Hurts, Brown power unbeaten Eagles past Steelers 35-13
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A.J. Brown hauled in his third touchdown catch — of the first half — and the Eagles’ star receiver peered through his tinted visor at two Steelers defenders knocked to the turf because of a slapstick collision on a futile attempt at breaking up the pass.
Brown then pointed at each fallen Steeler and mocked them as the Philly crowd roared — and he was hit with a taunting penalty.
Well worth the 15 yards for a little fun.
“I just said, ‘One, two, it’s not enough,’” Brown said with a laugh.
Three TDs were pretty good for Brown. So was taking the Eagles to seven, as in 7-0 and the lone undefeated team in the NFL.
Hurts threw three touchdown passes to Brown in the first half and finished with 285 yards and four TDs overall as Philadelphia raced past Pittsburgh 35-13 on Sunday.
Brown had six receptions for 156 yards and helped the Eagles win their first seven games for only the second time in franchise history and first since 2004, when Donovan McNabb and Terrell Owens led them to the Super Bowl. In that season, the Eagles were denied an 8-0 start with a loss to the Steelers.
Pittsburgh (2-6) offered no resistance this time once Hurts and Brown turned the Linc into their own pitch-and-catch playground.
“I know I can’t let him down,” Brown said. “We’re just having fun and playing for one another. I’m pretty sure he knows that I’ve got his back and I know he’s got mine, too. I think that’s exactly what this is.”
Rookie Kenny Pickett showed more short-term growing pains for the Steelers and was 25 of 38 for 191 yards and an interception. Wide receiver Chase Claypool threw a 1-yard pass to fullback Derek Watt on a trick play in the first quarter for Pittsburgh’s only touchdown.
“We need more explosive plays,” Pickett said.
The World Series banner went up across the street outside Citizens Bank Park — the Phillies and Houston Astros are 1-1 headed into Game 3 Monday in Philly — and it’s suddenly the point in the NFL season where it’s time to stamp the Eagles as Super Bowl favorites.
These are intoxicating times for Philly sports fans and Brown became the latest star to deliver them a few more memorable October moments.
Make it three in the first half.
Brown might still be scoring and taunting in Tennessee had the Titans not felt in the spring his asking price for an extension was too high. Once Titans decided they didn’t want to pay Brown, he was traded during the draft. The Eagles gave him a $100 million, four-year contract with $57 million guaranteed upon completing the trade.
No buyer’s remorse yet.
Brown became the first receiver since Tennessee’s Drew Bennett in 2004 with three receiving touchdowns of 25-plus yards in the first half. Hurts hit Brown from 39 yards, 27 and 29 yards for a 21-10 halftime lead.
Brown made an over-the-shoulder grab in the end zone for the third score as Pittsburgh defenders Minkah Fitzpatrick and Ahkello Witherspoon collided with each other. Brown then might have made Owens proud with the type of celebration once seen out of the retired receiver.
Their first TD might have been the most impressive. Brown went up to catch the 39-yard heave and won a battle for the ball with Fitzpatrick, who pounded the turf in frustration.
Hurts caught Brown in stride for the second touchdown as the speedy receiver outran cornerback Arthur Maulet.
Brown had his best game in his short Eagles tenure, topping the 155 yards he had in the season opener against Detroit. He had only two touchdowns entering the game.
One knock on the Eagles this season was their second-half slowdowns. They had scored only four second-half touchdowns and were shut out after halftime against Minnesota and Washington.
Hurts waved off those concerns when threw a 39-yard TD pass to Zach Pascal in the third for a 28-10 lead.
“They were making those plays and we did not,” Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. “We have to own it.”
The only player with more than four TD passes of 25-plus yards or more in a single game since 1980 was Hall of Famer Dan Marino, who had five in Week 1 of 1994 against the Patriots.
“Those are the types of guys that reach his ceiling,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said of Hurts. “I don’t know if we know what his ceiling is going to be.”
Hurts almost matched Marino in the fourth quarter, but Brown was tripped up at the 11 on a 43-yard pass. No worries. Miles Sanders rushed for the touchdown and a 35-13 lead on the next play.
With a short week ahead, Eagles starters got a rest and center Jason Kelce playfully wore a Batman mask on the sideline in a nod to the superhero nicknames assigned to their wide receivers. Brown is “Swole Batman.”
“We were out there doing celebrations and everything,” Brown said. “It’s fun. There’s nothing like it.”
SAY A PRAYER
Among the Eagles inactives: Book, Jobe and Sermon. Make that QB Ian Book, RB Trey Sermon and CB Josh Jobe.
Nick Sciba kicked field goals of 38 and 29 yards for the Steelers in place of injured Chris Boswell (groin).
Eagles DT Jordan Davis suffered an ankle injury.
The Steelers have a bye before hosting New Orleans on Nov. 13.
The Eagles play at Houston on Thursday night for what could be the start of a crowded Philly sports week in Texas. Games 6 and 7 (if necessary) of the World Series are set for Friday and Saturday in Houston.
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