What We Saw: Eagles at Texans

The Eagles finally found their wings to fly over a besieged Texans in front of their own fans.

Eagles @ Texans

Final Score: Eagles 29, Texans 17

Senior Writer: Benjamin Haller (@benjaminhaller1 on Twitter)

 

On paper this Thursday Night Football contest looked like a complete mismatch. The unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles, unanimously regarded as the team playing the best football on both sides of the ball in the NFL right now, travelled to face an embattled Houston Texans side that had to operate without star wide receiver Brandin Cooks. The situation with Cooks has been mired in controversy as the wideout had expected to be traded prior to this week’s deadline. That didn’t happen and after some strange social media posts, Cooks was considered out for personal reasons. The Texans looked to be fighting themselves and an elite opposition going into a season-defining game at home.

Davis Mills came out fighting hard, however, and executed a perfect 9-play, 75-yard drive to put them up early. A deep connection with former Patriots receiver Philip Dorsett took them into the red zone before Mills connected with rookie tight end Teagan Quitoriano (who?!) for the score.

 

The Eagles answered back by eating up most of the first quarter thanks to a methodological 18-play drive that took them 91 yards before Miles Sanders hit paydirt on fourth down to tie the score. Seven different skill position players touched the ball on a drive that had everything.

 

But on the next Eagles drive the Texans defense showed they could make plays like the offense did early to show they mean business. Steve Nelson executes a perfect cornerback blitz and Hurts coughs up the ball for the Texans to force the turnover. Remarkably it was Nelson’s first career sack, and what a time to do it.

 

Sadly, as has become custom with this dysfunctional Texans offensive scheme, Houston failed to capitalize on the extra possession and quickly punted the ball back to the Eagles, who once again showed their quality with another incisive touchdown drive. This time Hurts hit A.J. Brown for a big gain down the middle of the park to set things up for his offense.

 

All-purpose gadget back Kenneth Gainwell finished up an impressive 10-play, 79-yard drive with a tough run through tackles to put the Eagles up by seven points just prior to the half. Both Eagles backs showing they have fantasy relevance once again.

 

Credit to Texans Head Coach Lovie Smith for being aggressive prior to the half, however. Exciting young rookie running back Dameon Pierce came to play and broke off a spectacular 36-yard run that highlighted his powerful skillset. The Texans were in business and needed their undermanned receiving corps to make something happen.

 

A superb piece of quarterback play from Mills gave them the opportunity to tie the game up as the time ticked down to the half. Working to his right the former Stanford signal caller fired a dart to the corner and unheralded receiver Chris Moore did a great job in hauling the pass in for a touchdown on review. A perfect situation going into the second half for the neutral.

 

The second half began as a more cautious affair, with both offenses struggling to move the ball initially almost as if both teams were waiting for the other to make a mistake. And so it goes that that team was the Texans, of course. Mills faced another third down and despite escaping pressure off the the edge from Brandon Graham, he then panicked amongst bodies before throwing the ball up for Chauncy Gardner-Johnson to nab his league-leading fifth interception of the season.

 

Hurts made no mistake in punishing the Texans, finding Brown in the end zone to put the Eagles ahead. It proved to be the spark that ignited this Eagles team to go on and win the game.

 

The Eagles extended their lead to 12 points thanks to “The Dallas Goedert Drive” – the productive tight end caught five passes on a 10-play drive for 48 yards and the touchdown grab. Goedert took advantage of a miss-match with Texans veteran defensive back Jonathan Owens to break free in the end zone. Goedert was allowed too much space throughout the drive.

 

The Texans didn’t go quietly into the night and forced Hurts to sneak for a first down on fourth down late in the fourth quarter to  ice the win. However, it was not to be their night despite a spirited performance. It was a case of win ugly for the Eagles and that suited them just fine as they go to 8-0 and head into the bye week perfectly placed for a Super Bowl push.

