Zach Ertz and the Philadelphia Eagles pulled off a tremendous NFC East victory over the New York Giants on Thursday night, and while it didn’t carry playoff implications, it was a moment of growth amid a difficult season.
ZE hauled in two receptions for 33 yards in a classic, down-to-the-wire divisional battle, and this time, the Eagles closed out their first NFC East win of the year, 24-19.
“We needed this one bad,” Zach said. “Finally to win a close game. Our defense stepped up big tonight, they had a ton of turnovers, put us in situations to be successful as an offense, and it wasn’t lost on us that we didn’t have a division win yet this year. So it felt good to go finally out there and beat a really good football team.”
The Eagles wasted no time in seizing momentum, jumping out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Philadelphia looked sharp on both sides of the ball, as Darren Sproles rushed 25 yards for a touchdown and corner Malcolm Jenkins picked off New York quarterback Eli Manning and took it 34 yards to the house for a touchdown.
The Giants got on the board with a field goal late in the first and another early in the second, closing the gap to 14-6. With 4:29 remaining in the half, Wentz delivered a perfect pass to receiver Nelson Agholor who hauled in the 40-yard pass for the Eagles’ third touchdown of the night. Zach spoke highly of the receiver following the game.
“It was big,” Zach said. “Guys are always going to rally around him, build him up… he’s going to battle, he’s never going to get too down, I think he’s learned a lot from this year especially, I think it was huge for him to finally get a long touchdown pass.”
The Giants wouldn’t go away. New York added their first touchdown late in the half, an Eli Manning pass to Sterling Shepard. On the final drive of the half, Zach snared a 14-yard reception, but the Eagles ran out of time and took a 21-13 lead into the locker room.
New York added the only points scored in the third quarter on a field goal from veteran kicker Robbie Gould. The Eagles tried to answer back on the ensuing drive. ZE pulled in a key 19-yard reception to move the chains on 3rd-and-2, but a few plays later, Carson Wentz was hit hard and was sent through concussion protocol. The drive ultimately ended when running back Ryan Mathews was halted on 4th-and-Goal from the 1-yard line. But Wentz rushed into the locker room and went through concussion testing as quickly as possible to return to the field.
“He’s a battler and he’s a warrior,” said Zach on his QB. “You see it time and time again. The guy is never fazed by anything. Guys kind of expected him to be out. We didn’t see[the hit], but we heard about it from the sideline and we heard that it was pretty bad. We were asking around in terms of how Carson was doing, and he was right back out there throwing and everyone was kind of taken aback by it. It just kind of shows the love that he has for his teammates. He never wants to let us down and that’s why guys love playing for him.”
In the meantime, Jenkins and the Philly defense came up big once again. Manning targeted Sterling Shepherd deep down the right side, but Jenkins read it perfectly and picked it off along the sideline. Wentz returned under center and led a field-goal drive, giving Philly a 24-16 lead.
The Giants weren’t going down quietly, though. They used a couple of big plays from receiver Odell Beckham Jr. to add a field goal and cut the lead to five. However, the Philly defense held strong, and safety Terrence Brooks pulled down his first career interception deep in Eagle territory to seal a statement victory.
“Obviously the Giants are going to the playoffs, they’re a good football team, great defense,” Zach said. “So it felt really good to finally get out there and just get it done, to get a win. It was ugly at times on offense, but at the end of the day we got it done.”
Philly will close its 2016 season with a meeting with another playoff team, the Dallas Cowboys (13-2). The Cowboys have the No. 1 seed in the NFC locked up and are playing as well as any team in the NFL, coming off a 42-21 drubbing of the Detroit Lions on Monday night.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. ET on Sunday.