The NFL regular season is long and grueling. As much as we like to believe that players will be at their absolute best each week, it won't happen.
The Philadelphia Eagles weren't at their best Thursday night. But the result was the same as their first seven games.
The Eagles fought through a subpar performance and still beat the Houston Texans, 29-17, to improve to 8-0 this season. Philadelphia was tied 14-14 at halftime before building a lead in the second half. When you're undefeated and playing a 1-5-1 team, it's easy to play down to your opponent.
For those waiting impatiently for the Eagles to be exposed — it can be really hard to admit your preseason notion of a team was wrong — them struggling against a bad Texans team in Houston on Thursday night will be evidence their record is the result of a soft schedule. In reality, it was still a win on one of those down nights.
Texans put up a fight
It was a spot where the Eagles were vulnerable to a flat performance. They were on the road, on a Thursday night, playing a 1-5-1 team. They were massive favorites. If there was going to be a spot for the Texans to get up in a lost season, it was against a 7-0 Eagles team in prime time.
And the Eagles were flat. That was obvious right away when the Texans went 75 yards on nine plays and scored a touchdown to start the game. It felt right away like the Texans might give the Eagles more of a battle than practically anyone expected.
The Texans didn't have star receiver Brandin Cooks, who was inactive for personal reasons after not being traded, but they had rookie running back Dameon Pierce. The Eagles put defensive tackle Jordan Davis, a first-round draft pick this season, on injured reserve this week. Without the huge tackle in the middle, the Eagles are way more vulnerable against the run. Pierce exploited that.
The Texans rode Pierce hard. He had 123 rushing yards in the first three quarters. The Texans trailed just 21-17 going into the fourth quarter. That's not what the Eagles were anticipating.
Eagles pull away late
Eventually, the Eagles' talent was too much. They are the NFL's last undefeated team for a reason. Even if the Texans battled hard for three quarters, asking for the upset was a little too much.
With a little more than 11 minutes to go, Jalen Hurts hit tight end Dallas Goedert for a touchdown pass. The Eagles got the two-point conversion as well, and it was 29-17. That was the end of the suspense on Thursday night. Any fans in Philly or Houston who weren't watching the World Series game could flip it on.
The Texans had to play a nearly perfect game. Safety Jalen Pitre dropped an interception in the first quarter. The Eagles scored after that. Davis Mills threw an awful interception in his own territory in the third quarter. That led to another Eagles touchdown. Houston had a shot. The Texans didn't make many mistakes, but they couldn't make any to beat a really good Philadelphia team.
The Eagles will have other sleepwalking performances when they're big favorites. Every team does. It's difficult to stay intently focused for 17 straight regular-season games, and all NFL teams are capable of an upset.
A win is a win, no matter how it comes. The Eagles don't need to apologize for anything. It just wasn't as easy as everyone figured.