Zach Ertz made his return from injury, and the Philadelphia Eagles nearly pulled off an impressive comeback over the Detroit Lions, but they couldn’t quite hang on late.
The Lions raced out to a 14-0 lead, and the Eagles remained calm, battling their way back to a 23-21 lead late in the fourth quarter. But a field goal with less than two minutes to go sent Philly (3-1) home with its first defeat of the year. However, head coach Doug Pederson isn’t worried at all about the psyche of his team after its first road bump of the season.
“I saw how ticked off this team was at the end of this football game,” Pederson said. “Despite everything that went on in this game, negative, positive, the whole thing, this is a different football team than a year ago. This is a resilient football team. This is a team when I walked on the plane last night when we were halfway home and everybody’s on their iPads watching the game and they’re correcting the mistakes and they’re wanting to get back on the football field, and from a coach’s perspective, that’s great to see.”
No. 86 hauled in three catches for 36 yards after missing Philly’s last two contests with a displaced rib. The former Stanford tight end was happy to get back on the field with his teammates.
“Everyday just been battling not being out there obviously, it’s very tough for me personally,” Zach said. “I’m just looking to help the team on Sunday.”
Philly entered the Week 5 matchup at 3-0, as one of the few unbeaten squads left in the NFL. Rookie quarterback Carson Wentz had the Eagle offense flying, but it took some time for that offense to regain its footing coming off a bye week.
The Lions jumped out to an early lead on two touchdown passes from quarterback Matt Stafford to shifty running back Theo Riddick—making the first quarter score 14-0. At the start of the second quarter, Wentz connected with Zach twice in as many plays. ZE hauled in passes of 11 and five yards to help set the stage for Philly’s first score of the game: a 1-yard touchdown reception by running back Ryan Mathews to close the Detroit lead to seven points.
On the ensuing drive, Stafford struck again—this time on a 1-yard toss to Marvin Jones. Philly had an answer just before the half, though, and Zach played a big role in the key score. Facing 3rd-and-36 near midfield, Wentz found Zach down the left side for a 21-yard gain to set up a 50-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal as time expired in the first half. The Eagles entered the locker room down 21-10, and ready to correct their first-half mistakes.
“We look back at the first half and realize that, both sides of the ball, we kind of shot ourselves in the foot,” said safety Malcolm Jenkins. “I’m sure there were a lot of bad things we’ll see on tape that you can’t do. Losing contain. Misfitting gaps. All those things we can correct.”
Philly did just that in the second half—fixing their first half ailments and outscoring the Lions 10-0 in the third quarter. Josh Huff pulled in Wentz’s second 1-yard touchdown pass of the game, and Sturgis was good from 33 yards out to cut the Detroit lead to one, 21-20, late in the third.
The Eagles took the lead with 5:21 to play in the fourth quarter on a 49-yard Sturgis field goal, giving them their first advantage of the afternoon, 23-21. The Philly defense forced a punt, and the offense sought to run out the clock and put the game on ice. However, on a 3rd-and-2 from the Eagles 45-yard line, Mathews fumbled for Philly’s first turnover of the year, and the Lions were able to recover and get into field goal range to take a 24-23 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Wentz aired it out downfield, looking for a home-run ball to move the Eagles back into the lead. But the gutsy throw ended in the rookie’s first career interception. From there, the Lions were able to kneel out the clock, handing Philly its first loss of 2016.
Despite the defeat, Zach and the Eagles remain as one of just six teams in the NFC with one loss or less, and the team left Detroit confident that they can make some minor corrections and get right back on track.
“We’re 3-1, it’s a long season, and for us, we’ve just got to get back on the path that we started,” said defensive end Brandon Graham. “Hey, just happy it happened early in the year so we can make the corrections and get it right.”
The Eagles will return to action this Sunday at FedEx field for a divisional matchup with the Washington Redskins, who are coming off a three-game winning streak. Kickoff is 1 p.m. ET on FOX.