From Year 1 to Year 2, Zach Ertz saw his numbers jump across the board. His reception total increased from 36 to 58, and his yardage shot up from 469 to 702. That set him up for what many fans expected to be a breakout year in 2015, but that has not really materialized.
Ertz was set back before the regular season began thanks to a core muscle injury. Surgery forced him to miss all four of the Eagles' preseason games, and he's been playing catch-up ever since. By early October, however, Ertz hit his stride, going on a streak of five weeks with at least four catches. Then he suffered a concussion that forced him to miss virtually two games, but just as he was able to do earlier in the season, Ertz bounced back again. He put up his best performance of the year against Buffalo, catching five passes for 98 yards, including a 41-yard catch-and-run that set up the game-winning field goal.
Sunday's game was the latest entry in Ertz's self-titled "roller coaster" season.
"I had the surgery early on and then the concussion, but at the same time, as a team we're right where we want to be," Ertz said. "We have three games left with an unbelievable opportunity to win the division and that's all you can ask for.
"I think we had four or five games in a row where I had five catches and (three games with) 60-plus yards. I think I had three touchdowns total, but two of them were called back, unfortunately. I think Sam (Bradford) and I are building that confidence in each other and it's only going to continue to grow."
Ertz isn't the only player who is developing a budding chemistry with Bradford. Over the past few days, multiple players have commented on Bradford's ability to rally the troops before each of the last two games after coming back from a concussion and shoulder injury.
"I think he kind of came back with more of a leadership mentality," Ertz said. "He's kind of taken the whole team at the beginning of the game and said a few words to the whole team and kind of got everyone going, and I think that's taken the team a long way in the past two games."
Following the two back-to-back wins, the Eagles, while under .500, find themselves in the thick of the battle for the NFC East crown. There's been plenty of anguish and excitement over the first 14 weeks of the season, but it's all in the past now. Ertz and the Eagles hold their destiny in their own hands with three games left.
"After that Detroit game, we had those four days to kind of reflect," Ertz said. "Obviously that was a low point for us in the season, and I don't think anybody wanted to be defined by those two games, but at the same time, we had a heck of an opportunity against the Patriots and I don't think anyone in this locker room doubted that opportunity.
"I view it as a three-game season. I'm going to have opportunities over these last three games to go out and make plays for this team, and honestly that's all I can ask for.
The first game of that three-game season pits the Eagles against the 11-2 Arizona Cardinals, who rank in the top 10 in the NFL in points per game allowed (19.4) and yards allowed per game (322.4) and are tied with the Eagles for second in the NFL with 25 takeaways. Ertz has had some individual success against the Cardinals, catching two touchdowns against them in 2013, but he knows the Cardinals provide quite the test for the Eagles' offense.
"They're an unbelievable defense," said Ertz. "Their front seven is very physical and fast and their back four has some unbelievable players as well, so I think the whole team is going to have to be on their A game on Sunday."