Notes: On Ertz, ‘D’ and Foles’ Secret Weapons

ertz_940_100713Leading up to the Oakland game, Zach Ertz didn’t hide the fact that this trip meant something to him. He grew up  in nearby Danville, CA and played his college ball at Stanford. It was his first time back in the Bay Area since he left for training camp in late July. Got tickets for about 20 friends and family members to watch him play.

You could tell that he was smelling the end zone when he caught a short pass from Nick Foles over the middle midway through the opening quarter. Ertz lowered his shoulder and barreled ahead. Ultimately he was stopped at the 2-yard line.

“Coach Kelly preaches don’t reach for the goal line so I didn’t want to reach, have something bad happen and then not play again, so I just kind of tucked it in there. And I want to get Brent [Celek] a touchdown, anyway,” he said.

Celek scored on the very next play. Ertz’s patience paid off. Foles went back to the rookie later in the half for a 15-yard touchdown — Ertz’s first in the NFL.

“I was hoping [that first touchdown would come],” he said. “Every game I kind of hope, but scoring here was really special.”

Ertz played 59 percent of the snaps as the Eagles deployed their 12 personnel a good bit. He finished with a career-high five receptions for 42 yards and the score.

Setting the pace

The Raiders’ defense came in ranked 12th in points per game and 13th in yards per play. Not awful. How did Foles make them look so bad?

A lot of it you have to chalk up to Foles just having an outstanding day. He was dialed in. But he also had two things working in his favor — tempo and protection. And they’re both connected.

“They had a lot of stuff on tape — a lot of blitz packages — and they didn’t bring a ton of it [Sunday],” said Evan Mathis. “I think you have to credit the tempo. When you have a tempo offense, sometimes you don’t give people time to run an exotic package.”

“We couldn’t match their tempo,” Raiders corner Tracy Porter conceded. “They played an up-tempo type of game and we weren’t able to match that.”

Up-tempo is nothing new for this offense, but the blocking didn’t always live up to expectation over the first half of the season. This was probably the offensive line’s most complete performance of the year. Lane Johnson, who took aim at Pro Football Focus last week for grading him harshly, rated out as the best of the five linemen, per PFF. Only Todd Herremans did not receive a positive grade.

“I thought they did a great job in protection and [Foles] did a nice job on a couple plays of being able to move around and buy some time,” said Raiders coach Dennis Allen. “We tried some 5-man pressure. We tried some 4-man pressure. We tried some max-drop and really, at the end of the day, none of it worked.”

Mathis was asked if the O-line, given the rocky performance Foles was coming off of, was even more inspired to keep the QB clean.

“We bust our ass to win every single play. That’s what we wanted to do. That’s what we try to do anyway no matter what the situation is — we want to win in pass pro and give him as much time as possible, no matter who is back there.”

The forgotten unit

Foles’ monster day overshadowed another steady outing for the Eagles’ defense. True they yielded 560 yards, but more importantly held the Raiders to 20 points. Billy Davis‘ unit has limited each of the Eagles’ last five opponents to 21 points or less. Over that span, opponents are scoring 18.6 points per game.

“It’s a tribute to us just working hard and continuing to stay after it, continuing to get better in communication, continuing to play with relentless effort out there each and every play,” said Cary Williams. “Just wanting to do it and wanting to get better as individuals. The more we become used to Billy’s system the better we become.”

“It’s fun to see [the offense] back rolling and our defense is playing well. Now it’s starting to come together collectively,” added DeMeco Ryans. “That’s the kind of effort we want from the offensive and defensive side of the ball.”

Eagles sign Marsh

The Eagles re-signed cornerback Curtis Marsh Tuesday. The former third round pick suffered a wrist injury in the presesason and was waived/injured on Sept. 1. He briefly joined the Bengals before being released.

The Eagles had a vacant roster spot after trading Isaac Sopoaga to the Patriots.

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