HOUSTON — The Houston Texans put up one of the tougher fights the Philadelphia Eagles have seen this season, but Philly managed to prevail, 29-17, and preserve its undefeated start to the season. The Eagles are 8-0 for the first time in franchise history, while the Texans moved to 1-6-1 on the season during “Thursday Night Football” at NRG Stadium.
Quarterback Jalen Hurts’ return home proved to be an historic night, as he helped guide the Eagles’ to their first 8-0 start. It wasn’t always pretty, but he rose to the moment, tossing a pair of touchdown passes — including a go-ahead 17-yard strike to wide receiver A.J. Brown in the third quarter — to keep the undefeated train rolling.
An MVP candidate near the halfway point of the season, Hurts has thrown at least two touchdown passes in three straight games for the first time in his career. He is up to 18 touchdowns (12 passing, six rushing) with two interceptions through eight games.
Describe the game in two words: Temporarily uncomfortable. With the one-win Texans missing both of their starting receivers, this seemed like a total mismatch. But Thursday road games are tricky, and the Eagles were uncharacteristically sloppy at times, as illustrated by their first lost fumble of the season on a play where Hurts didn’t seem ready for the ball when it was snapped. The game was tied at the half — the first time Philly didn’t lead after two quarters — but the Eagles gradually gained command as the second half wore on.
Troubling trend: The Eagles’ first game without rookie defensive tackle Jordan Davis, who was just placed on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain, proved problematic for the rush defense. Houston running back Dameon Pierce went off for 139 yards on 27 carries. Philly’s tackling was often poor and the running lanes too wide. Davis has been a difference-maker. Entering the game, the Eagles allowed 3.9 yards per rush with him on the field (70 rushes) versus 6 yards per rush with him off the field (112 rushes).
Pivotal play: C.J. Gardner-Johnson came up with his league-leading fifth interception of the season midway through the third quarter, setting up Hurts’ touchdown pass to Brown. The Eagles’ first possession of the second half quickly stalled when running back Miles Sanders was stuffed on third-and-short, swinging momentum to Houston’s favor. But Gardner-Johnson swung it right back with a diving pick over the middle on third down. — Tim McManus
Underrated statistic to know: Gardner-Johnson now has an interception in four straight games, tied for the longest streak by an Eagles player since the merger (Bill Bradley in 1972).
Next game: vs. Washington Commanders (8:15 p.m. ET, Nov. 14)
The Texans were 14-points underdogs against the Eagles yet managed to put up a respectable fight. They entered halftime tied 14-14, but Houston’s defense struggled against the pass and run as Hurts threw two touchdowns, and the Eagles’ offense rushed for two touchdowns.
The Texans’ offense was led by the rookie Pierce, who finished with 139 rush yards. That took pressure off of quarterback Davis Mills, who was without his two leading receivers in Brandin Cooks and Nico Collins. Pierce’s strong performance allowed Mills to be efficient as he threw two touchdowns. But he did have a couple of second-half interceptions that crushed the Texans’ chances of winning.
Promising trend: Pierce struggled against the Tennessee Titans last week as he finished with 35 yards on 15 carries, his second-lowest output in terms of yardage for the season. But Pierce bounced back in a huge way by finishing with 139 yards, a season-high. Without Pierce the game would have been over by halftime.
Buy on a breakout performance: Houston’s pass rush is improving. It produced four sacks against the Eagles, who have one of the best offensive lines in the league. The Texans also had 10 pressures on 31 dropbacks, according to Next Gen Stats. If they can produce pressure against this offensive line when they play the New York Giants in Week 10, they should be able to carry that momentum as the Giants have allowed quarterbacks to be sacked 25 times, which ranks within the top-10. — DJ Bien-Aime
Underrated statistic to know: Mills was running 16.04 mph when he threw a 13-yard second-quarter touchdown pass to Chris Moore — just the third TD this season thrown while running that fast.
Next game: at Giants (1 p.m. ET, Nov. 13)
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