Eagles Wake-Up Call: A Closer Look At the Ertz Play


Photo by: Jeff Fusco

Photo by: Jeff Fusco

It was the longest play of Zach Ertz‘s young career and in his mind, the biggest.

The game was knotted at 20-20 with five minutes remaining, and the Eagles were facing a 3rd-and-3 from their own 41 when Ertz pulled off the big catch-and-run down the left sideline that set up the eventual game-deciding Caleb Sturgis field goal.

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“We just ran a slant and a flat route,”said Chip Kelly. “We thought they would be in man. Both routes on the catch should get you a first down. It was a quick-game throw for us. We could protect it and get the ball out quick for Sam [Bradford]. Thought they would come in zero-man and come with a blitz, and that’s what they did. And we got it off.”

Pat Shurmur explained that they were expecting to see more of those types of pressures throughout the game, but Rex Ryan “switched it up on us” and didn’t go heavy on the heat. But as the game wore on and the Bills needed to try and create more on defense, the Eagles started getting the looks they had anticipated.

“That,” said Shurmur,” is when those plays show up.”

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Josh Huff ended up setting what turned out to be a perfect pick on Ertz’s defender. According to Kelly, it was unintentional.

“Josh Huff is trying to run a slant route and trying to get himself open to get himself clean. That’s the quarterback’s first read is to throw the slant, if the slant’s covered then come to the flat route.”

Intentional or not, it worked out perfectly for the Eagles. Ertz sprang wide open and was able to turn and get a head of steam going after securing the catch. From there it was all about individual effort. He barreled over Leodis McKelvin and then took safety Duke Williams for a ride in what turned out to be his longest reception in the pros. (His previous high was 38 against the Broncos in September of his rookie year.)

“The defender kind of fell off at the end. He went for the strip, and I just kind of lowered my shoulder and ran him over and got some more yards after that,” said Ertz. “I don’t do it very often, so it really felt good to be able to run someone over. I haven’t done that since college, so it was a really good feeling.”

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Ertz led all Eagles receivers with five catches for 98 yards. He now has 45 receptions on 72 targets for 501 yards and one touchdown on the year. Groin surgery heading into the season and a concussion sustained against Tampa impacted the third-year tight end, who has not had the breakout campaign that many expected. But he appears to be on the upswing, and helped provide one of the biggest moments in a key win over Buffalo.

“I’ve made plays for this team the past two years,” he said, “but in the situation we were in with the playoffs on the line, I think it was the most important catch.”

WHAT YOU MISSED

“We’ve always wanted Sam here.” Kelly says he wants Bradford for the long-term.

Re-live the return of LeSean McCoy through the lens of Birds 24/7 photographer Jeff Fusco.

“I’m not laughing now.” Fletcher Cox impressed the pants off Rex Ryan. Day-after notes.

It started slowly, but Bradford is starting to look like the leader the Eagles have needed.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

Kelly looked broken and beaten earlier this season, writes CSN Philadelphia’s John Gonzalez. After two straight wins, that’s no longer the case.

If we’re being honest – and of course we are, because we would totally never lie to you, our always-smart and rational readers whom we love dearly – the media turned on Kelly just as quickly. If not faster. You are no doubt shocked that the always-smart and rational local media would do such a thing. As recently as two weeks ago, at least one media member was calling for Kelly to move on, and Kelly’s former (and current) pie delivery guy was giving him serious heat on the radio.

But that was a couple of weeks ago and this is now. If we know anything about the Eagles it’s that they are unknowable. When it looked like the Patriots would bury what was left of the Eagles’ season under an avalanche of points in New England, the Eagles escaped with a win. And then they beat the Bills and Rex Ryan and a certain running back on Sunday. All of a sudden, the dejected version of Kelly we saw after the Lions game – the one who subsequently had to deny rumors that he was fleeing Philly and heading to Southern California – was replaced with the self-assured, snarky Kelly who presided over all those offseason changes in the first place.

Bradford has played strong, mistake-free football, and the Eagles are two wins richer because of it, writes the Inquirer’s Mike Sielski.

“We had to endure some weeks without him,” wide receiver Josh Huff said. “But it’s great having him back there. The last two weeks, he’s just set the tone for us in the locker room.”

This was the refrain out of Bradford’s teammates late Sunday afternoon: that he’s become more open, that he has recognized the power and effect that a normally soft-spoken quarterback wields when he speaks out about the importance of playing with precision and emotion.

“Sam likes to lead by example, but sometimes we want to hear from our leader,” linebacker Brandon Graham said. “And now we’re hearing from him and, man, you just see a total different change. You know he’s out of his comfort zone and he’s giving you everything he’s got, so you can only respect that.”

COMING UP

Billy Davis and Pat Shurmur will address the media beginning at 11:45.