Eagles TEs Ertz, Celek have breakout game

PHILADELPHIA – The big matchups were obvious: NFL leading rusher LeSean McCoy against the Arizona run defense, big-play receiver DeSean Jackson vs. shutdown cornerback Patrick Peterson.

Ultimately, though, it was the Philadelphia Eagles’ tight ends who made the difference in their 24-21 victory over the Cardinals Sunday.

“We thought they have some really good corners, starting with Peterson,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said. “So trying to get matched up on some safeties and some linebackers … just thought we had some plays in there to the tight ends.”

It started right away. The Eagles got the ball on the Arizona 25-yard line after Trent Cole stripped Carson Palmer. Nick Foles threw four passes, all to tight ends. The fourth was a 6-yard touchdown to rookie tight end Zach Ertz, who beat rookie safety Tyrann Mathieu to the corner of the end zone.

“Those guys run about three or four plays in one play and you just have to keep to your assignment and don’t let the play fakes and motions confuse you,” Mathieu said.

Ertz and Brent Celek were targeted 12 times, or more than one-third of Foles’ 34 attempts. Ertz caught five balls for 68 yards and two touchdowns. Celek caught four for 29 yards and a touchdown.

In the previous 11 games, the two tight ends combined for 40 catches and four touchdowns.

“We knew it was our opportunity to make plays,” Celek said. “We had to take advantage of it. We knew coming into the game that we had to play well.”

Peterson and the rest of the Arizona secondary held Jackson to three catches for 36 yards. McCoy fared a bit better, rushing for 79 yards on 19 carries, but he was never really the difference-maker in this one. Celek and Ertz were.

“I just felt like we had good matchups with our tight ends against their linebackers,” Foles said. “Their linebackers are very talented, but they’re bigger guys. They are very good at stopping the run. I liked our matchups with our tight ends and I thought they did a great job today.”

Foles has great chemistry with wide receiver Riley Cooper, who caught three passes for 48 yards and drew a pass-interference call in the end zone. If he can build that kind of rapport with Celek, Ertz and James Casey, it would make the Eagles’ offense that much more versatile and dangerous.

“Any time we are running routes or doing anything, we have to be a viable option for him,” Celek said. “We are an integral part of this offense, too.”

“Riley and DeSean have been huge playmakers all year,” Ertz said. “We had to have a big day today to take the pressure off other teams’ game-planning against them.”