Ertz’s awak­en­ing a bright spot in loss

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SPORTS - By Jack McCaf­fery jm­c­caf­fery@21st-cen­tu­ry­media.com @Jack­McCaf­fery on Twit­ter

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.”

FRANK FRANKLIN II — THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

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.

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