Chip Kelly’s Oregon squad was two games away from an undefeated season.
The No. 2 Ducks were hosting No. 13 Stanford in a prime-time game on Nov. 17.
With 6:28 left in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal’s offense took over at its own 22 yard line, trailing 14-7. Zach Ertz had been giving Oregon’s defense problems all game. And on this particular drive, the Ducks just had no answer for the 6-5 tight end. Ertz caught four balls for 53 yards, including the game-tying 10-yard touchdown with 1:35 left.
The play was originally ruled incomplete, but the officials changed their minds and gave Ertz the score.
“I did not agree with the call, and when I saw Zach at the Combine, I told him that,” Kelly said. “He actually sent me a note, thanking me for talking to him at the Combine and then put a PS in there and told me it was a catch. And when we talked to him on the phone, I said I guess it was a catch, so now we’re on the same side.”
Ertz finished with a career-high 11 catches for 106 yards. Asked about the note, he said, “I just wanted to remind him what happened when we played against him and just to make sure that I got the last laugh.”
The tight end position is changing in the NFL, and Kelly said he’s always been a heavy tight-end coach. Given the moves the Eagles have made since he got here, the message is clear: Get versatile pieces on offense, move them around and create mismatches.
Kelly got a first-hand view of Stanford doing that with Ertz.
“He did everything,” Kelly said. “They used him in multiple variety, and that’s the thing about him. They used him as a single receiver on the trips set. He was by himself, isolated on a DB. They used him as a tight end. They used him as an H-Back. They used him as a move guy. They moved him all over the place, and you can never isolate him at one certain spot. Whenever they got the mismatch, he created and made plays. And that’s what he’s done his entire career. I didn’t relish coaching against him and I’m very happy he’s on our side now.”
The Eagles already added tight end James Casey in free agency, and they have Brent Celek on the roster as well. Clay Harbor, on the other hand, will almost certainly be let go down the road.
We’ll find out in the months ahead how all the pieces fit, but the versatility theme continues to come up. Taken with the No. 35 pick, Ertz now becomes another part of the equation on offense.
Below is a YouTube cut-up of Ertz’ game against Oregon, courtesy of DraftBreakdown.com. The touchdown comes around the 6:44 mark. Looks like a pretty good red-zone target, no?