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Turnovers Stunting Eagles’ 2014 Growth

This feature is a weekly piece on titled From The Eagles, featuring Eagles Insider Dave Spadaro. The intention is to provide a perspective directly from the Philadelphia Eagles in this forum for the great fans who visit BGN.

It is as simple as this, and as difficult to fix: The Eagles are 9-5 and still very much alive in the playoff race and as the team prepares for Washington on Saturday, there is great optimism that a two-game losing streak will end and that the postseason picture will be much brighter when next week begins.

But in the meantime, the Eagles have a two-game losing streak to consider and five losses on the ledger that are gnawing. Why the losses? I've heard all the reasons being thrown around out there. I know the names of the scapegoats and fans and media want to blame for the Eagles being in the position of needing some help to reach the playoffs.

The real reason? The Eagles lead the league in turnovers, with 33 (the opening kickoff on Sunday night against Dallas, initially classified as a turnover, was later changed). And the defense has allowed 109 points off of those turnovers, the most in the NFL, which translates to 7.8 points per game.

It's a staggering number, and the most tangible reason that the Eagles aren't 10-4 or 11-3 or even 12-2. They've struggled in the red zone, yes, and that's been a yearly statistic to track, but one ominous number that has not gone away since September is turnovers.

"We know we can't keep doing this," quarterback Mark Sanchez said. "We don't want to turn the ball over. We're working on it. We're just making too many mistakes."

Head coach Chip Kelly doesn't think the cadre of statistics unearthed by the numbers geeks matter all that much, but turnover ratio is one that he regards as ultra important. And the Eagles are minus-8, ranking near the bottom of the league with the very worst teams in the NFL. That they are 9-5 with such a negative ratio defies NFL logic, and it speaks to just how good this team could be.

If it stopped turning the football over.

One of the keys to last year's 10-6 team that won seven of its final eight games and won the NFC East was its ability to secure the football. The Eagles gave it away only 19 times and finished with a plus-12 turnover ratio. Quarterback Nick Foles had an historic season. It all came together very nicely.

But this season the turnovers have been crushing. And while the coaches keep preaching the importance of ball security and the players work on it in their training sessions, the mistakes keep happening.

Can the Eagles salvage the season and reach the playoffs and go further than they did in 2013? Yes, by withstanding the Washington blitz and winning on Saturday and by going to New York and defeating the Giants' banged-up defense and hoping that Dallas trips up against either Indianapolis or Washington. That way the Eagles finish the regular season 11-5 and win the division and get to the playoffs and then we'll see what happens.

I've heard all the reasons for the five losses. The wide receivers aren't good enough, some say. The defense hasn't gotten off the field enough on third down, others insist. The running game isn't what it was a year ago, when it led the NFL. You can have arguments to each and every one of those points.

But what is indisputable is this: The Eagles have been too careless protecting the football. There aren't many numbers that mean a whole lot to football coaches and football teams, but this one does: The Eagles are 6-1 when they've won or tied the turnover battle, and they're 3-4 when they've finished on the negative side of the turnover ratio.

There is no disputing those numbers.

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