Over the last four years, Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz has established himself as one of the best tight ends in football. In 2018, No. 86 had his best season to date, setting career highs in receptions and yards while matching his eight touchdowns from 2017.
To begin the season, Zach and the Eagles kicked off against the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL season opener. In a close game, the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles won the game 18-12. Ertz was targeted 10 times, pulling in five catches for 48 yards.
Ertz was targeted 10 times or more in the first five games of the season, pulling in double-digit catches in three of them. The tight end started out the season picking up right where he left off a season prior.
In Week 2, the Eagles headed to Tampa Bay to take on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Unfortunately for the Eagles, magic was in the air for the Bucs. This was during Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hot start to the season, coined “Fitzmagic.” Fitzpatrick threw for 402 yards, four touchdowns and only one interception, defeating the Eagles 27-21. This did not stop Ertz, though, from a stellar performance. Ertz caught 11 passes for 94 yards in the loss.
Zach’s first two 100-yard receiving games came in back-to-back weeks against the Tennessee Titans and then the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 4, the Titans came to Lincoln Financial Field to take on the defending Super Bowl champions. Ertz and wide receiver Alshon Jeffery took control of the passing game with 112 and 105 yards respectively. The Titans scored first, leading the game 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.
By the end of the half, the Eagles were up 10-3 and carried the momentum into halftime. The game remained tight throughout, eventually heading to overtime with the score knotted at 20 at the end of regulation. The Titans edged the Eagles in overtime 26-23.
The following week against Minnesota, Zach scored his first of eight touchdowns in 2018. Again, he led the team in receiving with 10 receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown. The Eagles started slow, but they rallied late in a comeback effort, but Philly ultimately fell 23-21 to Minnesota.
Philly had more questions than answers early in the season. The Eagles opened up the 2018 season 2-3 just after winning their first Super Bowl. Although some individual performers were playing well in spurts, the team as a whole was just a bit out of sync.
Over the next five weeks, the Eagles repeated the same pattern as the previous five weeks. The Eagles would look like a dominant force in some weeks, and in other weeks they would struggle. The beginning of the season was tough for Philly, but they knew what it took to win a Super Bowl, and they knew what they had to do to make it into the playoffs.
Over the next five games, Ertz caught 36 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns. Two of Ertz’s best games of the season came during this stretch.
In Week 7, the Carolina Panthers took a trip to the Linc. The Eagles played one of their best defensive games of the season, holding the Panthers to zero points through the first three quarters. Meanwhile, Eagles offensive coordinator Mike Groh unleashed Ertz all over the field. No. 86 compiled 138 yards on nine receptions. However, Philadelphia couldn’t hold onto their lead in the fourth quarter. The Panthers came back to win the game 21-17 over Philly, and the Eagles moved to 3-4.
Moving into November, the Eagles hosted their NFC East rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, on Nov. 11. The Eagles had faced their hardships throughout the season, but there is nothing like an Eagles-Cowboys divisional game. Carson Wentz threw for 360 yards, two touchdowns and one pick. He finished the game with a 102.5 rating and found Ertz numerous times throughout the contest.
Zach caught 14 of 16 targets for 145 yards and two scores. Ertz’s first touchdown of the game came courtesy of Wentz on a 15-yard pass on first down. The score tied the Eagles and Cowboys at 13-13.
The Cowboys responded on the following drive with a Prescott touchdown pass to running back Ezekiel Elliott. Then, Philly’s offense marched 74 yards downfield in seven plays to cap the drive off with another Ertz TD from one yard out. The Eagles and Cowboys were tied at 20-20. Dallas scored one more time, and they were able to hold the Eagles out of the end zone to win the game 27-20.
Philly found their rhythm starting in Week 12 against the Giants. If the Eagles were to make the playoffs and defend their Super Bowl title, they would need to finish the season strong, stringing together multiple wins. Sure enough, the Eagles turned it on at just the right time. They went 5-1 to finish the regular season, picking up wins against the Giants, Redskins (twice), Rams and Texans.
Before the Week 15 matchup between the Rams and the Eagles, head coach Doug Pederson decided to shut down Wentz due to injury. Second-string quarterback Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to their first Super Bowl win a year ago was back under center. Foles won three straight games as the Eagles’ starter to end the season and get Philadelphia into a Wild Card spot.
Ertz finished the regular season second in receptions among all receivers in the NFL. Only Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas had more. Ertz had 116 receptions, which broke Jason Witten’s record by a tight end in a single season. No. 86 racked up 1,163 receiving yards, eight touchdowns and was elected to his second-straight Pro Bowl.
And most importantly, the season wasn’t over. The Eagles had made the playoffs and were preparing for a trip to the Windy City to take on the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field.
The Eagles entered the game as underdogs, but they had been in that role before and won a Super Bowl with Nick Foles under center.
Ertz caught five passes from Foles for 52 yards during the game and a couple for clutch first downs. Ertz had been a first down magnet all season-long, especially on third downs. No. 86 had 17 third down catches for first downs during the regular season, which ranked 14th in the NFL. Eagles wide receiver Golden Tate caught a touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter to give the Eagles a one-point lead 16-15.
Tarik Cohen took the ensuing kickoff out to the Chicago 42-yard line for the Bears. With 10 seconds left, Chicago’s kicker Cody Parkey attempted a 43-yard field goal that would’ve won the game. It soared left and hit the upright twice before bouncing out back into the end zone, giving the Eagles the 16-15 win.
The following week, Ertz and the Eagles headed to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to face the top-seeded New Orleans Saints. Philly took the early lead, scoring 14 points in the first quarter and held the lead 14-10 at the end of the first half.
Unfortunately, the Saints stormed back and won the game 20-14, ending the Eagles’ season in the NFC Divisional Round.
While the Eagles were unable to repeat as champions, a lot of good came from the 2018 season, particularly what the Eagles learned about their team. This team has a lot of fight, displaying it over the final month and a half of the season to even make the playoffs. They could’ve folded and began thinking about next year, but they battled and competed every day to get back to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they came up just short of another Super Bowl, but there is plenty to build on for a run at it next year.