The big numbers have never been a focus for tight end Zach Ertz, even when he caught 116 passes in 2018 and another 88 in 2019. He would talk to reporters back then about the targets and the catches and the yards and the touchdowns and he would always, always, talk about what mattered most: Winning football games.
So now that Ertz's production has dipped through five games – along with everyone in the offense – he's still stressing what he stressed then: Winning games.
"That's all that matters," Ertz said. "Whatever the team wants me to do to win, I'll do. I've always said that and I've always been that way."
The truth is, though, that for the Eagles to win it's helpful that the offense finds ways to get the ball to Ertz, voted to the Pro Bowl in each of the past three seasons. He's had only 20 receptions on 35 targets in five games and has just 5 receptions and 15 yards on 11 targets in the last two weeks combined.
Naturally, Ertz was peppered with questions as he met the media on Thursday and he answered them all without flinching and without placing any blame and, frankly, without sounding concerned about his personal achievements. That the Eagles are 1-3-1 is the issue, although his production and wins have often gone hand in hand. Unlocking Ertz and the entire offense are priorities for the Eagles.
"I'm trying to do everything I can, Carson (Wentz, quarterback) is trying to do everything he can at the end of the day to win football games," Ertz said. "It really doesn't matter how many targets I have. I've been saying this for years now whether I had 10 catches or one catch. For me, it's all about finding ways to win a football game and those big games, those 10-catch games, they're probably going to come, but at the end of the day we've just got to find a way to win. We're 1-3-1, not exactly the start that we probably envisioned at the start of the year."
Ertz hasn't changed his routine. He is on the practice field early. He stays late watching film. He and Wentz work on timing and routes on the side during practice. The work is there. The effort is there. Teams have always paid a lot of attention to Ertz, who is now seeing more shade of some safety help from the defense his way. The loss of Dallas Goedert has not helped Ertz or the offense. Because of the offensive line's injury problems, Ertz has had responsibilities with in-line blocking.
None of that is an excuse. The Eagles need to get Ertz the football and he needs to find ways to give Wentz a fair target. He and Wentz have always been on the same page, so chemistry isn't an issue. For whatever reason, the two have just not connected this season as they normally have.
"I wouldn't say I'm frustrated in my lack of stats," he said. "I'm frustrated in the fact that we haven't won football games and the frustration boils over when you don't win football games. That's what I get frustrated about. If we were 5-0 right now and I had the same stats, there would be nothing to talk about in my mind and I wouldn't care at all. I think I can help the team win. I think I can make plays on third down and in the red zone like I have in the past and hopefully try to find a way to win a football game.
"There are definitely plays that have been left out there, not only by me but as an offense. And the only way I know to get over rough patches is to go out there and work even harder, work as hard as I possibly can."
Baltimore's defense is "really, really, really, really good," Ertz said, and we'll see what the game plan has in place to give him some opportunities to make plays. It's not going to be easy against a Baltimore group that has allowed only 15.2 points per game in a 4-1 start.
Having Ertz getting his touches helps, no question. Let's see how the Eagles funnel him some chances.