Eagles Remain Unbeaten as Jalen Hurts Outwits the Cowboy Pass Rush

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Hurts, the Eagles quarterback, threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns against one of the N.F.L.’s most fearsome defenses to keep Philadelphia atop the N.F.C. East.

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Eagles entered Sunday as the N.F.L.’s last unbeaten team, thanks largely to the improved play and the development of Jalen Hurts. With his arm and with his legs, Hurts, the third-year quarterback, had propelled the Eagles to the franchise’s third 5-0 start since 1981, stirring newfound excitement for a fan base already viewed as one of the most ardent in the league.

Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman DeMarcus Lawrence, though, did not care.

“All you-all need to write is he hasn’t played the Cowboys yet, so we don’t know how good he is,” Lawrence said Thursday at his locker in the team’s facility.

That sentiment was typical of this bitter N.F.C. East rivalry, especially before a prime-time matchup to determine first place in the division. It was inaccurate, though, as the Eagles beat the Cowboys, 26-17, thanks to Hurts’s efficiency and Philadelphia’s suffocating defensive performance early in the game.

The Eagles moved to 6-0, while the Cowboys (4-2) fell to third place in the division behind the Giants (5-1).

The Eagles and Hurts, who threw for 155 yards and two touchdowns, rose to the moment, pairing their run-pass option system on offense with sticky defensive coverage and timely takeaways in the second quarter, when Philadelphia outscored the Cowboys, 20-3. Receivers A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith combined for 111 yards and two touchdowns and the team rushed for 136 yards.

“I think this team was hungry for it and eager to come out and play in a big time game,” Hurts said in a postgame news conference. “We’ve built this sense of ‘not being satisfied.’ We’ll never take this feeling of winning for granted, but we’re always going to be hungry.”

The game held an intense playofflike atmosphere from the start. The rapper and Philadelphia native Meek Mill performed right before kickoff, and at one point in the second quarter, running back Miles Sanders needed to shush the energetic home crowd so the offense could hear its cadence.

In the first half, the Philadelphia defense held Dallas, led by the backup quarterback Cooper Rush, to only 81 total yards of offense and snagged two interceptions. Rush, who had been undefeated in four games as a starter in place of the injured Dak Prescott, threw for 181 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions, while Dallas rushed for 134 yards.

The Eagles’ offense, which had succeeded early by containing the Cowboys’ versatile linebacker Micah Parsons, stalled toward the end of the first half when offensive lineman Lane Johnson left the game with a head injury, allowing Dallas to gain momentum at the start of the third quarter.

Shortly after halftime, Dallas completed a 79-yard drive that concluded with Ezekiel Elliott rushing for a 14-yard touchdown, closing the gap to 20-10 with just over eight minutes remaining in the third quarter. On their next series, after an Eagles punt, the Cowboys drove 93 yards and scored a touchdown when tight end Jake Ferguson caught a 7-yard pass, closing the gap to 20-17 with 14 minutes 39 seconds left in the game.

Desiree Rios/The New York Times

But Hurts orchestrated a 75-yard drive, which ended when Smith acrobatically caught a 7-yard touchdown. The Eagles failed to convert the 2-point attempt, making the score 26-17 with 7:02 remaining.

On the ensuing Cowboys possession, Rush sailed a pass over the middle and safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson made a diving interception for his second takeaway of the night, effectively ending the game.

It was a statement performance for the Eagles, who moved the ball most of the night with run-pass options, a concept that allows the quarterback to run or throw the ball depending on how he reads a defender. On many plays, that defender was Parsons, a second-year player who entered the game tied for the league lead in sacks (six) but for whom Hurts repeatedly accounted.

“Sometimes it’s like, if you can’t block him, read him,” Coach Nick Sirianni said.

Hurts has emerged as one of the league’s best players in only his second season as the full-time starter. Drafted in the second round in 2020, Hurts faced criticism for inconsistent streaks as a pocket passer, and entered the year still under evaluation from the front office. Armed with two first-round picks in the 2023 N.F.L. draft, General Manager Howie Roseman could supply Hurts with more weapons, or select his successor in a strong draft class for the position.

Through six weeks, Hurts has earned the trust of his coaches and teammates, and Sirianni said he was impressed with Hurts’s control of the offense.

“This guy’s not fazed by anything,” Sirianni said. “He’s got a great demeanor that you see in great quarterbacks. He’s unfazed by things and that’s what I love about him. He just goes and plays the next play.”

The Cowboys had been led by Parsons and their defense, which entered the day having allowed the second-fewest points in the league (72) and ranked second in sacks (20). The unit’s production under the defensive coordinator Dan Quinn allowed Rush to manage games well enough to win, but the Cowboys this season had not scored more than 25 points in a game. Cornerback Darius Slay said he felt they could capitalize on Rush if they grew a lead.

“They were a team that never played from behind,” he said. “We knew we had to get up and force them to play from behind.”

Dallas will await Prescott’s return to balance its approach in order to keep pace in the N.F.C. East. He said after the game that he expected to play next week against the Detroit Lions.

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