EAGLES HIT THEIR STRIDE IN SECOND HALF TO DEFEAT THE HOUSTON TEXANS AND REMAIN UNBEATEN
Eagles defense, led by Javon Hargrave (three sacks), clamped down on the Texans offense in the second half in the Birds 29-17 at NRG Stadium
HOUSTON: The Philadelphia Eagles, with all the predictions that their game against the Houston Texans was a mismatch and with the help of the tens of thousands of fans who made their way to NRG Stadium, may have been smelling themselves when the team introductions were being made.
The Birds remained the NFL’s only undefeated team after beating the Texans 29-17, but it was far from easy.
The Texans offense was like a bucket of ice water thrown at the Birds defenders in the first quarter.
Quarterback Davis Mills, rookie running back Dameon Pierce and wide receiver Phillip Dorsett rolled to a 75-yard, nine-play drive ending with a two-yard touchdown pass to tight end Teagan Quitoriano to take a 7-0 lead.
After a penalty on special teams, the Eagles first drive started at their own nine-yard line.
The Eagles did answer with an 18-play, 91 yard drive that took 8:04 off the clock, finishing with a two-yard run by Miles Sanders.
The Birds started their second drive with long completions to A.J. Brown (31 yards) and DaVonte Smith (22 yards) only to see Hurts do what the Birds haven’t done much of this season…turned the ball over on a strip sack/fumble caused by defensive back Steven Nelson, recovered by defensive tackle Jafeel Johnson.
The Texans recovered the ball at their own 35-yard line.
But the Eagles (8-0) responded. They stopped Texans ensuing drive.
Starting at their own 21-yard line, the Birds ran the ball down Houston's throat on a 10-play, 79-yard drive that finished with Kenneth Gainwell scoring from the four, making it Eagles 14, Texans 7.
The Texans (1-7-1), who have lost a number of close games this season, went seven plays, 75-yards taking 3:55 off the clock and finishing with Mills hitting wide receiver Chris Moore with a 13-yard touchdown to tie the game with 43 seconds left in the half.
Eagles took the ball at their own 25-yard line and made it far enough down the field for Jake Elliott to attempt a 54-yarder at the halftime buzzer, but missed.
The Eagles defense stiffened after intermission, held Houston to just three second-half points. The defense picked off Mills twice and held off a valiant effort by Texans rookie running back
Dameon Pierce (27 carries, 139 yards) to close the door on the Texans offense.
Eagles leading tackler on the season, T.J. Edwards talked about the adjustment. He swore the Eagles did not take the Texans lightly.
“I mean yeah, when we go into games, we respect everybody,” said Edwards who was tied with Javon Hargrave leading the team with seven tackles for the game. “It’s the NFL. They’ve got really good players…a very good running back. They just made a couple of plays early on.
“I was proud of how we adjusted and got off the field,” Edwards continued. “The turnovers are huge. Coming off a short week…I was happy about our play. We didn’t let those plays that happened to use early get to us. We just fight and scrap and find a way to win.”
The Eagles third touchdown came after Big interception by C.J. Gardner-Johnson, his fifth of the season, and returned to the Texans 17-yard line.
Hurts hit Brown for a perfect strike in the end zone. 21-14 Birds with 8:04 left in the third.
The Eagles defense stopped and all Pierce drive the 12 with 1:18 left in the ...Texans' Ka'imi Fairbairn hit a 30-yard FG. 21-17 Birds with 1:15 left in the third.
The Eagles final score of the evening came with 11:26 left when Hurts led the Birds on a 19-play, 75 yard drive, knocking 4:53 off the clock culminating with a four-pass to TE Dallas Goedert. The Eagles executed a two-point conversion after off sides penalty by the Texans.
Eagles 29, Texans 17. Game, set, match.
The Texans have won six AFC South Championships since 2011 (2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019)
The Deshaun Watson saga had more to do with Houston’s rough time over the last few season.
Veteran wide receiver Chris Moore said he never accepts losing.
“It’s always frustrating to lose,” said Moore, who led the Texans with four catches for 43 yards including a four-yard touchdown with 4:32 left in the first half to tie the game. “It doesn’t matter what the situation is, we hate to lose. We’re athletes, we’re competitors. We don’t like to lose. Like I always say, we’ve got to figure out ways to win. At the end of the day, when that game is going one way or the other, we [have to learn] to make it go our way.”
Eagles’ tight end Dallas Goedert was asked what was working for the Eagles, who like Texans, were operating with just four days rest.
“A little bit of everything,” Goedert said after hauling in eight receptions for 100 yards and a touchdown. “Miles (Sanders) ran the ball hard, had some big runs. Second half we threw the ball a little bit more…but we’ve just a resilient team. No matter what happens, we going to come back out there and put the ball in the end zone.”
Hurts finished 21 of 27 for 243 yards, two touchdown passes and no interceptions. His quarterback rating was 128.9.
Hurts played high school football in Houston. His father was his coach. Mr. Hurts worked for the Texans while Jalen was growing and would bring his son to training camp.
Jalen talked about the memories.
“I’m proud that my family got to see that today,” Hurts said at his post game press conference. “I’m proud my dad got to see that. It’s special to him. My family knows he memories we’ve had with the Houston Texans…just being around and being around in the camps, Andre Johnson
(Texans WR 2003-2014) giving me his cleats as a kid. Those are the memories that I value truly. To come home and get a win in this city is special.”
Hurts said he wants no parts of blaming the four-day week leading up to the game. The Eagles, he said, have standards that won’t allow excuses
“There’s a lot to look and reflect that we did well,” Hurts said. “There’s also a lot of things we can improve on. I’m not going to make excuses about anything on a short week. We have a standard of play, we want to play that standard all the time. It’s a learning experience for us. It’s a formidable of experience that will only build us up…the job is still not done. I talk about there’ll never be an arrival, there’s only a journey. That’s something that I embrace, that’s something this football team embraces…the journey…what’s ahead? The journey of daily deposits, daily improvements and daily efforts to be the best football team we can be.”
Seems to be working. *
Email Al Thompson at al,email@example.com