ATLANTA — Zach Ertz was so close and that’s what made it hurt even worse.
The Eagles’ Pro Bowl tight end was visibly upset after the Eagles’ heartbreaking 24-20 loss to the Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Sunday night. The Eagles went to him on fourth down from the Atlanta 16-yard line with just 38 seconds left in a one-score game.
The Eagles needed 8 yards.
Ertz got them 7 1/2.
“I’m an emotional player and I feel like I kind of let my team down at the end,” Ertz said. “I tried my best and we were so close. And it’s going to hurt for a while. But I’ll be better.”
Like Ertz, receiver Nelson Agholor also had a huge missed opportunity late in Sunday night’s game. Earlier on that final drive, Carson Wentz hit him with a beautiful deep strike down the left sideline that would have likely gone for a 60-yard touchdown.
Agholor just dropped it.
He lost the ball in the lights.
“Yeah, but I still gotta make that play,” Agholor said. “It’s something that we prepared for in pregame. We were trying to track it in the light, make sure we knew how to track it. I gotta find a way to catch it all. Remember where it’s going to be and look it all the way in.”
The Eagles, of course, didn’t lose on Sunday Night Football because of the drop by Agholor or because Ertz didn’t go a half yard deeper on his route. They just hurt so much because after all the Eagles had gone through in this game, those two plays represented a chance for them to escape from Atlanta with an unlikely and hard-fought win. And it didn’t happen.
A few years ago, when Agholor’s confidence waned, a drop like that might have sent him into a downward spiral. After Sunday’s game, he said, “That’s behind me. One hundred percent.”
At least for Agholor, he found a little bit of redemption. Several plays after his drop, he caught a 43-yard pass on 4th-and-14 to keep the drive and hope alive. He leaped up in traffic and hauled in a pass. Agholor said he could walk away from Atlanta after making a play on the last target his way.
Ertz didn’t get that chance. His last play left a sour taste.
“It’s hard to not focus on that one play,” he said. “It’s the most recent play. It’ll be playing in my head a little bit the next couple days. Once I get back to work … I’m excited to get back to work.”
Wentz said it’s important to let his receivers and tight ends know that even if they make a mistake, he’ll go right back to them. That’s exactly what happened with Agholor. And if the game kept going, he would have gone back to Ertz, too.
In the end, Agholor and Ertz put together good games on the stat sheet:
Agholor: 8 catches, 107 yards, 1 TD
Ertz: 8 catches, 72 yards
But it’s the plays they didn’t make that will probably stick with them for a while.
What’s the best way for them to get past this?
“Just getting back to work,” Ertz said. “That’s the best way to get over something in this game, is just to get back to work and I’m looking forward to Wednesday. Thursday is when I start feeling better. And then get ready for Detroit.
“We’re 1-1 right now. We’ve been 1-1 unfortunately multiple times in the last couple of years. The season’s not over. We played a really good team at home on Sunday Night Football and came up short. We’ll be better for this.”
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