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Zach Ertz and the touchdown that won the Eagles the Super Bowl

Zach Berman, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

Zach Ertz achieved Philadelphia immortality with a game-winning touchdown catch in the Super Bowl in a way that would eradicate any criticism he endured earlier in his career.

His stats are padded in games or moments that don't matter? Try a third down in the red zone in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl.

He doesn't get yards after the catch? He lined up wide against one of the best safeties in the NFL, caught the ball around the 5-yard line, sprinted forward, dived past contact and into the end zone.

For a player attuned to the criticism levied against him, there's a new label: Super Bowl champion.

"Last year was really a difficult year, not only for myself but for the team," Ertz said. "I never really shied away from that situation that I had to endure. There were some people that would say stuff, but it was tough, obviously. ... The fans never gave up on me. I told them at the time that they would never question my effort again, and I am lucky to be in this situation playing for this city. I will never take it for granted."

The touchdown will long have a spot in Eagles highlights. Ertz called the play a new "wrinkle." Ertz drew double teams whenever he lined up on the backside throughout the game. So what the Eagles did on this play -- third-and-7 from the 11-yard line -- was line up Ertz outside as a wide receiver and motion running back Corey Clement to the opposite side of the formation. So Ertz was one-on-one against safety Devin McCourty with no other Patriots in the area to help.

Ertz ran 3 yards before cutting inside. McCourty could not jam Ertz, who had inside position and a decided size advantage. Ertz's route-running is one of his best attributes and a big reason he became a Pro Bowl tight end this season. Ertz was the player quarterback Nick Foles wanted to find on the play -- he didn't even appear to look elsewhere.

"That was a one-on-one situation with McCourty, and that guy is a phenomenal football player," Ertz said. "He definitely played a great game, but playing with Nick in that situation, he was making all the throws, and all I had to do was make the plays and that is what happened on the touchdown."

There was an extended review after the play because the ball popped out after Ertz's hands hit the ground in the end zone. Officials were trying to determine if it was a catch, which has become more debatable than it should be in today's NFL. But Ertz took three steps with possession before diving, so the officials determined that he had become a runner before the ball came loose and the touchdown stood. Ertz said he doesn't know what would have happened in Philadelphia if the play had been overturned. Players on both sidelines believed the right call was made.

"I was telling the ref that he had three feet down and that's a catch," veteran tight end Brent Celek said. "And the ref wouldn't tell me either way, and I was like, 'C'mon ref, you've got to tell me that three feet down is a catch!' And he's like, 'I don't know, I don't know.' But I thought it was a catch, a catch for sure. And obviously, it was a catch."

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