Zach Ertz and Alshon Jeffery couldn’t avoid getting caught up in the Carson Wentz-Nick Foles drama, spurred by the Eagles’ 30-23 victory Sunday over the Rams.
Ertz, you might have heard, is chasing Jason Witten’s all-time NFL tight end record of 110 catches in a season. He caught only three passes, on seven targets, for just 22 yards against the Rams, leaving him with 101 for 1,038 yards this season, with two games remaining.
Jeffery caught eight passes on eight targets, for 160 yards. That’s the most yardage Jeffery has accumulated in a game in two seasons as an Eagle.
To some fans, especially those who might think Wentz looks too much to his tight end, this seemed like an indication that Foles has a different focus. But is eight targets that much more than seven? If there is a difference, it might be that the bond between Wentz and Ertz is so tight – they have said they see the game the same way – that they rarely miss on a connection. This was the first time all season that Ertz caught fewer than half his targets.
Foles missed Ertz, who was wide-open in the end zone behind Aqib Talib for a touchdown, with 12 minutes and 10 seconds left in the second quarter. The next play, Foles threw to Ertz again, this time in the back of the end zone, but John Johnson pried the ball out of Ertz’s grip, leading to a 34-yard Jake Elliott field goal.
On Foles’ only interception, he seemed to throw a bit behind Ertz, the ball picked by Talib.
“I would say it was more defensive game planning. They made a heck of an effort to try and limit me in the game,” Ertz said. “Third down, a lot of double teams, red zone, a lot of double teams. When that happens, whether they’re double teaming me or they’re double teaming Alshon, one of us is going to have a great matchup. … Alshon freaking put on a show tonight.”
Ertz said this game looked so different for the Eagles offense mainly because they were “playing with a lead, able to run the ball, able to take our shots when we wanted to.”
Ertz wasn’t the only receiver who didn’t prosper Sunday night. Foles was 13-for-13 for 203 yards on passes to Jeffery and Golden Tate, 11-for-18 for 67 yards and a pick to the other half-dozen receivers he targeted.
There is probably a point to be made that Foles throws a higher, softer ball that sometimes plays more to Jeffery’s strengths -- hanging it up there and letting the man with the incredible catch radius climb the ladder. But Ertz caught a lot of passes from Foles last year after Wentz went down -- in the playoffs, 18 of them for 192 yards in three games, including one fairly important touchdown in the Super Bowl, if memory serves.
Also, one would think that if Wentz ever saw both Jeffery and Nelson Agholor running behind the defense, as was the case on the 50-yard third-quarter moon-ball Foles threw that Jeffery caught Sunday night, he would have looked away from Ertz and taken that shot as well. But we’ll never really know.
Avonte Maddox’s strong return from his knee and ankle injuries began on the very first Rams pass of the evening, when Maddox broke up a third-and-11 throw to Josh Reynolds on the right sideline, and it ended on the game’s final play, with Maddox again blanketing Reynolds, in the end zone. Doug Pederson gave the rookie props at Pederson’s Monday news conference: "He’s been a real consistent, consistent player for us, outside of the injury and the setback … and he’s played multiple positions, which means he’s a highly intellectual guy that understands scheme. He’s a young player that’s just going to continue to get better. Really excited for him last night to get in there and make the plays he did. The interception was a thing of beauty, and then of course, the end of the game, to be in that position to sort of contest that throw.”
The Eagles’ guards and center did an excellent job on impending NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald, who had one solo tackle, one assisted tackle, and one quarterback hit to show for playing all 61 Rams defensive snaps. “A lot of slide protection and a lot of double teams,” Donald said afterward. “They controlled the game.”
The two guys the Eagles brought onto the roster last week, defensive end Daeshon Hall and former practice-squad linebacker B.J. Bello, made their Eagles debuts. Hall got nine snaps in the defense, 14 on special teams. Bello just played the 14 special teams snaps.
Five snaps and no targets for Jordan Matthews. Dunno what that’s about.
It’s great to see Darren Sproles healthy and productive after such a long time on the shelf. Sproles ran three times for 30 yards Sunday, caught three passes for 16 yards, and returned a punt 13 yards. He played 20 snaps on offense. This week’s game against Houston will be his fourth in a row after finally vanquishing that hamstring problem, the first time Sproles has been able to play that much since 2016.
Jake Elliott thought his 53-yard late-fourth-quarter miss was long enough but just off to the right. From the press box it seemed it might have been a little short, as well. At any rate, Elliott, who had hit from 51 early in the game going in the other direction, said the missed kick was just “a little bit off the toe” instead of the instep. “Tough kick, but just hit it a little bit off the toe. Hit the ball really well, unfortunately, just didn’t get that one through," he said.
Twenty-one of Todd Gurley’s 48 rushing yards came on one second-quarter play.
That Carson Wentz could have a better night than Jared Goff, while standing on the sideline dressed in warm-ups?
Cam Johnston punted three times with a 51.7-yard gross and a 52.3-yard net, which you don’t see every day, but then you don’t often see a returner run backwards and fumble every day, the way JoJo Natson did for the Rams.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum opened in 1923 and lacks private boxes. Howie Long, Hall of Famer, Fox NFL analyst and father of Eagles defensive end Chris Long, wanted to watch in person Sunday night, which would be hard to do from the stands without interruption. So he got a sideline pass, which was something Chris said he appreciated.
“We don’t get to see each other most game days – he’s working, I’m working. When we do get an opportunity, It’s cool,” Chris Long said.
Chris said they didn’t talk extensively until after the game, but one time he "did send somebody to ask him, 'What did you see?’” on a specific play.
Get insights on the Eagles delivered straight to your inbox with Early Birds, beat writer Zach Berman’s newsletter for Eagles fans. Click here to sign up.
Our mission is to provide top-notch coverage for the best fans in sports. We can’t do it without your support. Join us: philly.com/birds