EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The lack of connection between Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz has been one of the Eagles’ biggest mysteries and disappointments of the last couple months.
Wentz had completions of 13 and 14 yards to Ertz on the Eagles’ first drive of the season, which was the first drive of Wentz’s career.
And then Ertz disappeared.
He missed the next two games with an injury, then totalled nine catches for just 92 yards the next four weeks.
After catching three passes for 13 or more yards against the Browns in the opener, he had just three more catches of 13 yards in the next five games he played.
On a team with a rookie quarterback, inconsistent wide receivers and a non-descript running game, you would expect Ertz to be huge. A true go-to guy in the eyes of both the coach and the quarterback.
Ertz, who turns 26 on Thursday, had the sixth-most yards of all NFL tight ends over the 2014 and 2015 seasons and closed last year with the most yards of any tight end in NFL history over the last four games of a season.
Week after week, Wentz went into games focused on getting Ertz the ball, and week after week, they failed to connect.
That finally ended Sunday, when Ertz had eight catches for 97 yards, the fifth-biggest game of his four-year career, in the Eagles’ 28-23 loss to the Giants at MetLife Stadium.
“Overall, it doesn't really matter how many times I touch the ball,” he said. “If we lose it’s all for nothing.
“I did think Carson (Wentz) and I took a step forward between the two of us. Which is good to see.”
The Eagles did lose the game but at least they re-discovered their tight end.
“We’ve just been in constant communication the past couple weeks,” Ertz said. “I think both of us know the talent the other has and it’s just kind of a thing that we’ve kind of worked on the fly.
“Obviously, we didn’t get a lot of training camp reps together and then I was hurt for two weeks, so it’s been kind of a learn-on-the-fly type of thing, and the easiest way to communicate is through game reps and the more game reps that we get together the better we’re going to be between the two of us.”
Trey Burton caught three passes for a career-high 55 yards, so there was definitely an emphasis on tight ends Sunday.
This was only the third time two Eagles tight ends had 50 yards in a game in the last 40 years.
Ertz and Brent Celek did it last year against the Dolphins, and L.J. Smith and Chad Lewis in 2004 against the Giants.
“We definitely wanted to get him going,” Doug Pederson said. “He’s such a big weapon and he’s a nice big target for the quarterback. Wanted to get a few more plays called his way and put the game plan his way. He did a nice job for us.”
The loss dropped the Eagles to 4-4 after a 3-0 start. They’re 1-4 on the road with four straight losses, 0-3 in the NFC East and 2-4 against the NFC.
Ertz still ranks just 22nd among tight ends this year with 247 yards and 23rd with 28 catches.
That’s about half his production of last year.
“All I can focus on is getting open and making a play when the ball is in the air,” Ertz said at his locker after the loss. “Whether that's eight times or three times, if the ball is in the air, I have the mindset that it’s my ball.
“I think we were eight for eight today (eight targets, eight catches). Step in the right direction, but … we’ve got a lot of stuff we’ve got to work on as an offense in finishing games.
“It’s been extremely frustrating how we haven’t got it done. All four losses, I feel like we've had an opportunity as an offense to put a stamp on it and take the game over. We just haven’t gotten it done.”
If the Eagles are going to turn things around and make a playoff push in the second half of the season, they’ll need Ertz.
He’s too big a weapon – on a team that doesn’t have many -- to continually ignore.
“The only way you’re really going to get better in this league is through experience in games,” Ertz said. “It’s one thing to talk about it during the week of practice, it’s another to see the same thing.
“Because quarterbacks, receivers, tight ends, the biggest thing is they have to be is on the same page. When you see the coverage, it’s all about going out there and executing, taking what the defense gives you as a quarterback, going up and making plays as a receiver, and that’s all you can do.
“We’re learning a lot as an offense, but in the end this league is about wins and losses. There’s no such thing as a moral victory in my opinion. We have the talent on this team to win games, win close games. We have that mentality that no one can stop us as an offense. We’ve got the guys on this team to rally around.”