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The Tipping Points for the Eagles’ Defense

Dec 20, 2011, 1:45 PM EDT

When the Eagles' defense holds the opponent to 19 points or less, their record is 6-0 -- 21 points or more, it's 0-8.

When the Eagles’ defense holds the opponent to 19 points or less, their record is 6-0 — 21 points or more, it’s 0-8.

On face value, that’s pretty damning for Juan Castillo, even though critics are pondering whether the defensive coordinator saved his job after his unit had dominant outings in consecutive weeks. As an aside, I find it curious how two games could completely change the narrative about Juan — one, the Dolphins were seriously handicapped by injuries, and two, where were those stories after the defense shut down Washington and Dallas back to back? Sometimes the media are even more fickle than the fans. Rant over.

Getting back on track, we were alluding to there being something more to the story, and there is. Over/under 20 points has not been the only “tipping point” for the Birds this season, meaning a statistical threshold that determines when a games is likely to either be won or lost. In games the Eagles’ defense holds the opponent to 19 points or less, the offense is averaging two turnovers; 21 points or more, the offense is averaging three turnovers.

I’ve been trying to tell you guys the Eagles’ defense isn’t that bad all season. Maybe I was too verbose, or maybe I needed to do a better job of connecting the dots. Today, we put the numbers in a better position to explain.

The Eagles are 4-3 in games where they commit two turnovers or less. In those seven games, the defense is allowing 18.9 points per game.

The Eagles are 2-5 in games where they commit three turnovers or more. In those seven games, the defense is allowing 23.6 points per game.

The data should come as no surprise. The Eagles have led the NFL in turnovers for essentially the entire season. Turnovers put additional pressure on defenses. The offense doesn’t put points on the board. Very often the defense is left to defend a short field. The momentum swings. The odds of an offense scoring increase with every yard closer they start to the end zone, just like the odds of a football team winning decrease with every turnover the offense commits.

We can nudge the data even further to accommodate our point by removing the outliers. The Eagles committed three turnovers against the Giants in November, but still limited New York to 10 points. Conversely, the Patriots hung 38 on the defense, while the offense only gave the ball away once. Now the defense allows 25.8 PPG when the offense has three-plus turnovers, and they allow 15.7 PPG when offense is at two or fewer.

Too often the offense has put the defense in precarious positions. So many of this season’s losses hinge on a turnover, but when Juan Castillo’s troops don’t lock it up at the end — personnel, by the way, that is questionable or new at several key positions — Juan takes all the blame.

I don’t know if he saved his job, but I do know Juan Castillo hasn’t received a fair shake.