Zach Ertz has caught 142 passes in his three years with the Eagles. Nine finished in the end zone. Three came in the playoffs, including a touchdown. But Ertz said none of those catches was as important as his career-long, 41-yard reception Sunday in the fourth quarter of the Eagles' 23-20 win over the Buffalo Bills.
Ertz's third-down catch came when the score was tied at 20 and set up Caleb Sturgis' go-ahead field goal late in the game.
"I've made plays for this team the past two years, but in the situation we were in with the playoffs on the line, I think it was the most important catch," Ertz said.
The Eagles had a third and 3 from their 41-yard line with 4 minutes, 56 seconds remaining. Ertz ran an out pattern and wide receiver Josh Huff ran a slant. The Bills played man-to-man coverage.
Quarterback Sam Bradford dropped one step out of the shotgun and sent a quick pass to Ertz. Bills safety Corey Graham was assigned to Ertz. Graham broke on the ball and collided with Huff. That left Ertz open in space.
"It's a play that he has executed plenty of times," offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur said. "What you saw was that it was bump and run on Josh, and then there was a guy on Ertz. There was a natural pick. When he ran his slant, the guy covering Zach got picked off. It should be an easy completion with a high percentage of being able to run with the ball when that happens."
Ertz caught the ball around the 42-yard line and turned to run downfield. When Ertz passed the 50-yard line, Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin was in position for a tackle. Ertz dropped his shoulder and barreled over McKelvin, sending McKelvin to the ground.
"The defender kind of fell off at the end," Ertz said. "He went for the strip, and I just kind of lowered my shoulder and ran him over and got some more yards after that. . . . I don't [run over a defender] very often, so it felt really good to be able to run someone over. I haven't done that since college, so it was a really good feeling."
Bills safety Duke Williams caught Ertz from behind at about the 30-yard line. Ertz extended his right arm and carried Williams with him until Williams finally brought down the tight end at the Bills' 18-yard line. Four plays later, Sturgis kicked the 30-yard field goal.
"Zach not only made a great catch, but a great run after the catch, and that was obviously a huge play for us at that point in time," coach Chip Kelly said.
That play brought Ertz's totals to five catches and 98 yards for the afternoon. It's the most yards for Ertz in 12 games this season. He now has 45 catches for 501 yards. But the most important catch of Ertz's day wasn't designed to be a 41-yard gain - just a first down.
"You call that play thinking that you might get 4 and get the first down," Bradford said. "He probably gets pushed out of bounds, and we've got first and 10. But for him to make the catch-and-run that he did, that's just a bonus. And it was pretty cool. It looked like he was never going to go down. And it's plays like that really get us going and kind of spark us."