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The Most Telling Statistic About the 2011 Eagles

Jan 5, 2012, 12:32 AM EDT

The Eagles had the second-most turnovers in the NFL this season with 38.

Why were the Eagles an unacceptable 8-8 in 2011? They were second only to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for the highest number of turnovers in the NFL with 38 — 13 fumbles, 25 interceptions.

Yes, it’s that simple.

For comparison’s sake, the closest team to the Eagles to actually make the postseason is in a three-way tie for sixth place with 30, and it’s the Denver Broncos, who also happened to finish .500. They are the only playoff-bound team in the top 10, and we all know they aren’t going anywhere.

After that, the Steelers come in tied three ways for 11th with 28. That’s still a whopping 10 turnovers less than the Birds, or a difference of more than one every two games. The only other clubs to make the tournament and finish in the top half of the league were the Ravens and the Giants, who tied for 16th with 24 each.

Just look at four of the league’s most serious Super Bowl contenders. The Saints are tied for 28th with 19 turnovers, half the Eagles’ total. The Patriots are 30th with 17, the Packers 31st with 14, and last, but very obviously not least, the 49ers had 10 all year.

Even if you combined the last three teams, the total comes out to 41, which is only three more than Philadelphia. Stop and think about that for a second. The EaglesĀ  committed almost as many turnovers in 16 games as three other teams did in 48. That, friends, is the difference between winning eight games, or winning 13, 15, and 13 respectively.

By the way, the defenses from New England and Green Bay ranked 31st and 32nd in the NFL.

Nine of the Eagles’ giveaways occurred inside the red zone alone. Even if we stay conservative, those plays almost definitely took a minimum of 27 points off the board, basically the equivalent of four touchdowns.

Where might some of those points come in handy?

The handoff was disrupted during a botched trap running play at the four-yard line against the Falcons, who returned the fumble to the Philadelphia 24. Atlanta found paydirt, causing a nine-point swing at the bare minimum in a road game that wound up being decided by four.

Ronnie Brown’s inexplicable execution of the halfback option happened on the goal line against San Francisco. The Eagles eventually lost the game by one, so something as simple as not attempting to pass the ball while being hurled to the turf would have led to a decisive field goal.

There were red zone turnovers in four of their losses. Three of those outcomes were decided by four points or less.

The Eagles also committed three turnovers or more in five of their losses, while doing the same in just two of their victories. There were a season-high five giveaways in Buffalo, including an interception returned for a touchdown — they lost by seven.

Clearly, this was the story of the year. When the offense turned the ball over, the Eagles put themselves at a serious disadvantage. When they protected the rock, the Birds were measurably, practically infinitely, more successful.

But I suppose we can just keep on blaming Juan Castillo and the defense for all of the team’s problems. It’s not like there’s a connection between turnovers and points allowed or anything.