Zach Ertz finally has his quarterback back, and the Eagles got back in the win column on Sunday in his return.
Carson Wentz made his highly anticipated 2018 debut on Sunday against the Colts and looked great in his first game action since suffering an ACL tear late last season, before the Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run. The third-year passer completed 25 of 37 attempts — including five passes to No. 86 for a game-high 73 — for 255 yards with a touchdown, as Philly bounced back from a Week 2 loss on the road in Tampa with a 20-16 victory over Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon.
Wentz’s return to lineup was a special moment for he and his teammates, who witnessed his rehab and recovery first hand, specifically No. 86 who remarked how happy he was, not only to have his teammate back on the field, but to see the hard work of one of his closest friends pay off, allowing Wentz to do what he loves again and never miss a beat.
“He knows how I feel about him, he’s one of my best friends in the world,” No. 86 said. “Just the ability to say I’m proud of you, I’m proud of everything you’ve overcome, how you’ve attacked this each and every day, that was kind of a special moment we had before we ran out on the field.”
Wentz and Zach developed into one of the most successful passer-target tandems in the league last season, before Wentz suffered the injury, and picked up right where they left off, with Zach the recipient of the quarterback’s first completed pass of the season.
After they took the field together for the first time in months, it took Wentz just two plays to find No. 86 for a 17-yard catch and run, which served to jumpstart Philadelphia’s opening drive, which eventually resulted in a touchdown.
“Just the second play of the game, he throws a bullet to me just like old times,” Zach said. “I was a like, ‘All right, let’s go. It’s time to go.’”
Several plays later, facing a 3rd-and-4 from the Indianapolis 32-yard line, Wentz found Ertz for a seven-yard reception to move the chains and keep the Eagles from having to settle for an opening drive field goal. Then, Wentz looked right back to Ertz on first down for another eight-yard pickup, before finding rookie tight end Dallas Goedert for a touchdown on the 12th play of the drive.
Goedert and Zach both had 73 yards through the air to co-lead the team for the day, and for Zach it marked the third consecutive week he has topped the team’s receiving yards column to open the season. His 215 yards so far this season are a team high and rank him Top 20 in the NFL through three weeks.
The skill set and ability of the rookie Goedert has given the Eagles offense a new look, one that offers much more variety, which can be a huge asset for Philadelphia as the season progresses. Goedert’s success early on this season has allowed the Eagles to move Zach around in formations to give the defense different looks, something the Eagles haven’t done much of in the last few seasons under Doug Pederson.
“I’ve pretty much played in the same spot for the previous two years that Doug (Pederson) has been here,” Zach said. “And so the ability to get me in different positions and the defense doesn’t know where I’m going to be pre-snap could be huge for us and huge for the offense. And hopefully, I can make plays when my number is called.”
No. 86’s longest play of the day came midway through the third quarter when Wentz found him deep over the middle for 28 yards, setting up an eventual field goal from Jake Elliott to tie the game at 13-13.
After Indy’s Adam Vinatieri answered with a field goal to break the tie, the Eagles found themselves in need of a scoring drive, trailing 16-13 in the fourth quarter. Philadelphia responded with a methodical 17-play drive that chewed up over 11 minutes off the clock. And when Wendell Smallwood plunged into the end zone from four yards out, it gave Philadelphia a 20-16 lead with 3:02 to play. From there it was up to the Philly defense. Needing to prevent a touchdown to secure the win, the Eagles D rose to the challenge and stood tall.
The Colts worked their way down the field, even getting to within a few yards of the end zone, but as they got closer, the Philly defense tightened up and on 4th & 3 from the 4, Derek Barnett sacked Andrew Luck for a 16-yard loss to give the offense the ball back.
Indianapolis did manage to get one final possession with under 40 seconds remaining, but the Eagles did their job on defense once again, keeping everything in from of them to ensure the Colts could not reach the end zone, with a last second hail mary falling harmlessly incomplete to secure the victory for Philadelphia and move their record to 2-1 on the season.
In Week 4, the Eagles will travel to Nashville for a 1 pm ET kickoff against the Tennessee Titans. Philly will be looking to build on their victory over the Colts, with Wentz, who appears to be fully recovered from his injury, ready to continue tearing up defenses across the league.
“He hasn’t looked like a guy coming off knee surgery since OTAs. All Training Camp, he’s looked great,” Ertz said. “He’s put in a ton of work. I could kind of see the entire journey from a cool vantage point. And I’m just proud of him.”