GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jalen Hurts issued an apology.
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback rushed for a game-high 374 yards and was responsible for a game-high four touchdowns.
The dual threat player had taken turns throwing bombs at somersault receiver AJ Brown, dodging tackles to set the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in the Super Bowl, and driving that ever-reliable sneak to first downs and touchdowns. And the Eagles held a lead or a tie for more than 53 minutes of the game.
And still, in the dressing room after the game Hurts apologized for the Kansas City Chiefs’ 38-35 win.
“Jalen sure was like, ‘Man, it’s on me, fumbling,'” said Brandon Graham, the Eagles’ defensive end. “We were all talking, just kind of remembering the game and he was just trying to apologize to the team. And it’s like, ‘Nah, man, we’re all together.’ That’s what makes this team so special: everyone owns their own stuff.”
Property. Accountability. Determination to grow and improve and achieve.
Each of these resulted in Hurts taking responsibility not only for a big mistake and the bigger loss that came with it, but also for a commitment to channel Sunday’s raw pain into the motivation to take that final hurdle next season.
“Either you win or you learn,” Hurt said of a riser in the tunnels at State Farm Stadium. “I really value self-reflection and thinking about the things I could have done better, so I think I’ll challenge everyone, and I’ve already challenged everyone to think about those things.
“Look at yourself in the mirror and learn from everything.”
How “Dog Mentality” Fueled Eagle’s Response to Fumbling
This all-encompassing “learn from everything” curriculum includes Hurt’s fumble in the second quarter.
At 9:48 before halftime, Chiefs defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo called for a five-man rush. The left side of the Eagles’ offensive line each engaged their men, while right tackle Lane Johnson held off Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis. But the Eagles knew the dangers of the threat from All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones, so right guard Isaac Seumalo slid left to thwart Jones alongside center Jason Kelce.
Suddenly, Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton was faced with an open lane for hurts. Hurts appeared to shuffle the ball from his left hand to his right, but instead the ball missed his right hand and came loose. Bolton raced for the rebound, scooped it, and returned the ball 36 yards for a touchdown.
That made it 14:14.
“I think my left hand could have hit the ball when I wrapped it, it could have rolled it as well,” Bolton said. “I really prayed for a good jump and I got one, it popped right up in my hands and I could grab it and go.
“I actually had a dream about winning and scoring in the Super Bowl two nights ago. It’s surreal for it to happen.”
Bolton’s dream became the Eagles’ nightmare. But neither Hurts nor his coaches or teammates flinched. Instead, Hurts held the ball for a 14-yard rush on the next play from scrimmage.
He would climb back up to 4th and 5th again, this time for 28 yards.
And when the Eagles marched into the red zone on that drive, it was Hurts once again scampering on goal. So Philadelphia was ahead again, 21-14.
Eagles player and head coach Nick Sirianni alike insisted on not returning to the Hurts’ ground game immediately after his mistake.
“We tried to play the best games that we had that we felt would work,” Sirianni said. “A guy drops a pass, you keep throwing him. A guy is fiddling with the soccer ball, you keep running it. A guy throws an interception, you don’t stop it. That’s been our thought process all year.
“When we say ‘dog mentality,’ we mean that. We mean we need to be in the moment. There will be ups and downs in this game, but rest assured we’re in the moment of the next game.
Mahomes on Hurts: ‘If there were doubters, there shouldn’t be any now’
If Hurts watches the movie from the Super Bowl performance, he’ll see what Sirianni thinks was the best game of his career in the quarterback’s third year. He’ll see the crucial scoring drive he launched his offense on to open the game, topped by that signature quarterback sneak into the end zone. Hurts will see the 17-yard high-point catch he threaded on the right touchline to tight end Dallas Goedert, third and 14th after the Chiefs opened the second half with an efficient score, and 4th shortly after .and 1 that dictated a hurts — you guessed it — quarterback sneak to keep the drive alert.
He will see the records he set when he was the first quarterback to rush for 70 yards and the first to score three rushing touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Oh yes, and the two-point conversion he then managed to level the game with 5:15 left in regulation.
The stage wasn’t and won’t be too big.
And while Hurts’ disappointment was palpable, from the bowed head at his press conference to the long pauses and deep breaths as he reinforced his words, his performance was a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback outing in almost every way.
Just ask Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who is making his third appearance of the game and his second win – both times he was named Super Bowl MVP.
“I mean, if there were doubters, there shouldn’t be any now,” Mahomes said. “The way he stepped onto that stage and ran, threw the ball, whatever it took for his team to win. That was a special achievement. I don’t want it to be lost in the loss they have endured.”
Mahomes touted Hurts’ comeback in the fourth quarter.
“Make sure you appreciate that,” Mahomes said of his counterpart, “when you look back on this game.”
While Hurts continues to be his biggest and harshest critic, his teammates and opponents alike will aim to remind him how reality may differ from his perception.
Eagles linebacker (and sometimes gamewrecker) Haason Reddick told Hurts to “keep your head up” because “he’s had a hell of a year.” Kelce marveled at how Hurts’ performance this season “has significantly changed the dynamic of this team on offense.” And Sirianni thanked Hurts for his work – while making it clear that the roadmap for this big game will continue to illuminate the path to the next.
“I know he’s in pain,” Sirianni said. “I was just saying I’m happy for him that he played his butt and left it all out there, played well in the running game, played well in the passing game, had complete control of our offense and led us to 35 points has .
“All season he has shown that he is a special leader, a special player. And I’m sure glad he’s our quarterback.”
Hurts undoubtedly proved in one year that he is the Eagles’ franchise quarterback for years to come. A hefty contract extension should pay Hurts well this offseason and significantly change Philadelphia’s salary cap calculus.
The team’s front office and coaching leadership understand why their runner-up MVP of the season deserved it. They also eagerly await how he will continue to grow.
“He played really well,” Sirianni said. “(But) I don’t think we know what Jalen’s ceiling is because he can just keep getting better.”
On that last point, at least, even a thoughtful Sunday night Hurts might agree.
His 2022 season – in all its decision making and playing glory, as well as its occasional mistakes and year-end dismay – offers an insightful template to reach even greater heights soon. That is, as long as Hurts and his teammates are willing to learn and work.
“I’m so proud of this team for everything we’ve been able to overcome,” Hurts said. “Obviously we had a big goal that we wanted to achieve and we fell short of it. I think the beauty of it is that everyone experiences different pains, everyone experiences different torments of life. But you decide whether you want to learn from it. You decide if you want to use this as a teachable moment.
“I know what I’m going to do.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein