With the game, and the season, on the line in Super Bowl LII, the Philadelphia Eagles went to Zach Ertz, and the result was the first Super Bowl victory in franchise history.
Zach scored the game-winning touchdown with 2:21 remaining as the Eagles upset the New England Patriots 41-33 to win Philadelphia’s first NFL Championship in the Super Bowl Era. The Eagles will now bring the Lombardi Trophy home to their Philly fans for the first time.
“Thank you guys for everything this year. You guys have been longing for this,” Zach said after the win. “We are lucky to be here and deliver this for you guys…we are World Champions.”
At the apex of the highest octane and highest scoring Super Bowl in NFL history, it was an 11-yard touchdown pass to Zach from quarterback Nick Foles, the Philadelphia backup signal caller and unlikely Super Bowl MVP, that ultimately spelled victory.
Philadelphia led the game early by as many as 12 points. But an expected second-half surge from the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots left them trailing 33-32 in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, against the most dominant football team of the 21stCentury.
But for Zach and the Eagles, there was never a doubt. No. 86 had his number called multiple times on what turned out to be the game-winning drive, including a clutch two-yard gain on fourth down when the Pats had a chance to hold Philly off midfield.
But even after that monumental and perhaps season-saving catch, ZE had one more trick up his sleeve in the red zone. On third-and-seven from the Pats’ 11-yard line, he won inside on a slant, caught a perfect throw from Foles and launched himself across the goal line for the go-ahead score with 2:21 remaining.
On the podium at midfield after the game, Zach said he had no doubt during the review that his clutch play would be confirmed, and joked about the potential backlash if the call on the field of a touchdown did not stand. Later, Zach admitted that the review lasted “what seemed like an eternity,” but still expressed confidence that his touchdown was indeed a catch.
“If they overturn that, I don’t even know what’s a catch anymore,” he said. “I had three steps in the ground. I extended for it. My back leg dragged on the ground. The city of Philly would’ve been hot if they’d have overturned that.”
After much deliberation, referee Gene Steratore ruled that the play resulted in a touchdown for the Eagles, putting them ahead 38-33.On the ensuing possession for the Patriots, Brandon Graham forced a sack-fumble on Tom Brady that was recovered by Derek Barnett and the Eagles tacked on a field goal to make it an eight-point game.
Brady had one final chance to force overtime and Ertz was forced to watch his defense from the sidelines. The Patriots took one final shot to Rob Gronkowski on a Hail Mary attempt, but it harmlessly fell to the turf as the clock hit triple zeros.
With that, Zach Ertz and the Philadelphia Eagles were Super Bowl champions for the first time ever.
The offenses in Super Bowl LII were relentless. The teams combined for 1,151 yards in the game, which shattered the previous Super Bowl record of 929 set in 1988. The Eagles’ offense, commanded by Foles, battled all night to unseat Brady and the Patriots.
“He played phenomenal tonight,” Ertz said. “There wasn’t a quarterback in the league that we would’ve wanted to have in this situation when Carson went down than Nick Foles.”
Foles finished with 373 yards passing and four total touchdowns, and as they had done all season long, the Eagles spread the ball around to their plethora of playmakers. Running backs LeGarrette Blount and Jay Ajayi combined for 147 yards on the ground and Corey Clement added 100 yards receiving and a TD from out of the backfield.
Clement was one of six Eagles players to catch at least one pass. Zach hauled in seven, totaling 67 yards. The team’s leading pass-catcher was Nelson Agholor, who Foles found nine times in Minneapolis, to the tune of 84 yards. He connected with Alshon Jeffery three times, including Philly’s first touchdown of the night, a 34-yard strike deep down the left side of the field.
Foles was even on the receiving end of a pass, just before the half, when Head Coach Doug Pederson reached into his bag of tricks and dialed up a reverse-pass from tight end Trey Burton to Foles, on a fourth-and-goal from the one-yard line.
“The guy’s a phenomenal head coach, a phenomenal play-caller,” Zach said. “He should’ve won Coach of the Year.”
Foles’ catch looked like the play of the game, putting Philly up 22-12 at half. But just as they did last season, surging back from down 28-3 to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI, New England stormed back, eventually taking a 33-32 lead.
That’s when the time came for Zach to be the hero.
It was the culmination of years of hard work, a breakthrough season and a fantastic game for No. 86.
Zach has long stated his desire to be a go-to-guy for the Philadelphia Eagles in clutch situations. When his number was called in Super Bowl LII, he delivered again and again, all the way up to the game-winning touchdown fulfilling his own expectations in the biggest moment of his career.
“I want to be the guy in the red zone,” Ertz said before the NFC Championship game. “Third down, I want to be the guy that gets the number called. I put a lot of pride in what I do as a receiver in those situations.”
All season long, whether playing with Carson Wentz or Nick Foles, Ertz was a reliable target on third downs when the Eagles needed to keep the chains moving.
“He just really had a solid year, all the way around,” right tackle Lane Johnson said. “He really improved on his blocking this offseason, took a lot of things to heart. Just became a better football player, man, and caught that touchdown there at the end. I just couldn’t be happier for him. He works his tail off.”
Super Bowl Sunday was no different. On the Eagles’ second touchdown drive, Zach converted a third-and-seven by picking up 19 yards over the middle. Blount later scampered in for a 21-yard score. Facing a third-and-one from the New England 40-yard line, Foles found No. 86 for yet another conversion, which set up Corey Clement’s score three plays later.
On the game-winning scoring drive, Z made two drive-saving catches on plays in their own territory, including the fourth-down conversion from their own 45-yard line. None of those plays will live on in Super Bowl lore, but without them, the Eagles would not be Super Bowl Champions. And then there was the touchdown, Zach using his strength, size, exceptional route-running ability and hands, lining up outside against a corner, rare air for a tight end, and making a play few have ever had the chance to make, to win his team a title.
How clutch was Zach Ertz? 4th down catch, GW TD catch. Been a top tier TE for a LONG time, just lately getting the respect he deserves.
— Jon Ledyard (@LedyardNFLDraft) February 5, 2018
Fellow Eagles tight end Brent Celek, who has been something of a mentor for Zach, lauded his teammate afterward.
“Ertz is one of the top two tight ends in the NFL in my opinion,” Celek said. “He had to run a slant and get physical on the route. He did it, got open and made the catch then dove over the dude.”
With his performance on the grandest stage, securing the game-winning score to bring Philly its first Super Bowl Championship, Zach lived up to his own expectations, as well as his end of the family bargain in Super Bowl LII, and. The Ertz family has Zach’s Super Bowl trophy and Julie’s World Cup trophy all in the same household.