Perhaps most impressive Thursday night for Hurts was that there were some unexpected trials and tribulations for the Eagles and him against a struggling Houston team (1-6-1), but they shook it off en route to a comfortable win.
Hurts wasn’t nearly at his best to begin with. He offered some side passes and broke up his team’s second possession. But as the Eagles began to pull away as many expected they would from the start, it was Hurts who led the charge.
Tied at 14 in the third quarter, Hurts hit a surprisingly wide open AJ Brown for a 17-yard touchdown.
When the Texans responded with a field goal to cut the deficit to 21-17, Hurts and Co. had their second straight TD drive, capped by a 4-yarder to Dallas Goedert. Although there were 11 minutes and changes left in the game after Goedert’s TD, the score wrapped up Hurts’ home win.
“Whenever I come back to the city of Houston it’s special,” Hertz said. “This is the first time I’ve ever played in my hometown at the professional level, the collegiate level. I’ve never had this opportunity at the collegiate level. So to come back to play in a place where I’ve built a lot of memories with Mom and dad come to watch ball on the same field [was special]. Of all things it’s a great team win. It’s rare that I think about things and not have feelings about it, but I’m proud that my family saw this today. I’m proud my dad saw it and I know this is special for him because my family knows the memories we had with the Houston Texans. I was just around and involved in the camps and Andre Johnson and him giving me his wedges as a kid. Those are the memories I really value coming home and winning in this city that’s special.”
As NRG Stadium was flooded with Philly fans along with members of Hurts’ family, the QB was still a trope, remaining his usual combative self with the agreement of his teammates.
“You can’t read this guy,” Eagles running back Miles Sanders said. “He’s cool, steady, calm and collected, that’s how he always is.”
Sirianni went so far as to tell Hertz not to get carried away by the pomp and circumstance of the moment, even though she knew it was unlikely to be necessary.
“The one thing I told him before the game is don’t let it distract you,” the second baseman said. “You’re the last person I’m worried about, but don’t let that distract you. He had the same look on his face as if it didn’t matter. That’s who he is and that’s how he goes about his business.
“It was nice to finally meet his family. Nice people. It was great to meet them and put a face to the conversations that Jalen and I have, he talks so much about his family. I know I felt good for him [getting the win] and I know that’s something he can enjoy now. But he didn’t approach this game any differently than he approached the Pittsburgh game, the Cowboys game. That’s why he’s a real professional.”
Hurts has improved in each of his three seasons in the NFL, and the Eagles have also improved over the past two seasons. It started last year when they finished the regular season 9-8 and snuck into the playoffs. And now they are the last undefeated team in a long time and they have started with the best franchise. But for all the excitement of being the homecoming king and leading the division in history, Hurts’ fondest memory from Thursday night will be exemplifying the work ethic that leads to the dynamic results in field.
“Being able to win,” Hurts said when asked what his greatest memory would be. “There is a lot to be thankful for. There is a lot to think about and look at the things we did well. There are also a lot of things we can improve on. I will not justify anything or for the short week. We have a standard of play, we want to play in it at all times. It’s a learning experience for us. It’s a formative experience, it’s only going to build us up. I really think the only direction is to go up. Personally, playing in the city of Houston, which is the first time playing back home, this is a special moment for me personally. I think the work is not done yet.”