With 10 catches, Zach Ertz gets some redemption after a trying week

With 10 catches, Zach Ertz gets some redemption after a trying week

Zach Ertz heard everything that was said about him last weekend. And he went into Sunday’s game against the Redskins determined to prove that the guy who avoided a block on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict isn’t the real Zach Ertz.

“I don’t know if my teammates felt that I let them down by any means, but I wanted to prove to them that I wasn’t going to let them down ever again,” Ertz said.

“Obviously, there was a lot of noise. I know that. Everybody knew that. I was just going to go out and try to be the best teammate that I could be. Being physical. Being physical after the catch. Being physical in the run game. And hopefully I did that for them.”

Ertz didn’t have a perfect game Sunday, but you can’t question his effort.

His illegal block in the back penalty — and it was a borderline call — wiped out a Darren Sproles punt return touchdown. And he said he could have gotten better position on a Carson Wentz pass in the first quarter that Deshazor Everett picked off in the end zone.

But Ertz had his biggest receiving day of the year, with 10 catches for 112 yards, and he did play tough, with yards after the catch and a couple big plays down the field.

It was a rough week for Ertz after the Burfict play went viral. His decision to avoid contact with Burfict on a Carson Wentz scramble was analyzed and dissected all week.

“I'm sure it probably affected him personally, and he wanted to sort of redeem (himself) and get back out on the field and do what he can do,” head coach Doug Pederson said.

“Obviously I thought he did a nice job. ... He really stepped up and did a nice job this week. He had a great week of practice.”

Ertz said he prayed a lot in the wake of the Bengals game and came into Sunday’s game against the Redskins with a clear mind.

“Everyone deals with adversity in different ways,” he said. “I am not going to let one play define my career — good or bad.

“Obviously there was a lot of hoopla surrounding that play last week and I just wanted to tell my teammates that I got their back regardless of what is going on, on the outside.

“I was focused on being the best tight end I could be today and being the best teammate I could be. I think I did that today.”

Ertz and Wentz got off to a slow start this year.

In his first five games — remember, he missed the Bears and Steelers games — Ertz had just 15 catches for 150 yards and no touchdowns.

In six games since, he has 42 catches for 414 yards and two TDs. Over the last six games, Ertz has the most catches in the NFL by a tight end and fifth-most overall.

“We are learning on the fly, just like all the skill guys,” Ertz said of his football relationship with Wentz. “We didn’t really get a lot of reps during the preseason so everything has been kind of building and building with a lot of the guys.

“Jordan (Matthews) has kind of picked his game up. Trey (Burton) has had a couple of great weeks. I thought I picked my game up and I think we are going to continue to build.

“Carson’s a heck of a talent and we have a lot of talent at the skill positions. The most important thing between a wide receiver (or) tight end and quarterback is the chemistry and having the trust to be where you are supposed to be when you’re supposed to be there and that just happens over time.

“People made a big deal that I wasn’t getting the ball at the beginning, but we are putting in the work each and every day.”

It’s kind of an odd statistical quirk that the five biggest games of Ertz’s career have come in December (or January).

Over the past three years, Ertz has the fourth-most December catches in the NFL (71), behind only Antonio Brown, Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham.

His 740 yards in 10 December games are ninth-most in the NFL since 2014 and most by any tight end.

You can chalk that up to Ertz's having to get used to a different quarterback every year. He’s in only his fourth year but has already played with Michael Vick, Nick Foles, Mark Sanchez, Sam Bradford and Wentz.

It seems like by the end of each season, Ertz has built up enough chemistry with his new quarterback to flourish.

“Opportunities,” Ertz said. “It’s hard to catch the ball when you have a couple targets. I was trying to get open to the best of my ability (earlier in the year), but December has kind of been the month where the hard work pays off.

“I work extremely hard to stay on top of my body throughout the year, and I don’t know if that has something to do with it or it’s just that we get in passing situations or what it is, but that’s just how it’s been the last couple years.”

The bottom line is that the Eagles haven’t reached the playoffs since Ertz’s rookie year, and they haven’t won a playoff game since 2008, when he was in high school.

The 27-22 loss to the Redskins Sunday at the Linc dropped the Eagles to 5-8 and left them one loss from a second straight losing season, something they haven’t had since 1997 and 1998.

“It’s tough,” Ertz said. “You play the game to get to the playoffs and give yourself a chance at the Super Bowl.

“That’s what the fans expet, that’s what the fans deserve. So every time you come up short it hurts. I kow it hurts them, but it hurts us even more.”

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Doug Pederson reveals his plan for Boston Scott

Can’t keep Boston Scott on the bench now.

After this?

Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said Tuesday that Scott, the Eagles’ speedy 5-foot-6 running back, earned a regular spot in the team’s running back rotation with his electrifying performance against the Giants.

Scott, forced into action in the second half as rookie Miles Sanders battled cramps, was nothing less than brilliant, turning 16 touches into 128 scrimmage yards and the touchdown that started the Eagles’ comeback.

Scott, who entered the game with only 99 career yards from scrimmage and one career catch, ran 10 times for 59 yards and caught six passes for 69 yards, including a 25-yarder down the right sideline in overtime that was one of the Eagles’ biggest plays this year.

His 128 scrimmage yards are the most by any Eagles running back since LeGarrette Blount had 156 against the Chargers in 2017.

