When Golden Tate was traded to the Eagles in late October, learning a new offense seven games into the season was only half the battle for the 30-year-old wide receiver.
He also had to get used to a new quarterback, and the quarterback had to get used to him, which, even under the best of circumstances, isn’t something that happens overnight. And the middle of the season isn’t the best of circumstances.
“Absolutely,’’ Tate said. “Especially when you don’t have April, May, June, and training camp’’ to help do that.
“I forgot what it was like, because I was in Seattle for four years, [including the last two with Russell Wilson] and in Detroit [with Matthew Stafford] for 4 ½ years. Things just kind of came natural. Things that [with the Eagles] you have to go back and talk about and work through things."
Tate still has a ways to go before he develops the kind of chemistry with Carson Wentz that he had with Wilson and Stafford or that finish-each-other’s-sentences thing that Wentz has going on with Zach Ertz.
But he’s getting there. Tate took a giant step toward oneness with Wentz in Monday night’s 28-13 win over the Redskins at the Linc.
He was targeted seven times and caught seven passes for 85 yards and his first touchdown as an Eagle. Four of his seven catches produced first downs. Two, including his 6-yard touchdown catch on the Eagles’ first possession, came on scramble plays in which Tate broke free and Wentz found him.
The nine-year veteran used a word to describe Monday night’s performance in the must-win game that you won’t hear many players use to describe three hours of controlled violence.
“Tonight just felt really organic,’’ Tate said. “We went out there and played ball. I didn’t think anybody was trying to get me the ball too much. It just worked the way it worked.
“We just made a few plays here and there. It just so happened statistically that I had a decent game and scored my first touchdown, which I’m pumped about. I can give the ball to my daughter [10-month-old Londyn]. That will be cool.’’
Tate’s first three games with the Eagles were uneventful. He was targeted 20 times, but many of them often seemed forced. He had 11 catches, only four for first downs, and was averaging just 7.8 yards per catch.
But Monday night, he was a factor. The fun started early with a 19-yard catch on a first-and-15 play on the Eagles’ first possession. Wentz faked a jet sweep to Tate, couldn’t find anyone open, extended the play to his left, and signaled his new receiver to break downfield. Tate bolted past linebacker Zach Brown, who was trying to cover him, and Wentz lobbed a perfect pass.
Seven plays later, on a second-and-goal at the Washington 6, the two connected again on another scramble-drill play. Wentz did another nifty job of extending the play, and Tate broke free from cornerback Greg Stroman with a nice in-and-out move in the end zone. The Eagles quarterback threw a strike to him.
“In my mind, I’m like, ‘Pick me, pick me,’ " Tate said of the ad-lib touchdown play. “He saw me at just the right time and threw a dart to me. It was a heckuva throw. The DB got his hands on it, which changed the trajectory a little bit. But I had great focus."
Fast starts were one of the hallmarks of the Eagles offense last year. This year, not so much. Tate’s touchdown catch was only the Eagles’ third first-possession score of the season and their first first-quarter points in six games.
“We wanted to start fast," Tate said. “That was one of our main goals this week. There was a stat that they were 0-6 when the other team scored first and 6-0 when they scored first. So we felt it was pretty important for us to start fast."
Wentz threw two touchdown passes Monday night: the one to Tate and a 4-yarder to Jordan Matthews early in the fourth quarter. Both came with “11” personnel (1RB, 1TE, 3WR). That’s significant because in Wentz’s previous nine starts this season, just four of his 16 touchdown passes came with “11” personnel. Last year, 18 of his 33 TD passes were with 11 personnel.
The Eagles racked up 436 total yards and 28 first downs against the Redskins. Both were season highs.
“I’m a strong believer that if you have a good week of practice, you’re going to give yourself a chance to win the game," Tate said. “That’s what we did. We had the best [week of practice] since I’ve been here. Everybody was on top of their assignments. We were very serious, but also loose and aggressive out there. I think it showed."
Besides the touchdown catch, Tate also teamed with Wentz on a two-point conversion after Matthews' TD early in the fourth quarter, giving the Eagles a two-score lead.
On the possession before that, he turned a 9-yard out route on a third-and-9 play into a 32-yard gain when he broke a tackle attempt by Stroman.
That gave the Eagles a first down at the Washington 5-yard line. But Wentz threw his first red-zone interception since his rookie year on the next play.
Wentz said he is pleased with the developing chemistry between himself and Tate.
“I feel with every week, every practice, kind of every opportunity with Golden is just an opportunity to build that relationship, build that chemistry," the quarterback said.
“He made some great plays after the catch, too, which is big for us. And it was good to finally get him in the end zone."
Ertz had another big game, catching nine passes for 83 yards and six first downs and breaking Brian Westbrook’s single-season team record for receptions.
Alshon Jeffery had only three catches, but all three were on third down and all three produced first downs and kept drives alive.
But Tate continues to gain Wentz’s confidence and will continue to be a factor in the offense going forward.
“Golden is a great player," Wentz said. “We feel we have a lot of guys that we can spread the ball around to. We never truly try to focus in on one guy. We just try and go after maybe the weak link in their defense or just let the play come to you.