Ertz’s awakening a bright spot in loss
Zach Ertz broke out Sunday after weeks of being hidden in the Eagles offense.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. >> The Eagles faced two issues last week at the NovaCare Complex, one easily solved, one that would take some work. Though it was not immediately reflected in the standings, they were successful in both.
Josh Huff is gone. And Zach Ertz is back helping the offense.
After catching just six passes in his previous three games, Ertz was productive Sunday in a 28-23 loss to the New York Giants. The tight end, who had caught 75 passes as recently as 2015, was targeted eight times by Carson Wentz and caught each, good for 97 yards and some small measure of professional peace.
“We just took what the defense was giving us,” Ertz said. “I was getting the ball thrown to me a little more . ...
“Overall, it doesn’t really matter how many times I touch the ball. If we lose, it’s all for nothing. But Carson and I took a step forward between the two of us, which was good to see.”
Having lost four of five, the Eagles’ recovery must begin someplace. If that is with a new connection between the rookie quarterback and the experienced tight end, Doug Pederson wouldn’t mind.
“We definitely wanted to get him going,” the Birds’ coach said. “He’s such a big weapon, and he’s a nice big target for the quarterback. We wanted to get a few more plays called his way and put the gameplan in that way. He did a nice job for us today.”
With Ertz involved, the offense expanded, Wentz throwing longer passes, including completions of 58, 33, 32, 23 and, to Ertz, 30 yards. Though Wentz was twice intercepted, he threw for 364 yards.
“All I can focus on is getting open and making a play when the ball is in the air, whether that’s eight times or three times,” Ertz said. “If the ball is in the air, I have the mindset that it is my ball. We were 8-for-8 today, and that is a step in the right direction. But we are disappointed with the loss.”
Though the Birds’ passing game did loosen Sunday, it remained ordinary in the red zone. Wentz did not throw a touchdown pass, and the Birds’ final possession ended with four consecutive incompletions.
The 6-5, 250-pound Ertz could be — and he believes, should be — a valuable end zone weapon.
“Yeah, that’s something that I’ve continuously worked on, getting open in the red zone and getting open on third down,” said Ertz, who has just nine touchdowns in 52 career games. “That’s kind of what I pride myself on. Obviously, I can’t control where the ball is thrown. I mean, they were bringing everyone on that last possession and we just didn’t make plays.”
The Eagles didn’t make enough plays late. But they made enough during the game, and in enough new ways, to suggest progress.
“We pride ourselves on being a good offense,” Ertz said. “But each of our four losses has come down to us not making plays. We feel like we have the talent as an offense to be great. It’s one thing to say something. It’s another to go out there, make plays and win the game.”
Having missed two games with a rib injury, Ertz still has not caught a touchdown pass in his six games. But he went out Sunday and made plays. With that, he hopes, victories will follow.
“We are going to right the ship,” he said. “It’s not like we are in complete panic mode at 4-and-4. But at the same time, the margin of error has certainly dwindled for the rest of the year.”
Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, right, tries to fend off Giants safety Andrew Adams Sunday. Ertz caught eight passes for 97 yards in the Eagles’ 28-23 loss.