Zach Ertz

Zach Ertz loves facing 'Skins and not just because of his crazy numbers

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USA Today Images

Zach Ertz loves facing 'Skins and not just because of his crazy numbers

Zach Ertz loves playing the Redskins. And not just because he's put up crazy numbers against them the last five years.

He just loves the rivalry.

"That's probably the one team it's the most fun to play against, in my opinion, because there's been so many great battles," Ertz said.

"Even though we've lost some of them, they're all very close games, and the fans are so close to one another that they really hate us and we really don't like them."

Ertz has 54 catches for 531 yards in nine career games against the Redskins. 

Only two tight ends in history — Jason Witten (125 in 28 games) and Jackie Smith (62 in 27 games) — have more career receptions against the 'Skins. And only two active players have more catches vs. the Redskins than Ertz: Witten and Dez Bryant (58 in 12 games).
 
"I just like going against the Redskins I guess," he said. "The opportunities have been there the last couple games. It's a fun environment.
  
"It's really just having my number called and making the most of my opportunities."

Ertz has been here for five years now. He's been on some good teams and he's been on some bad teams.
 
Six weeks into this season, there's one thing that sets this team apart.
 
"I think it's a loose group, honestly," he said. "We're all pretty young, and none of us have been in this situation before so we're all kind of taking it day by day and just enjoying it.
 
"That's the thing that's stuck out to me this year. In years past we've maybe been a little tight, but I feel like this group is real loose and confident in our abilities.
 
"I think we've got a lot of guys that love the process. I know it's cliche in this city, but a lot of guys truly do love it here."
 
The Eagles, 5-1 with a four-game winning streak, are the hottest team in the NFL going into their NFC East showdown with the 3-2 Redskins at the Linc Monday night.
 
Head coach Doug Pederson made some significant changes this year in the way the Eagles practice. In past years, the first-team offense rarely practiced against the starting defense. This year, they have, and it's helped.
 
"We have a lot of competitive periods during the season that we didn't have in past seasons, where it's the 1's against the 1's on third down emphasis or 1's vs. the 1's in red zone," Ertz said. "So I think we're doing a lot of good stuff. People are attacking each and every day."
 
With the Eagles' Super Bowl odds improving and their status on everybody's NFL rankings skyrocketing, a major theme in the locker room this week is ignoring the outside noise and focusing on a Redskins team that's won three of four games since losing the opener at home to the Eagles.
 
"We were 3-1 last year so obviously that didn't play out too well for us, and that's in the back of everyone's mind," Ertz said. "We started off fast and didn't make the playoffs.
 
"Luckily, it's Year 5 for me in this city and I've kind of been around and I know how it is. If you win, you're the best thing ever and if you lose, you're not very good quickly. So we're just focused on this game. 6-1 is a lot better than 5-2."

Eagles 28, Panthers 23: Studs, duds, turning point and more

Eagles 28, Panthers 23: Studs, duds, turning point and more

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Birds are for real. 

And after Thursday night, they're the best team in the NFC. 

The Eagles went on the road on a short week and took down a very good Panthers team led by a former MVP in a hostile Bank of America Stadium. They won, 28-23, and sent a bunch of Panthers fans home upset. 

Through six games, this is clearly the best win of the season so far for the Eagles. 

With the win, the Eagles are 5-1 and have the best record in the NFC. The Panthers fell to 4-2. 

Carson Wentz started off Thursday night a little shaky but really dialed in during the second half to help the Eagles come away with a W (see 10 observations)

And the Eagles' defense gave up some points but still did its job. Jim Schwartz's unit stopped the Panthers twice late in the fourth quarter when the home team had a chance to drive down the field and win. The last stop came on a 4th-and-1 from near midfield. 

Turning point 
Patrick Robinson's interception came off a tipped ball. He was somehow able to pull the ball in and give the Eagles the ball on the Panthers' 17-yard line. Wentz hit Zach Ertz for a touchdown and then the Eagles converted a two-point conversion to go up by eight. They never trailed again. 

Key stat
The Eagles were penalized 10 times for 126 yards, while the Panthers were hit with one flag for one yard. The 126 penalty yards are the most the Eagles have had in a game since 2007. But they overcame it (see Gunn's bullet points).

This was the first time in NFL history one team had over 120 penalty yards while the other had less than nine. 

Offensive stud
Wentz started off slow but ended up heating up in the second half some and did enough for the Eagles to win (see report card).

Ertz didn't have a volume game but got two more touchdowns and has tied his career high of four. And he's done it in the first six weeks of the season. 

Offensive dud
The Eagles need to get Lane Johnson back. While Halapoulivaati Vaitai settled down, he gave up an early sack to Julius Peppers and just simply isn't as good. 

Kenjon Barner also didn't have a very good game when he did get chances. 

