GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jalen Hurts apologized.
The Philadelphia Eagles quarterback tallied a game-high 374 total yards and accounted for a game-high four touchdowns.
The dual-threat player had alternated between throwing bombs to somersaulting receiver A.J. Brown, escaping tacklers to reset the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in the Super Bowl, and powering that ever-reliable sneak to first downs and touchdowns. And the Eagles held a lead or tie for more than 53 minutes of the game.
And still, in the postgame locker room after the Kansas City Chiefs’ 38-35 victory, Hurts apologized.
“Jalen for sure was like, ‘Man, it’s on me, on the fumble,’” Eagles defensive end Brandon Graham said. “We all was talking, just kind of reminiscing on the game, and he just tried to apologize to the team. And it’s like, ‘Nah, man, we’re all together.’ That’s what makes this team special: Everybody owns their stuff.”
Ownership. Accountability. Determination to grow and improve and achieve.
Each led Hurts to take responsibility not only for one major mistake and the larger loss that accompanied it, but also for the commitment to channel Sunday’s raw pain into motivation to mount the last hurdle next season.
Eagles QB Jalen Hurts: “It is a tough feeling to come up short. It’s a very tough feeling. But I know that the only direction is to rise. And that’ll be the M.O. going forward.
“That is the mentality.” pic.twitter.com/QRI5YsYhTb
— Jori Epstein (@JoriEpstein) February 13, 2023
“You either win, or you learn,” Hurt said from a riser in the State Farm Stadium tunnels. “I’m big on self-reflection and reflecting on the things I could have done better, so I think I’m going to challenge everyone, and I’ve already challenged everyone, to think about those things.
“Look at yourself in the mirror and be able to learn from everything.”
How ‘dog mentality’ fueled Eagles response to fumble
That all-encompassing “learn-from-everything” curriculum includes Hurts’ second-quarter fumble.
With 9:48 to play 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 staved off Chiefs defensive end George Karlaftis. But the Eagles knew the perils of All-Pro defensive tackle Chris Jones’ threat, so right guard Isaac Seumalo slid left to impede Jones alongside center Jason Kelce.
Suddenly, Chiefs linebacker Nick Bolton was facing a clear lane to Hurts. Hurts appeared to shuffle the ball from his left hand to his right but instead the ball missed his right hand and fell loose. Bolton raced toward the bounce, scooped it and returned the ball 36 yards for a touchdown.
That tied the score at 14-14.
“I think my left hand might have hit the ball when I was wrapping him up, he could’ve bobbled it as well,” Bolton said. “I was really praying for a good bounce and I got one, it popped up right in my hands and I was able to grab it and go.
“I actually had a dream about scooping and scoring in the Super Bowl two nights ago. For it to happen is surreal.”
Bolton’s dream moonlighted as the Eagles’ nightmare. But neither Hurts nor his coaches nor teammates flinched. Instead, Hurts kept the ball for a 14-yard rush on the next play from scrimmage.
He’d scramble again on fourth-and-5, this time for 28 yards.
And when the Eagles had marched down to the red zone that drive, it was yet again Hurts scurrying in for a score. Just like that, Philadelphia was back in front, 21-14.
Eagles players and head coach Nick Sirianni alike insisted nothing about returning to Hurts’ ground game immediately after his error was unusual.
“Trying to run the best plays that we had available to us that we felt like were going to work,” Sirianni said. “A guy drops a pass, you don’t stop throwing to him. A guy fumbles the football, you don’t stop running him. A guy throws an interception, you don’t stop throwing it. That’s been our thought process all year.
“When we say 'dog mentality,' that’s what we mean. We mean that we have to be in the moment. There’s going to be ups and downs in this game, but be sure that we’re in the moment of the next play.”
Mahomes on Hurts: ‘If there were any doubters left, there shouldn’t be now’
When Hurts watches film from the Super Bowl performance, he’ll see what Sirianni believes was the third-year quarterback’s best game of his career. He’ll see the decisive scoring drive he guided his offense on to open the game, capped off by that signature quarterback sneak into the end zone. Hurts will see the 17-yard, high-pointed catch he threaded to tight end Dallas Goedert on the right sideline on third-and-14 after the Chiefs opened the second half with an efficient score, and the fourth-and-1 shortly after that dictated a Hurts — you guessed it — quarterback sneak to keep the drive alert.
He’ll see the records he set when he became the first quarterback to rush for 70 yards and the first to score three rushing touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Oh yeah, and the two-point conversion he then succeeded on to tie the game with 5:15 left in regulation.
The stage was not and will not be too big.
And though Hurts’ disappointment was palpable, from the bowed head at his news conference to the prolonged pauses and deep breaths as he steadied his words, his performance was, by nearly every metric, a Super Bowl-caliber quarterback outing.
Just ask Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, coming off his third appearance in the game and second victory — both times earning Super Bowl MVP honors.
“I mean, if there was any doubters left, there shouldn't be now,” Mahomes said. “The way he stepped on this stage, and ran, threw the ball, whatever it took for his team to win. That was a special performance. I don't want it to get lost in the loss that they had.”
Mahomes touted Hurts’ fourth-quarter comeback.
“Make sure you appreciate that,” Mahomes said of his counterpart, “when you look back on this game.”
So while Hurts continues to be his biggest and harshest critic, his teammates and opponents alike will aim to remind him how reality perhaps veers from his perception.
Eagles linebacker (and sometimes gamewrecker) Haason Reddick told Hurts to “keep your head up” because “he has had a hell of a year.” Kelce marveled at how Hurts’ performance this season “clearly changed the dynamic of this team on offense.” And Sirianni thanked Hurts for his work — while making clear that the roadmap to this big game will continue to light the way to the next.
“I know he’s hurting,” Sirianni said. “I just said I was happy for him that he played his butt off and left it all out there, played good in the run game, played good in the pass game, was in complete control of our offense and he led us to 35 points.
“The entire season he’s shown to be a special leader, a special player. And I’m sure glad that he’s our quarterback.”
Hurts no doubt has proven in a prove-it year that he’s the Eagles' franchise quarterback for years to come, a hefty contract extension expected this offseason to compensate Hurts handsomely while significantly changing Philadelphia’s salary cap calculus.
The team’s front office and coaching leadership understands why their runner-up season MVP has earned that. They also eagerly anticipate the ways he’ll continue to grow.
“He played really good,” Sirianni said. “[But] I don’t think we know what Jalen’s ceiling is, because he just can continue to get better.”
On that last point, at least, even a reflective Hurts on Sunday night could agree.
His 2022 season — in all its decision-making and play-making glory, as well as its occasional errors and end-of-year dismay — offers an enlightening template to soon reaching even greater heights. That is, as long as Hurts and his teammates are willing to learn and work.
“I’m so proud of this team for everything that we’ve been able to overcome,” Hurts said. “Obviously, we had a big-time goal that we wanted to accomplish and we came up short. I think the beautiful part about it is everyone experiences different pains, everyone experiences different agonies of life. But you decide if you want to learn from it. You decide if you want to use that to be a teachable moment.
“I know what I’ll do.”
Follow Yahoo Sports’ Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein