Well, that was a weird one.
The Eagles seemed to be en route to a dramatic come-from-behind win against their cross-Pennsylvania rivals, until the gears ground to a halt and they lost, 38-29, despite a pretty entertaining back-and-forth game.
Here are three overreactions from the Birds' third loss of the year... except they might not be overreactions:
1. This game shows the Eagles can hang with good teams
The Eagles entered this game at 1-2-1, while the Steelers entered 3-0. With three minutes to play, the Eagles trailed by two points. The fact that they lost this game, when it was entirely winnable, isn't ideal - you need to win games when they're close late - but they were in a tight game against a good team, which is progress, right?
The Steelers have made a business this season of beating average-to-bad teams in games that are closer than they should be. Pittsburgh had an unexpected bye week, which could throw their rhythm off, but which should also have them more prepared than usual for an opponent like the Eagles.
I'm not convinced the Steelers are a truly good team. The vaunted defense couldn't keep a lid on Travis Fulgham (more on him later) or consistently disrupt Carson Wentz despite playing against a very banged-up and inexperienced offensive line. Wentz played, statistically, his best game of the year on Sunday.
The Pittsburgh offense also benefitted greatly from an Eagles team that simply can't cover talented pass-catchers like Chase Claypool, who inexplicably found himself covered by Nate Gerry on the most crucial play of the game. That's not the Steelers excelling; it's Jim Schwartz and the Eagles failing.
The fact of the matter, ultimately, is that the Eagles are 1-3-1 and they have another good team coming up next week in Baltimore. They need to win games, not just hang with teams, good or otherwise.
2. Zach Ertz isn't a Top 5 tight end anymore
Here are seven tight ends I'd absolutely take over Zach Ertz right now:
- George Kittle
- Travis Kelce
- Darren Waller
- Mark Andrews
- Hunter Henry
- Hayden Hurst
- Dallas Goedert
I'd also think about taking Noah Fant and Mike Gesicki.
Ertz simply hasn't looked like a useful pass-catching tight end this season. He's never been an athletic specimen, but throughout his career he's been a route-running savant who is always in the right spot when his quarterback needs him. Instead, this year Ertz and Carson Wentz have failed to get on the page numerous times, including more than once on Sunday. This week the disconnect - and Ertz's inability to get to the right spot on time - resulted in an interception. He's not doing the things that made him a reliable option.
He's also looked a step slower on most routes this season, something reinforced by this discouraging trend:
Adding a loss of athleticism to a loss of fundamentals, and you're looking at a serious problem.
Ertz, who turns 30 next month, now has 20 catches for 145 yards and a touchdown through five weeks, including just five catches for 15 yards in the last two weeks combined. Those numbers would be even lower if Dallas Geodert hadn't suffered an injury.
Goedert is the future of the tight end position for the Eagles, and unless Ertz shows us something soon, I wouldn't hesitate to hit fast-forward on that plan as soon as next year.
3. Travis Fulgham is a legit NFL wide receiver
With a slew of injuries to guys like Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, and Jalen Reagor, it was hard to get excited about any of the guys the Eagles lined up at wide receiver this week.
A loss is a loss, but Travis Fulgham put up a game for the record books on Sunday, catching 10 balls for 152 yards and a touchdown. It was the kind of game you remember for a long time, where a guy lodges his name in a fanbase's lore for the forseeable future.
Fulgham, a sixth-round pick last year who didn't have a career catch when the Eagles signed him earlier this year, is now the Eagles' best wide receiver option after five weeks.
And it wasn't just dink-and-dunk accumulation, either: Fulgham made contested catches, got open against a great defense, and caught clutch third-down pass after clutch third-down pass. He's 25 years old, he has solid size at 6-2, 215 pounds, and he's suddenly the most exciting part of the Birds' offense.
Oh, and here's a factoid from NBC Sports Philadelphia's Reuben Frank to make you think about the way the Eagles find their wide receivers:
What is happening? I'm not sure, but it's fun. Fulgham fever forever.