 

Philadelphia Eagles

 

Quarterback

 

Jalen Hurts: 21/27, 243 Yards, 2 TD | 9 Carries, 23 Yards, 1 Fumble (Lost)

 

It wasn’t the explosive night we have come to expect from Jalen Hurts. The Eagles quarterback was sacked three times in the first half and struggled to move the ball early in drives. However, after the half he really came into his own and made smart decisions to expose the holes in the defensive secondary of the Texans, linking up with Brown and Goedert for scores to take the game away from his opponents. Hurts has been clinical in the opposition half this season and his understanding with his key playmakers is better than ever.

 

Hurts had a couple of issues with reading the blitz in this game and he was twice sacked on the blind side after he failed to see the defensive scheme play out. One of those led to what could have been a costly fumble in the first half. The Eagles seemed to clean that up in the second half and all looked normal. Hurts was effective as a rusher after the half too. He scrambled for a key first down to setup the Eagles second score of the half to ensure his team jumped out to a two-score lead.

 

He even had time to sneak in for a 2-pt conversion just to make his fantasy day that little more acceptable. His 19.02 fantasy points (in Yahoo! leagues) were only the third time in eight games that he didn’t put up more than 20 fantasy points.

 

Running Back

 

Miles Sanders: 17 Carries, 93 Yards, TD

Kenneth Gainwell: 4 Carries, 22 Yards, TD | 3 Targets, 3 Receptions, 16 Yards

Boston Scott: 1 Carry, 5 Yards

 

Both Eagles running backs were given the opportunity to show what they could do in this game. With Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell both hitting paydirt in the first half, the Eagles looked to be on track to setup a second half rushing clinic to close this one out. However, the Texans fought hard to keep it close and there wasn’t any flex to feed them with carries late on to chew the game clock up. Sanders racked up the yards early on thanks to great play from his offensive line. His touchdown came on a fourth down play after he had been stopped just short on third down.

 

He also did his own nasty work to create extra yardage. Want to see a one-handed throw of a grown man. Here you go…

 

Gainwell ran the ball in on a read-option play and showed nice feet on the play. He didn’t get many looks outside of that first half long drive, however. Gainwell hasn’t seen the production we hoped as a gadget back – this was only his second double-digit fantasy week of the season. The first was Week 1.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Dallas Goedert: 9 Targets, 8 Receptions, 100 Yards, TD

A.J. Brown: 6 Targets, 4 Receptions, 59 Yards, TD

Quez Watkins: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 25 Yards

DeVonta Smith: 2 Targets, 2 Receptions, 22 Yards

Jack Stoll: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 13 Yards

Zach Pascal: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 8 Yards

 

Have a day Dallas Goedert! The dynamic Eagles tight end has catapulted himself into the elite at the position this season, his first as the number one option at the position after the departure of Zach Ertz in 2021. Goedert produced his best fantasy score of the season on the back of eight catches for 100 yards and a touchdown grab. It was only his second score of the season, something fantasy managers will hope picks up after the Eagles return from the bye. He has shown he has elite route-running abilities, safe hands and the type of flair that matches Travis Kelce and Mark Andrews.

 

On a night when the Eagles were expected to run the ball to high heaven, fantasy managers will be happy that A.J. Brown got his fantasy production in early with a score in the first half thanks to a lovely Hurts throw that found the big receiver in the corner of the end zone. It was Brown’s fifth TD in the last three games and he has cemented himself as the WR1 in this offense. Brown suffered from the Eagles jumping out to a lead on back-to-back scores where Goedert and Sanders were featured heavily in the second half. He didn’t see a target in the final quarter. It could have been worse if Lane Johnson had been called for this false start.

 

DeVonta Smith continues to be the black sheep of this offense. Clearly it isn’t because of his inability. Smith is a great receiver and he made a move on the Texans secondary tonight that had them running the opposite way. His two targets were a season-low, so that’s worrying. His class might not show up on the fantasy stats right now, however Devonta has his own thoughts about that.

