PHILADELPHIA (AP) — A.J. Brown has made implausible catches seem almost routine in his two seasons with Philadelphia. Case in point: his spinning, one-handed grab for a touchdown in a victory that put the Eagles at 7-1.
The best record in the NFL, for sure.
The best receiver in the NFL? Just maybe.
The wide receiver with 148 receptions already in 25 career games with the Eagles was asked where that catch ranked among the best in his career. Brown simply said, “that’s for everybody else to decide.”
Well, the NFL YouTube channel, with 12.1 million subscribers, decided for him: “A.J. BROWN WITH THE TOUCHDOWN CATCH OF THE YEAR” is the caption below the video.
It’s tough to disagree, though at the rate Brown is making catches, he could top himself again on the highlight reel Sunday when the Eagles host the Dallas Cowboys (5-2).
Brown and Miami’s Tyreek Hill are both making runs at the NFL’s single-season receiving record. Brown had eight catches for 130 yards and two TDs last week to set an NFL record with his sixth straight game with at least 125 yards receiving. Brown has 831 yards in his last six games and is currently on pace for 1,995 yard receiving, topping (with a 17th game) Calvin Johnson’s record of 1,964 yards receiving set in 2012.
“He’s always been a very hard worker. But I think you just saw his level of comfort grow in the system, as opposed to 2022,” Eagles offensive coordinator Brian Johnson said. “He really worked on his game in the offseason. For as good of a player as he is, he made it a point to become even better, not only off the field, but how he trains, how he takes care of his body, things of that nature. He’s been awesome. He looks awesome.”
Brown, who spent his first three NFL seasons with Tennessee in the AFC, had 11 catches for 170 yards and one TD in two games last season against Dallas. He showed there are few coverages and few defenders who can slow him down, one major reason of concern for the Cowboys.
“His contested catches jump off the chart,” Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said. “He has an excellent catch radius, obviously has a great understanding and connection with the quarterback. If I was going to highlight one thing about him, I’d say it’s his ability to make the contested catch.”
Oh yes, his connection with the quarterback. Jalen Hurts has seen his running game slowed by an injured left knee that at one point required a brace. Hurts’ missing mobility has made him more of a pocket passer, and a potent one at that. Against the Commanders, Hurts threw for 319 yards, no interceptions and four touchdowns.
With Dak Prescott at QB for Dallas, the game could turn into a slugfest in Philly.
Prescott is on a hot streak following a blowout loss to San Francisco early last month. Prescott has thrown for 576 yards, with five TDs, one rushing score and only one interception over his last two games.
Prescott’s play has helped put the Cowboys in the hunt for first place in the NFC East.
A win in Philly would be extra sweet.
After owner Jerry Jones refused to provide any bulletin-board material, saying he didn’t want to “poke the bear,” Prescott went in full Winnie-the-Pooh mode.
“ Pour honey on me,” Prescott said, referencing Jones’ comments. “If you see me and a bear in a fight, pour honey on me.”
Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons got a kick out of Prescott’s quote.
“You love to see that confidence in your leader, your quarterback,” he said. “Dak’s confidence is through the roof, he’s been playing at a really high level. I think he deserves more credit than what people are giving.”
The Eagles would have to go into an epic collapse to cough up the NFC East lead should they beat the Cowboys. But with a Cowboys win, the division race gets interesting.
The Cowboys split last season’s meetings with the Eagles, though Dallas' win came with Hurts out with an injury. A Dallas victory would turn the division race into a toss-up. An Eagles win would make it difficult for the Cowboys to avoid another postseason filled with road games.
The Cowboys have been open about how wrong they were to play up a big NFC matchup with San Francisco last month. They lost 42-10 to the 49ers. It's one reason why Jones was fairly quiet about hyping Sunday's game.
Both teams know what's at stake.
“That first year I had those T-shirts that said, ‘ Beat Dallas ’ and, not that it backfired, but people were like, ‘How dare he say that?’ Yeah, we do want to beat Dallas,” Eagles coach Nick Sirianni said.
AP Pro Football Writer Schuyler Dixon in Dallas contributed to this report.
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Dan Gelston, The Associated Press