Entering the 2019 NFL regular season, Zach Ertz and the Philadelphia Eagles had high expectations for the team, with their sights set on the playoffs for a third straight year and an opportunity to compete for another Super Bowl title. With the high hopes of the season ahead mixed with the excitement of a season-opening game against a divisional opponent at Lincoln Financial Field, emotions were undoubtedly running high throughout the entire locker room.
Despite giving Washington a sizable advantage early in the game, the Eagles drew on their experience and playmaking ability to rally for a 32-27 victory at home to open the season on the right track.
A fast start to the season goes a long way towards the playoff picture come December, but for Philadelphia on Sunday, they found themselves trailing the Washington Redskins 20-7 at halftime. While the panic button could have been pressed by other teams, Zach and this experienced Eagles’ team knew they were never out of it and came out firing in the second half.
“Everyone just stayed true to who we are, and I think we knew at the end of the game it was going to be a W for us,” Ertz said.
The Eagles boast so many weapons in the passing attack this season, but the return of a familiar speedster in DeSean Jackson to Philly changed the complexion of this contest in the third quarter.
Jackson already had made his presence felt in the first half on a 51-yard touchdown reception from Carson Wentz to get the Eagles on the board and cut the Washington lead to 17-7.
After a time-consuming opening drive that resulted in an Alshon Jeffery score on the 12th play of a 75-yard series to start the third quarter, Jackson flipped the game on its head with yet another game-breaking play, this time a 53-yard strike from Wentz to put the Eagles on top 21-20.
The downfield plays that Jackson brings to the table with his game-changing speed adds a new dimension to an already potent Eagles passing attack, and as the season progresses, defenses will have to decide if they want to provide more help over the top against Jackson or protect the middle of the field against the rest of Philly’s weapons, including Ertz, Jeffery, Dallas Goedert and Nelson Agholor.
“It allows us to be explosive,” Ertz said. “We haven’t had a guy like that since he left. To know that each and every time you line up as an offense the next play could be a touchdown, it’s huge. The safeties have got to back up a little bit, there should be more space in the middle of the field, which is huge for some of the rest of us, and if they’re going to do that, it’s kind of pick your poison.”
Jackson’s two big plays changed the game, but the Eagles also boasted their depth in the passing attack, with Wentz completing passes to eight different players in Week 1. Ertz turned his opportunities in 54 yards on five receptions, and Jeffery added 49 yards and his touchdown.
After Jackson’s score the Eagles pulled away, never relinquishing the lead for the remainder of the game. Early in the fourth quarter, Jeffery scored from two yards out on a backwards screen pass that put the eagles up 29-20 after a Darren Sproles two-point conversion. With just over three minutes remaining Jake Elliott knocked in a field goal to extend the lead to 32-20.
Philly went on to win the game 32-27 after a late Redskins touchdown, and ultimately Zach and his teammates were glad to start the season off right with a win, even if the first half didn’t go quite as they had planned.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve played a football game, and to get to go out here, home game, start the year against a divisional opponent and win the football game,” Ertz said. “That’s the goal each and every week we step on the field, and to come in here, face a little adversity at the beginning of the game, not start as fast as we would have liked, but to come out of here with the win is huge.”