The Zach Ertz-Carson Wentz connection continued to thrive on Sunday, but it wasn’t enough to push the Philadelphia Eagles to their first road win of the year.
Zach led the Eagles in receiving yards for the fourth consecutive week, but unlike last week’s win over Indianapolis, Philadelphia couldn’t secure the game in the late stages. After taking a 17-3 lead early in the second half, the Philly offense stalled and the Titans scored 17 unanswered points to pull ahead. A last-second field goal by Philly’s Jake Elliott tied it, and Elliott added another to start OT, but Tennessee marched down the field in response and scored a touchdown to win 26-23 and push the Eagles to 2-2 on the season.
It was an uncharacteristic loss for the Eagles, who grew accustomed to finishing off opponents when they built big first half leads last season. But Zach knows his team can still get back to that moving forward this season.
“We’re the ones usually making the plays at the end to win the game, but it didn’t happen this time,” Ertz said. “It’s very disappointing. We’re 2-2. It’s not the end of the world. We have to bounce back from this and get back to putting teams away when we have the chance. We’ve got a lot of season left in us and we have some work to do.”
The game got off to a plodding start for the Eagles, who surrendered a first drive field goal to Tennessee to go behind 3-0 early and had the game stay that way for most of the first half. But once Philly got their feet under them late in the second quarter, they started to roll.
Though the Eagles couldn’t score until the late stages of the second frame, No. 86 had a big first half, which included eight catches for 83 yards. None of those grabs was bigger than his 10-yard reception on third down deep in Eagles territory with 5:30 remaining in the half, to keep the chains moving. Wentz went right back to Zach on the next play tacking on another 13 yards as Philadelphia advanced toward midfield. Those back-to-back plays in the middle of the field helped Wentz get comfortable and set up a big one to follow.
On 1st & 10 from the Philly 44, with just over four minutes left in the half, Wentz hooked up with Jordan Matthews for a 56-yard touchdown to get the Eagles on the board and take a 7-3 lead. After an Avonte Maddox interception in the final minute of the half, Philly tacked on a Jake Elliott field goal to take a 10-3 lead and control of the game into the locker room.
The Eagles received the ball to start the third quarter, and didn’t waste the opportunity to take a commanding lead. Wentz found Ertz again early in the drive to pick up 24 yards and move the ball into Titans’ territory. Philly drove down the field methodically from there, bleeding time off the clock, and the successful start to the second half was capped off by a 16-yard Alshon Jeffery touchdown that put the Eagles in complete control, up 17-3 halfway through the third frame.
Philadelphia seemed to have finally found a rhythm and was playing like the defending Super Bowl champions. But following that great drive to begin the second half, the Titans defense found a solution to their problem with Philly’s offense, most notably containing Zach to just one more catch over the final 30-plus minutes of action.
And as the Eagles offense stalled, Tennessee worked its way back into the game. A two-yard TD run by Marcus Mariota late in the third cut the Philly lead in half and after an Eagles turnover early in the fourth led to a Tennessee field goal, the Titans were right back in the game.
The Eagles offense still couldn’t get untracked on their subsequent drive and the Titans didn’t waste their momentum either. They began their next drive with a huge 51-yard pass play from Mariota to Corey Davis and four plays later Mariota connected with Tajae Sharpe for an 11-yard touchdown that put Tennessee back in front by a score of 20-17 with just over five minutes to play.
The teams traded punts from there, leaving the Eagles with one more chance in regulation when they received the ball with 1:41 to play.
Wentz and the Eagles offense didn’t panic and methodically moved into field goal range. The first pass on that drive went to Zach, his first catch on just his second target since early in the third quarter. Shortly thereafter, Elliott drilled another field goal to send the game to overtime tied at 20.
The Eagles started the extra session with the ball and drove down into the redzone, but they couldn’t finish the game with a touchdown, instead settling for a 37-yard Elliott field goal, putting Tennessee’s back against the wall, in need of at least a field goal to keep the game alive. But the Titans did one better. Over the next six minutes, the Titans embarked on a methodical 17-play drive.
Still, it appeared as though, the Eagles might hold and force the game-tying field goal, when they had Tennessee in a 3rd & 10 from the 10 with 17 seconds left. But Mariota found Davis in the end zone for the score to send Tennessee to the victory.
There were some bright spots for the Eagles during this game, including the return of Alshon Jeffery and the play of Jordan Matthews. And ZE, who finished Sunday’s contest with 10 receptions for 112 yards, recorded double-digit receptions for the second time in four games this season, bringing his season total to 31 catches, which is tied with Odell Beckham Jr for fourth-most in the NFL, and is tops among tight ends.
Zach Ertz leads all @NFL TEs with 31 receptions this season. Since 1999, only three TEs have recorded that many catches through 4 games:
33 – Antonio Gates (2007)
32 – Jimmy Graham (2014)
31 – Zach Ertz (2018)#FlyEaglesFly
— John Gonoude (@john_gonoude) October 1, 2018
Zach Ertz had his sixth career 10+ catch, 100+yard performance yesterday. Only five players have had more since Ertz came in the league: Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, A.J. Green and OBJ. #Eagles
— Dave Zangaro (@DZangaroNBCS) October 1, 2018
But too many mistakes, drops and penalties cost the Eagles their lead and the game against the Titans, and Philly lamented the missed opportunity to move to 3-1 after the game.
“It’s frustrating obviously to come up short, especially as an offense when we had chances,” Wentz said. “We had chances to finish in the end zone at the end of the game, finish in the end zone in overtime, and we just didn’t finish in the red zone the way we wanted to. We just didn’t finish as an offense and as a team either.”
With their quarterback and their top offensive pieces all back in the lineup, the Eagles have room to grow and improve, but they’ll have to do it quick as their mettle will once again be tested next Sunday by a tough opponent when the Minnesota Vikings come to Lincoln Financial Field. The Vikings (1-3) will be looking to avenge their NFC Championship game loss in Philly last December, now led by a familiar face to the Eagles, former division rival Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins, who sports a 4-3 lifetime record against Philly, though that includes two losses last season. Kickoff from The Linc is slated for 4:25 PM ET and the game can be seen on FOX.