 

Houston Texans

 

Quarterback

 

Davis Mills: 13/22, 154 Yards, 2 TD, 2 INT | 3 Carries, 18 Yards

 

It was all going so well for Davis Mills at the half. He showed poise and patient in the pocket, found a way to move the chains, and made some excellent throws deep against a formidable Eagles secondary. He linked up with Philip Dorsett on the Texans impressive opening drive that put them up early. This throw deep and to outside giving his receiver every chance to make a play away from the coverage.

 

And the touchdown pass to Chris Moore near the end of the half was as good as it gets from a quarterback on the move. The way Mills positions himself to move and survey the field is impressive, allowing him to step into the throw and execute with fantastic accuracy. Moore does well too but this was all about Mills making something happen for his team.

 

However, the pressure got to Mills in the second half as Javon Hargrave ran through the Texans offensive line at will. Davis consistently found his protection landing on his lap as he failed to move the ball on third down. While the Eagles were putting up touchdowns, Mills couldn’t answer back and it proved to be the decisive phase of the game in the third quarter.

 

His second interception came on the Texans final drive of the game. Facing a third and very long deep in Eagles territory, Mills threw a ball to the goal line but his receiver Philip Dorsett was not on the same page – he ran past the ball towards the end zone as the ball nestled into the arms of Eagles veteran corner James Bradberry. It ended the Texans’ resistance.

 

It’s hard to be too harsh on Mills as he is working with one of the most inexperienced, unestablished receiving corps in the NFL. However, he is also prone to turnovers under pressure and that can be the unravelling of any young talent.

 

Running Back

 

Dameon Pierce: 27 Carries, 139 Yards

Rex Burkhead: 1 Carry, 9 Yards | 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 6 Yards

 

It was another monster night on the ground from offensive rookie of the year candidate Dameon Pierce, who amassed 139 yards on 27 touches and ran hard and fast all night. Pierce ran through the middle with juice throughout and also looked nifty on the outside of the zone. An intelligent runner, Pierce is showing progression in terms of reading defenses and sticking to running lanes. His ability to break tackles was something that stood out in this game.

 

With his team trailing in the third quarter, Pierce showed exactly what every fan and fantasy manager wants to see – determination and grit. You love to see it. Head down and driving through the incoming contact. Elite running.

 

The only surprise is that the former Florida runner has still not been utilized in the passing game. It wasn’t something he was strong in at college level but with the Texans devoid of pass-catchers, some designed check-downs and jet-sweeps might be in order. It could have helped them move the ball in that third quarter. If he added that to his mix he would be a serious contender for top five fantasy recognition at the position.

 

Wide Receiver/Tight End

 

Phillip Dorsett: 5 Targets, 3 Receptions, 69 Yards

Chris Moore: 1 Carry, 2 Yards | 5 Targets, 4 Receptions, 43 Yards, TD

O.J. Howard: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 14 Yards

Tyron Johnson: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 8 Yards

Jalen Camp: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 7 Yards

Brevin Jordan: 2 Targets, 1 Reception, 5 Yards

Teagan Quitoriano: 1 Target, 1 Reception, 2 Yards, TD

Jordan Akins: 1 Target

Troy Hairston: 1 Target

 

Well, that list of names and the statistics next to them tell the whole story. It was a grim night through the air for the Texans after a promising opening drive. Mills was productive in the first half thanks to a couple of great throws and equally good catches. Both Philip Dorsett and Chris Moore did everything they could given their limited skillsets. Outside if those two, it was a mismatch of backup tight ends and practice squad quality players trying to make something happen. Dorsett had that fantastic grab to setup the touchdown on the opening drive, and he had an equally good grab late in the fourth quarter to keep things interesting.

 

However, as we saw he appeared to run the wrong route on Mills’ game-sealing second interception, and without Cooks or Nico Collins in this lineup it is a hard ask for Dorsett to be that guy at the death. He’s a risky flex play for these bye rounds.

Chris Moore also played above his reputation, hauling in four of his five targets including the touchdown and this big play.

 

Moore has two scores in his last three games but he’s a long shot in terms of being fantasy relevant. I’m surprised I found this much to write about on this receiving group to be honest.

 

Photo by Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Justin Paradis (@JustParaDesigns on Twitter)

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