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

Zach Berman, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

That was far from the only big play Ertz made in the Super Bowl. He finished with seven catches for 67 yards and a touchdown. Four of those catches came on third down, another on fourth down. If there was ever debate about whether Ertz can be described as "clutch," it should end after the Super Bowl.

Ertz extended the game-winning drive with a 7-yard reception on third-and-6 from the Eagles' 29-yard line and then a critical 2-yard catch on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles' 45. If Ertz hadn't make either play, Tom Brady would have taken the ball back with a lead. The feeling in Philadelphia would likely be different right now. Ertz caught three of Foles' seven completions on the 14-play, 75-yard drive.

"I knew that we were going to have to score a touchdown in that situation," coach Doug Pederson said Sunday night. "A field goal wasn't going to be good enough, not against Brady and the Patriots, so we stayed aggressive. Nick made some outstanding throws, guys made some plays for him -- Nelson 1/8Agholor3/8, Ertz on the touchdown. Play after play, guys really stepped up tonight, and just had to get a touchdown in that situation."

Ertz had two other third-down catches earlier in the game, both extending touchdown drives for the Eagles. Earlier in the playoffs, Ertz said that on third downs and in the red zone, he wanted to be the player the Eagles called upon. That was evident throughout the postseason.

"I want to get the ball whenever the situation calls for it," Ertz said. "We have a lot of talented guys on this football team. They've done an amazing job building this roster. When the situation calls for it, they trusted me. That's all I can ask."

Entering the Super Bowl, it was clear that it would be a matchup of two of the NFL's best tight ends. The Patriots' Rob Gronkowski is considered the premier player at his position -- he finished with nine catches for 116 yards and two touchdowns -- but Ertz has also developed into a player who deserves to be discussed among the top class of tight ends.

Just ask the Patriots. Their defensive game plan going into the Super Bowl highlighted Ertz.

"He is a great player," said Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, who was named the Detroit Lions' head coach this week. "We obviously had to have a situation where we could get on him and take him away. He dictated some other things that came up, and we had to do the best that we could. He is an outstanding player."

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That's an opinion that was recognized more in Philadelphia than ever this season. Ertz, 27, is a Pro Bowler and Super Bowl champion with three years remaining on his contract. He's going to be a core player for the Eagles for at least that long -- with a spot in Eagles history to last much longer.

Ertz will no longer need to defend himself against criticism about his playing style or his statistics. He'll just need to show the game-winning touchdown.

"I mean, he had to run a slant, he had to get physical on the route, he did it, got open and made the catch and then dove over the dude," Celek said. "Ertz is one of the top two tight ends in the NFL, in my opinion. You know they've got Gronk over there, he's really good. But Ertz is the man, dude, and I'm so happy for him. I'm so honored to be in the same tight-end room with him."

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