly need a healthy Hurts, who threw for 298 yards. Brown finished with eight catches for 114 yards, and Smith had nine catches for 96.

They also need to shore-up a defense that let San Francisco score touchdowns on six straight possessions, a beatdown 10 months in the making after the Eagles thumped them in the NFC title game.

“It’s a great team we played, and we have to go back and reflect on in it,” Hurts said.

Hurts fell to 27-3 over his last 30 starts.

Most agitating for the Eagles was how they squandered a solid start. Hurts did his part in the first half to drive the Eagles inside the 20, connecting with A.J. Brown for 38 yards on the opening drive and to Brown for 17 yards on the second drive. The Eagles instead had to settle for Jake Elliott field goals of 26 and 39 yards for the 6-0 lead.

“I feel like we started with good rhythm, good tempo, good execution for the most part,” Hurts said. “We just kind of weren’t able to connect and execute like we wanted to in the end zone. When you’re playing a good team like that, every little thing matters.”

Usually a fourth-down gambler — thanks in large part to the tush push — Sirianni halted an Eagles’ drive late in the third quarter and punted on fourth-and-2 on the Eagles’ 33 and down 15 points.

“Yeah, to me there was a lot of football left to play in the third and fourth quarter. So I don’t regret that decision,” Sirianni said. “To me, with that much time where that ball is right there, yeah, I did what I felt like I needed to do in that particular tim


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