An hour and a half before the opening kickoff at Lincoln Financial Field, the Eagles were dealt some unexpected injury news. Tight end Zach Ertz had been limited in practice during the week with a hamstring injury, but the expectation was that the tight end would be able to suit up on Sunday against the Denver Broncos.
But when the Eagles released their official list of inactive players, Ertz's name appeared on the list.
Ertz is in the midst of a breakout season, hauling in 43 passes for 528 yards and six touchdowns to this point. Without Ertz's production, the Eagles relied on the other two tight ends on the roster, Brent Celek and Trey Burton, who both contributed in big ways.
Celek had his most productive day of the season by far, catching three passes for 39 yards. While the numbers may not jump off the page, he had a classic bulldoze-the-defender catch and run that ignited the crowd early on.
"It felt good," Celek said with a smile afterwards. "I love this city. We've got a good team this year and we just have to keep this thing going."
Celek's role has certainly changed over the last few seasons. Once a dynamic pass catcher, Celek now plays a key role in the run game while Ertz has blossomed into one of the best receiving tight ends in the league. Today, Celek was asked to step up in Ertz's absence and that's exactly what he did.
"I've got to be ready to be that tight end that can come in two-tight end sets, and be able to help in the run game and a little bit in the pass game, but when Ertz goes down I have to step up and be able to play well, and I think that's what this organization expects of me, that's what my teammates expect of me and that's really what I've got to do," Celek said. "As a team, when you lose guys, and we've lost a few with (Darren) Sproles, (Jason) Peters and Zach for a week, everyone around you has to step up and just play that much better to make up for these guys."
As for Burton, he chipped in four two catches, good for 41 yards and a 27-yard touchdown that put the Eagles up 24-6 midway through the second quarter.
"It was all part of our gameplay," Doug Pederson said after the game. "We wanted to utilize the tight ends, and obviously we do every week. We've got a lot of confidence in Trey and Brent. They do a great job (tight ends coach) Justin Peelle does a great job of getting them ready to play. It was one of those last-second adjustments prior to the game, but that's what our job is as coaches. Guys were ready to play and they did a nice job."
Ertz and the rest of the Eagles now have over a week to get healthy, as they head into the bye week with a record of 8-1.