Asked whether that performance earned Scott playing time even when — or if — the Eagles’ running backs are healthy, Pederson said:

Sure, (because of) where we are right now as a team, an offense (and) his performance and what we've seen in practice, too. Really, it goes all the way back to training camp and some of the preseason games where he played and showed some of that speed and quickness. I think he can really make an impact for us.

The Eagles signed Scott off the Saints’ practice squad late last year, but he didn’t play on offense. He started this year on the Eagles’ practice squad and was signed to the 53 when Corey Clement went on Injured Reserve in mid-October.

But the 24-year-old Scott didn’t play much until Monday night, when Sanders left the game in the third quarter with cramps.

The Eagles trailed 17-3 at halftime, but with Scott making play after play, they scored 20 unanswered points and won 23-17 in overtime to keep their playoff hopes alive.  

It was good to see Boston get in the game and do the things he did,” Pederson said. “It just gave us as an offense a change of pace. There’s a quickness there, and that's just Boston. It takes nothing away from the other guys. Something we'll continue to implement into our game plan and find ways to utilize him in the offense.

It took four running back injuries — Clement, Sproles, Jordan Howard and Sanders — for Scott to finally get a chance.

Why did it take the Eagles so long to recognize his ability and why did it take four injuries to get him on the field?

Valid questions.

But what’s important now is that Scott continues to have the chance to make plays like he made Monday.

He netted his 128 scrimmage yards on just 16 touches and had 122 of those yards after halftime.

He's the first Eagles running back with 128 yards on 16 or fewer touches since Sproles against the Colts in 2014 and only the eighth to do that in the last 40 years.

He also became the first Eagles running back with 122 scrimmage yards in a half since LeSean McCoy had 170 of his 221 in the second half of the Snow Bowl win over the Lions in 2013.

Pederson said Tuesday that Sanders is fine. His 69 scrimmage yards Monday night gave him 948 this year, which quietly broke McCoy’s franchise record for scrimmage yards by a rookie running back.

But Clement and Sproles are out for the year and Howard remains out indefinitely with a stinger. He hasn’t played since the Bears game on Nov. 3.

As of now, Sanders, Scott and Jay Ajayi are the Eagles’ healthy running backs, although Ajayi has not been productive since his return, with 30 rushing yards on 10 carries in three games. Once Scott started going off Monday night, Ajayi didn’t play.

Looking ahead, Sproles is expected to retire and Howard and Ajayi are due to become free agents.

Sanders is under contract through 2022, and the Eagles control Scott through 2021 and Clement through 2020.

So the reps are there for Scott if he continues to produce. Not just this year, but in the future as well.

After seeing him play Monday night, how can you not play the kid?

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Jason Peters had a message for his teammates before Eagles’ comeback

Jason Peters had a message for his teammates before Eagles’ comeback

As ESPN’s broadcast came back from a TV timeout in the third quarter on Monday night, it showed a graphic of the previous five Eagles’ drives.

It was ugly.

Each of those previous five drives had lasted just three plays for a total of 31 net yards. All ended in punts.

What the broadcast didn’t show was that in the offensive huddle before the drive that began with 7:07 remaining in the third quarter, 37-year-old future Hall of Famer Jason Peters gave an impassioned speech to his teammates.

“I just told them to empty the tank. Empty the tank,” Peters recalled in the wee hours Tuesday morning to a small group of reporters left in a locker room that had mostly emptied.

“We got two quarters or we’re going home early. The guys answered after I told them that. It’s either win tonight or be at home in three weeks. That was just plain and simple.”

The Eagles them promptly marched down the field 58 yards on 10 plays and punched in their first touchdown of the night. They scored the game’s last 20 points to pull out a win.

Peters said he had “no question” that his teammates would respond.

“I told Doug coming out of halftime, ‘Just stick with what you’re doing. We gonna win the game.’ And he did,” Peters said. “He called a great game. Every play was kind of clicking for us.”

The Eagles were trailing 17-3 at halftime but Peters said he actually felt like they were getting close to making plays. The Eagles were able to move the ball at times in the first half, which gave him confidence that they’d be able to turn things around.

In his 16th NFL season, Peters isn’t the All-Pro he once was. He gets beat occasionally and, although he played every snap on Monday, has had trouble staying healthy. And, yeah, those false starts — he has three this season — can be annoying.

But if there’s one thing we know about Peters, it’s this: When he talks, his teammates listen.

“I always speak up. I ain’t gotta be all in the media or all on TV,” Peters said. “I get our guys, I talk to them every day, in practice, in meetings. I ain’t no big-time rah, rah guy that have to get on television or nothing. I just pull my guys to the side and talk to them individually.”

The Eagles drafted Andre Dillard in the first round this spring to be Peters’ replacement. Peters is the second-oldest starting tackle in the NFL and is playing this season on a reworked one-year deal. We all kind of understand the situation.

We could be nearing the end of one of the greatest careers in Eagles history.

Maybe the Eagles have one more run in them before it’s over.

“We’re not in a bad spot,” Peters said. “We’re taking it one week at a time. This wasn’t our best performance. I’m glad we came back and won but we can’t do that against the good teams. We gotta start off hot. Hopefully … we got some people banged up, we get some people to step up. We go from there.”

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