In their final outing of the season on New Year’s Day of 2017, the Philadelphia Eagles put together a dominant performance behind the high-powered offensive tandem of Zach Ertz and Carson Wentz. Although they did not qualify for postseason play, the team ended the season on a positive note, winning their last two contests.
The Eagles topped the New York Giants last week before racing past the Cowboys 27-13 behind 13 receptions, 139 yards and two touchdowns by Zach.
“It puts a little bit of a positive stamp on the season,” Zach said of the win. “Obviously it’s a disappointing season not going to the playoffs, but 7-9 is a lot better than 5-11 if we had lost these last two games. Especially winning two NFC East rivalries.”
Zach and Carson started fast and didn’t look back. The TE hauled in three receptions on the first drive, including a big 15-yard reception to move the chains on 3rd-and-4, setting the Eagles up for a 22-yard Caleb Sturgis field goal. That strong start individually and collectively set the stage for a good day for the Eagles.
“When you’re able to settle down and make a play early in the game, it’ll calm your nerves,” No. 86 said. “It just eases everything and the game kind of slows down when you get targeted early. They were calling my number a lot today, and I think I was making the most of the opportunities.”
The Cowboys responded with a FG of their own, followed by a Tony Romo touchdown pass to Terrence Williams to taking a 10-3 lead late into the second quarter. However, Ertz and Eagles offense would not be denied. Carson Wentz drove his team down the field in less than two minutes, connecting with his favorite target in Ertz for a touchdown with just seven seconds remaining in the half. Zach made a move on a quick slant to beat Damion Wilson—a safety—to tie the game at 10.
“[Zach’s] a heck of a player,” Wentz said. “He creates mismatches all over the field. So it’s just been one of those things, when things break down or when I know I need somebody, Ertz has been that guy. He’s has been that guy that steps up for us.”
The Cowboys struck first following halftime as Dan Bailey connected on a 23-yard FG to take a 13-10 lead. The Eagles responded with a 10-play, 89-yard drive behind the impressive efforts of No. 86, who hauled in three more passes—including a 20-yard touchdown reception that put an exclamation point on his stellar afternoon. It may have been Ertz’s most athletic play of the season, as the big man beat linebacker Andrew Gachkar and reached full diving extension to reel in a beautifully placed Carson Wentz ball in the corner of the end zone to put his team back up 17-13.
“We’re just stacking the bricks each and every day with each other,” Zach said of his connection with Wentz. “We’ve been getting in extra reps in between periods at practice, staying before and after—there was so much that went into the success in the last part of the season. It’s definitely reassuring when things pay off in that way.”
After seizing the lead behind Zach’s spectacular TD grab, the Eagles led for the remainder of the game without allowing another Dallas score. The final from Lincoln Financial Field was 27-13 in favor of the home team.
Zach Ertz: "it's tough to win in this league without a quarterback. We got a hell of a quarterback" #Eagles
— Philly Nation (@Philly__Nation) January 1, 2017
Zach Ertz finished the 2016 season as the #Eagles’ leader in receptions (78), receiving yards (816) and receiving TDs (4).
— Brandon Lee Gowton (@BrandonGowton) January 2, 2017
— NFL (@NFL) January 1, 2017
Ertz secured his place as one of only seven tight ends in NFL history with three 700-yard seasons in his first four years, and his 247 catches are second-most in Eagles history by a player after four seasons. He and rookie Carson Wentz put up eye-catching numbers down the stretch run of the season, compiling 63 completed passes in nine games—the most in the NFL—for 666 yards. Despite missing the playoffs, Eagles fans have a lot to look forward to in the budding connection of their star QB and TE.
“These last couple of weeks, Carson and I really improved, so we’re really excited about the future,” Zach said. “The last two games have been huge. We’re just building that momentum into next year.”