Defensive stud
Fletcher Cox was back after missing two games and was a beast (see story). He's just clearly the Eagles' best defensive player and is an absolute game-wrecker. 

Nigel Bradham also had a nice game. He had a huge pass breakup and tackle for loss in the first half and continued his assault on the Panthers in the second (see story)

Robinson also had a few big plays, including his second-half INT. 

Defensive dud
Rasul Douglas was beaten on Newton's rushing touchdown and dropped what should have been an interception late in the fourth quarter (see rookie report).

Key plays
• The Eagles stopped the Panthers on a 4th-and-1 near midfield inside two minutes left to play to seal the win. 

• Newton and the Panthers were driving when the Eagles brought pressure and Newton sailed a ball. Jalen Mills came down with it. 

• The Eagles were called for a huge unnecessary roughness against Derek Barnett in the fourth quarter. There was a delay of game against the Panthers but Barnett came in and decked Newton. Apparently there either wasn't a whistle or he didn't hear it. 

The Panthers kept their drive alive and Newton hit Christian McCaffrey for a touchdown to cut into the Eagles' lead, 28-23. 

• Wentz found Nelson Agholor for a 24-yard touchdown across the middle to put the Eagles up, 28-16. Wentz made a couple beautiful plays on the drive to keep it going. 

• The Eagles and Panthers swapped a pair of field goals to make the score 21-16 in the third. 

• After Mills was flagged for a big defensive pass interference, the Eagles’ defense let the Panthers get down to its 5-yard line but held up and the Panthers settled for a 20-yard field goal to cut into the lead, 18-13. 

• Robinson made a spectacular interception on a third down to give the Eagles the ball on the Carolina 17-yard line. A few plays later, Wentz hit Ertz for a 17-yard touchdown to take a lead. 

After an illegal formation on the Panthers on an extra point, Doug Pederson decided to go for a two-point conversion and LeGarrette Blount punched it in to give the Eagles an 18-10 lead. 

• Cox and Brandon Graham met at the quarterback to bring down Newton for a seven-yard loss. That pretty much thwarted the Panthers' final drive of the first half and sent the game into the second half tied, 10-10. 

• After the Eagles got the ball on the Panthers' 12-yard line, they took seven plays and nearly four minutes, but finally got a touchdown to tie the game, 10-10, when Wentz hit Ertz in the back of the end zone. 

• Cox absolutely imposed his will on a third down in the second quarter. He put his man on roller skates, got a QB hit on Newton and forced the ball to flutter in the air. Douglas was there to pull it down for his second-career INT. It gave the Eagles the ball on the Panthers' 12-yard line. 

• Newton had a brilliant 16-yard rushing touchdown early in the second quarter to put the Panthers up, 10-3. The play fake worked and then Newton got Douglas all turned around. 

• Jordan Hicks had a big run stuff on 3rd-and-2 that forced the Panthers to kick a 39-yard field goal to tie the game, 3-3, instead of picking up the first down and possibly the lead. 

• Wentz hit Trey Burton for a third-down conversion on the Eagles' second drive of the game and Jake Elliott hit a 50-yard field goal to put the Eagles up, 3-0. It was Elliott's ninth straight make. 

• Peppers went around Vaitai to pick up a strip sack on the first drive of the game. Not a good start for "Big V" as Wentz fumbled the ball away. The Eagles' defense forced a quick three-and-out to pick up the offense. 

Injuries
Hicks left the game with an ankle injury and didn't return for the second half. He had an ankle injury earlier this season; he left the Giants game at halftime. Joe Walker took over at the middle linebacker spot. 

Bradham left the game in the third quarter after making a tackle but returned later in the third. Graham (shoulder) left briefly, too, but also returned. 

Chris Maragos (knee) left the game late.

Johnson (concussion) and Wendell Smallwood (knee) both missed Thursday's game. They'll have some extra days to heal thanks to playing on Thursday night. 

Up next
The Eagles have a long layoff before hosting Washington on Monday Night Football on Oct. 23 at the Linc.

Eagles-Panthers: Roob's 10 observations

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Eagles-Panthers: Roob's 10 observations

BOX SCORE

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Eagles are the best team in the NFC.

They just went into Bank of America Stadium and beat a playoff-savvy 4-1 Panthers team on national TV. That's four wins in a row, that's a 5-1 record, that's an elite team that you watched Thursday night.

So no more talk about who they've played or haven't played. You wanted a signature win? You got one. 

The Eagles have arrived.

The Eagles got another magical performance from Carson Wentz, intercepted Cam Newton three times, shut down the Panthers' rushing attack and got out of town with a 28-23 win (see breakdown).

What a great night for 10 instant observations!

