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Mike Sielski: Jalen Hurts is the Eagles’ answer to Michael Jordan. Just ask them. And him.

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Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts waves to the crowd Saturday after the team's 38-7 victory over the Giants in the NFC divisional round.

Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts waves to the crowd Saturday after the team's 38-7 victory over the Giants in the NFC divisional round. (David Maialetti/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

The heavy, silver, spangled chain that encircled Jalen Hurts’ neck late Saturday night would have made Mr. T jealous and sent Lil Wayne to a jeweler with a special request to help him keep pace in the arms race of bling. Dangling from the necklace’s center like a talisman was a fist-sized plate of sparkling stones that spelled out three words: BREED OF ONE. It was no wonder Hurts wore it. He thinks himself that. To listen to the Eagles talk about him in the aftermath of their 38-7 thrashing of the Giants, with the NFC championship game a week away, was to get the sense that they think of him that way, too.

“I know this is high praise, but to have him out there is like having — I’m not sure I should go there — Michael Jordan out there,” coach Nick Sirianni said. “He’s your leader. He’s your guy. Hopefully, that’s the biggest respect I can pay to him, comparing his ability to be on the field to a Michael Jordan-type thing. This guy leads. He brings this calmness to the entire team. He plays great football. He’s tough as they come. To me, there’s nobody playing any better football than him.”

They might have a case out in Kansas City, where Patrick Mahomes suffered what appeared to be a serious ankle injury Saturday afternoon against the Jaguars — so severe that Mahomes could hardly set his foot on the ground without wincing and limping — and still led the Chiefs to a 27-20 win. Hurts, though, took the Eagles to a different place merely through his presence and his return to full health.

His numbers were relatively modest: 154 passing yards, 34 rushing yards, a third-quarter sack/fumble. But he threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, and the most revealing aspect of how he performed Saturday was that it was no different from how he had performed before spraining his shoulder last month in Chicago against the Bears. Sirianni and offensive coordinator Shane Steichen placed no restrictions on Hurts in their play-calling, and Hurts placed none on himself in carrying out those calls.

“We were going to run the best things that were best for us, knowing that Jalen [had] no limitations,” Sirianni said. “If that was running him, that was running him. We don’t think, ‘Hey, we’re going to show you guys.’ He was ready to go with what he did. Again, that doesn’t mean he’s always going to carry it, because some of that is determined by the defense. But when he does carry it, he demands that respect on the backside. Nothing was off limits tonight.”

On the Eagles’ second play from scrimmage, Hurts lofted a perfect deep ball to DeVonta Smith for 40 yards. In the fourth quarter, on third-and-2, he cut away from Giants linebacker Kayvon Thibodeaux and lunged forward for 4 yards and a first down, not turning away from contact but inviting it. The injury, by all indications, inhibited neither his ability to throw or his willingness to run — to be the quarterback he has been all season, which is just about the best quarterback in the NFL. And it restored the sharpness and explosiveness that the Eagles offense had been missing in those final two regular-season games. Two drives to start Saturday for the Eagles, two touchdowns, in large part because the Giants had no idea what the Eagles would do from snap to snap, because with Hurts in there, they can do just about anything.

“It makes things so much easier for us,” center Jason Kelce said. “He’s a legitimate threat to run, and we try to limit it so we’re not making him prone to injury. But when he can scramble and he’s healthy, that makes it harder to rush the passer. That makes it harder to defend the run. It’s another element that puts the numbers in our favor. He was definitely making it very easy early on with some of the things he was doing.”

How much Hurts still hurts remains a mystery. When he was asked after the game how his shoulder felt, he said: “Good enough. … Regardless of how I was feeling physically, mentally I was already there. There was nothing that needed to be done for me to get there.”

He seems to relish the idea that he is withstanding a significant measure of pain, as if it enhances his standing in his teammates’ eyes, his coaches’ eyes, and in his own. Sirianni hesitated before dropping that Jordan comparison, and there’s no doubt that Hurts isn’t completely healthy. But Jordan was a master at motivating himself by building obstacles to be overcome and turning an opponent’s innocuous quotes into egregious slights, and Hurts seems wired in the same manner — and has been since his arrival here. After missing two games, he donned a Jordan-themed “I’M BACK” T-shirt for the Eagles’ regular-season finale. And remember: Carson Wentz didn’t just lose the team’s starting quarterback job. Hurts made it clear to the entire organization, once he entered the lineup late in the 2020 season, that he wasn’t about to give it back.

“The first day he stepped in at Green Bay, I felt like he was dialed in,” tight end Dallas Goedert said. “I don’t know what everybody else was looking at, but he’s been a dog since he got here — I can tell you that.”

A dog. A breed of one. A cut above every other quarterback in the NFL. That’s Jalen Hurts in his own mind. That’s more and more a reality difficult to deny. If he and the Eagles win twice more, who could argue with him?

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