The 2014 season started with much promise for Zach Ertz individually and for the Philadelphia Eagles as a team, though the squad came up just short of where it hoped to be at year’s end.
Zach finished with a career-high 702 yards, pulling in three touchdowns, and he provided some huge moments for the Eagles along the way. But a late-season slump, following a 9-3 start, left Philly at 10-6—just one game out of the postseason.
While the Eagles finished disappointed by that result, No. 86 provided a bright spot and came away looking like one of the team’s many signs for promise going forward.
“I think he’s done a good job,” said offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. “I think he’s one of most improved guys we have. When he’s in there, he makes plays. I think he’s doing a much better job in the blocking aspect of playing tight end.”
That improvement was apparent from Week 1. ZE came out with a big-time performance in a 34-17 dismantling of the Jacksonville Jaguars, pulling in three passes for 77 yards and a touchdown.
The Jags stormed out to a 17-0 lead in the first half, but the Eagles owned the second, responding with 34 unanswered points. A long Darren Sproles TD started the rally, and then Zach carried the torch, pulling down a 25-yard score, thrown his way by quarterback Nick Foles.
He added two 26-yard receptions to his day, and that big opening-day output, and of course the victory, had him hopeful for the coming season.
“Sixteen-and-oh,” Zach said. “That’s the only thing I care about, to be honest. Whether it’s a lot of touchdowns, a lot of catches, a lot of yards, it doesn’t really matter to me. Obviously I started off fast last week with the long catches and the touchdown, but at the end of the day, all I care about is winning, and that’s what we did in Week 1.”
That’s also what they did in Week 2. It was another big game from No. 86, who this time came through with 86 yards off four receptions in a 30-27 win.
He was strong from the start, hauling in receptions of 27 and 14 yards on Philly’s first drive to help set up a 31-yard field goal from Cody Parkey. The Colts answered vehemently, tallying a 20-6 lead before the Eagles awoke midway through the third quarter. Ertz had a big 21-yard reception to move the chains on third down and set up a touchdown, and he had another huge play on the final drive.
The Eagles and Colts were knotted at 27 when Foles found Zach for a 24-yard gain, sparking the team’s two-minute drill. That reception was critical, as it put Philly into Indy territory. After another long reception from Sproles, the Eagles looked to Parkey for the game-winner as the clock expired.
At the time, Zach identified it as perhaps his most complete performance as a pro.
“Probably my most complete game,” ZE said of his output in the Week 2 win over Indy. “Obviously I’m still upset about that one drop that I had. It probably would’ve been a touchdown. I want to make plays for this team whether it’s in the pass game or the run game. I think I was able to do that tonight. Hopefully instill some more trust in the coaches and myself. All that matters is the win, and hopefully we just continue to do that.”
The two magnificent opening performances from Zach and the two wins sparked a 5-1 start. In that fifth victory, Zach pulled down his second scoring reception of the season, a 15-yarder from Foles to put the Eagles up 10-1 in a 27-0 evisceration of the New York Giants.
An oblique injury slowed Zach’s progress through the middle of the season, but the Eagles still battled their way to a 9-3 record, culminating with a 33-10 win over the Dallas Cowboys on Thanksgiving Day.
After that critical holiday win, Philly collided with the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. No. 86 had just two receptions against the feared Legion of Boom secondary in this game, but he pulled down one of the very best touchdown receptions seen across the NFL this season.
Seattle had just taken a 17-7 lead early in the third quarter, but Zach made sure the game didn’t get away from the Eagles. He streaked past linebacker K.J. Wright and down the sideline, where he pulled in a well-thrown ball from Mark Sanchez around the 10-yard-line.
Then, with Wright still draped around his back, he plowed his way across the goal line just as All-Pro safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor arrived to help.
However, that score wasn’t enough, as the Seahawks clamped down late in the 24-14 final. Afterward, Zach tipped his cap to the talented Seattle defense, and head coach Chip Kelly talked about how that one highlight provided by No. 86 just wasn’t enough on the day.
“We tried to establish the run. Thought we could do a better job up front,” Kelly said of the loss. “Obviously, we didn’t get that started the way we wanted to get it started and they did a good job. We had a couple shots there. We got them with Ertz on one play, but besides that, there wasn’t a lot to write home about offensively today.”
The next week, Zach had three catches for 32 yards, but a loss to the Dallas Cowboys was a damaging hit to their playoff outlook. The next two weeks, the Eagles were in desperate need of wins—and ZE came to play.
In Week 15 against the Washington Redskins, Zach pulled down a franchise record 15 passes, tallying 115 yards per catch. But even that tremendous output wasn’t enough, as D.C. connected on a game-winning field goal with five seconds left on the clock, leaving Zach disappointed in a 27-24 loss on his big day.
“I’d rather take the win over this record any day of the week,” Zach said of his 15-reception franchise mark. “I’ll go back to one catch for 5 yards if we win this game or we win the past three games.”
Philly got a win the next week, and Zach had 56 receiving yards along the way to his team’s 34-26 triumph over the Giants. That win gave them a 10-6 record for the regular season, but it wasn’t enough to make the playoffs in the competitive NFC. Each at 11-5, the Detroit Lions and Arizona Cardinals were in, and Zach and the Eagles were out.
It was a disheartening early finish for Philly, but both individually and on a team level, Zach walked away from it confident in what the future holds. In his season-ending interview, Zach told reporters that he will fight to take on an even bigger role in the offense next season.
“I thought it was a fairly good year from an individual standpoint,” Zach said. “I want to be on the field every play and I’m going to work very hard this offseason to get to the level where they can’t take me off the field.”
- Ertz pulls in three big catches and a TD (Philadelphia Inquirer, Sept. 8, 2014)
- Seems there’s no stopping Eagles TE Ertz (MCall.com, Sept. 15, 2014)
- Quotes: Head Coach Chip Kelly (Philadelphia Eagles, Dec. 7, 2014)
- Eagles locker room: Offense (Philadelphia Eagles, Sept. 16, 2014)
- Johnson, Ertz key to offense’s growth (Eagles, Jan. 21, 2015)
- Notebook: Ertz’s record day (Eagles, Dec. 20, 2014)
- Ertz, Cooper lone standouts in defeat (Eagles, Dec. 20, 2014)
- Forward Progress: Zach Ertz (Eagles, Feb. 15, 2015)