1. Wentz took such a beating Thursday night, especially in the first half, that for him to come out in the second half and make the throws he did is nothing short of astonishing. Wentz got hit snap after snap. He was sacked three times early. When he ran, he got clobbered. The Eagles missed Lane Johnson big time. A lot of quarterbacks can put up big numbers when they have great protection and they can just stand back there and find the open guy and fire away. What Wentz did Thursday night is just remarkable. To get leveled that many times early and just shake it off and pick apart the No. 9-ranked pass defense in the NFL in a deafening stadium on the road on national TV on a short week … just scary what this kid is doing now just 22 games into his NFL career. Wentz threw 16 touchdowns in 16 games last year. He already has 13 in six games, seven in his last two. His TD-to-INT ratio is now 13 to 3. The kid is flat-out money. There isn't a player in the NFL I'd rather have. Nobody.

2. How much fun is it watching the Eagles' run defense? Goodness gracious. Sound in its gaps, physical, swarm to the ball and sure tacklers. That's a very potent combination, and it's no surprise only one running back has rushed for over 35 yards against the Eagles this year — Rookie of the Year candidate Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs. Getting Fletcher Cox back was huge (see story), but even when Cox was out, the Eagles were stout against the run, which is impressive. What an advantage forcing teams to play left-handed all the time. Newton ran for 71 yards Thursday night, but just talking running backs, the Panthers got one yard on 13 carries Thursday. That's less than three inches per carry. As long as the Eagles keep running the ball and stopping the run, they're going to be almost impossible to beat.

3. Huge moment in this one for me was the goal-line stand early in the third quarter. The Panthers had a 1st-and-goal on the Eagles' 5-yard line, but tremendous pressure forced Newton into back-to-back incomplete passes and then Nigel Bradham made something like his 587th big play of the night, stopping Christian McCaffrey short of the goal line, and the Panthers had to settle for a field goal. It was a huge momentum swing, and although the Panthers stayed in the game, they never recovered.

4. Speaking of Bradham, he played out of his mind in this one (see story). He threw Jonathan Stewart for a six-yard loss, he knocked down three passes, he had 10 tackles, he was all over the field. Really tremendous play by the veteran linebacker, especially after the Eagles lost Jordan Hicks to another ankle injury. Bradham is your Defensive Player of the Game.

5. Let's put Jake Elliott's achievements into some perspective: David Akers is the greatest kicker in Eagles history and is even going into the Eagles Hall of Fame later this season. He never made three 50-yard field goals in a season with the Eagles. Elliott has played five games in his career and has already made three field goals of 50 yards or more. In fact, only six kickers in history have made more 50-yarders in an Eagles uniform than Elliott has in five games. Elliott added a 48-yarder later in the game and will take a streak of 10 consecutive made field goals into the Monday night game into Washington. To think that they flat-out stole this kid from the Bengals' practice squad is incredible. Oh, and Randy Bullock? The kicker the Bengals kept instead of Elliott? His last 50-yarder was in 2014.

6. Let's talk about LeGarrette Blount. Are you kidding me? What he's been able to do in these last four games since his mysterious zero-carry game against the Chiefs is virtually unprecedented in NFL history. Blount ran 14 times for 67 yards Sunday — I wish that 14 were closer to 20 — and he's now put together four straight games with 12 or more carries and an average of 4.8 or higher. He's only the second player in NFL history in his 30s with four straight games with at least a dozen carries and an average that high. The only other one was James Brooks of the Bengals in 1989. Blount has a really unique combination of power and moves and balance and vision. He's a different kind of runner, but, man, he's fun to watch. I had no idea how good he was. I don't think anybody did. He's been dazzling.

7. I should have mentioned higher up what an incredible job Doug Pederson is doing with this team. The Eagles have scored at least 20 points in every game this year and, in fact, in 10 straight games going back to last year, which is the fourth-longest streak in franchise history. The Eagles are rolling on both sides of the ball and special teams, and Pederson deserves a world of credit with the way he has this group playing. He's not only in the Coach of the Year conversation, I'd say he's the leader with 2½ months to go.

8. Rasul Douglas makes mistakes. All rookie cornerbacks make mistakes. But I really see something special there. He picked up his second interception Thursday night (see rookie report), and he's the first Eagles cornerback with two INTs in his first five career games since Eric Allen. I have no idea what the Eagles are going to do once Sidney Jones is back and Ronald Darby is back, but they have some really talented young corners. 

9. And let's not forget Jalen Mills, who picked up his second interception as well Thursday night. Douglas is 22, Mills is 23. They have four interceptions, and it's Week 6. The smartest thing the Eagles did this offseason was finally go young at cornerback. 

10. I never complain about officiating. Ever. But 10 penalties for 126 yards against the Eagles and one penalty for one yard against the Panthers is hard to believe (see Gunn's bullet points). According to Pro Football Reference, this was only the third game since penalty yards started being tracked in which one team had at least 100 penalty yards and another had one or fewer. That's outrageous. For the Eagles to overcome that, as well as everything else they were up against, shows just how far this team has come.