State of the Birds

With just one week to go in a surprisingly disappointing season, it’s time for a big review of where the team stands.  Seeing some panicked takes out there from people watching the Cowboys light it up and worrying the Eagles just won’t be able to keep up. So let’s try to restore some sanity to Eagles fandom just before the new year.

First things first – THE EAGLES ARE WHO WE THOUGHT THEY WERE.  Or rather, they’re a little better!  Here are excerpts from my pre-season prediction piece:

On Offense – “I think the offense will be worse this year than it was last year.  Weaker OL, weaker QB play, and nobody on the WR/RB side that can pick up the slack or help hide the holes.  That’s an ugly combination.”

The Eagles, at least by DVOA, actually improved this year.  They are ranked 22nd at the moment, and finished 26th last year.

On Defense – “I think the defense will be much better this year.  I think the scheme fits the personnel much better than it did last year….The scheme change is as big a factor as any of the personnel changes…..However, given the lack of depth and the injury concerns, there is a LOT of uncertainty here.  The unit could be among the best in the league.  Or it could suffer 1-2 key injuries and the entire house of cards could collapse.  Imagine if Cox and Hicks missed significant time.”

Football Outsiders has the Eagles’ Defensive Line ranked #1 against the run this year, and #7 against the pass.  That’s a significant improvement from last year, when the unit ranked #23 against the run and #13 against the pass.  The adjusted sack rate is 7.1%, up from 6.8% last year.

Overall – “That puts us at 320 points scored, 383 points allowed.  With a 2.67 exponent, that’s a 38% win percentage.  In practical terms, that’s a 6-10 season.”

The Eagles are currently 6-9.  They’ve scored 340 points and allowed 318.  In other words, the team has performed better than I had projected, but the record might come out the same.  Why?  They’ve been unlucky, plain and simple.

Also worth noting, on Special Teams – “Unlikely to have a significant impact this year.  The unit was 10th in the league by DVOA last year, but was dead last in “Hidden Points”.  That means they were fairly unlucky….Without significant reason to believe STs will be either great or terrible, there isn’t much reason to adjust the overall projection.”

The Eagles have been fantastic on Special Teams, leading the league in both kick coverage and kick returns.  Current DVOA is 8.1%, which is the 3rd best measure of any team from the last 5 years, behind just the 2012 Ravens and the 2013 Eagles.

But what about Carson Wentz?

In the post referenced above, I pulled the stats for every QB drafted in the 1st and 2nd round from the last 10 years that played at least 10 games their rookie year.  Now let’s look at the table again, but this time with Wentz shown for comparison.

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Hmmm…what’s that?  Wentz performed almost exactly as we could/should have expected him to?  Despite having perhaps the worst supporting cast in the league?  I think I’ll take it and be happy.  He clearly played a more conservative game than his rookie counterparts, as shown by a lower TD rate, a lower INT rate, and lower yards per attempt.

Don’t worry about Carson Wentz.

Is Doug Pederson a keeper?

We don’t know.  He’s shown a willingness to be aggressive, which I like (and is the statistically correct posture most of the time).  The Eagles lead the league with 26 4th down conversion attempts.  2nd place has just 18 attempts.  The team has converted 50% of them.  That’s all positive as far as I’m concerned.

Some have questioned his play-calling, which is fair. I won’t recount all the controversial calls here, because I don’t think it means anything…yet.  Frankly, Pederson has been constrained by the lack of weapons on offense just as much as Wentz has.  So while we can harangue him for calls that don’t work, it’s not clear any alternative plays would have had a higher likelihood of success.  This isn’t a case of ignoring your best players for mediocre ones, or forgetting to run the ball in short yardage situations (generally the right move).   There are no good answers right nowso we can’t blame Pederson for getting them wrong….yet.  I keep saying yet, because I want to be clear that I’m not completely absolving Doug of responsibility.  He MIGHT be making bad decisions.  But we don’t know that yet.  In the absence of greater certainty, we just can’t make a judgment on Pederson as a coach yet.

His time management/replay calls have had some issues though, and for THAT we can blame him.  He’s been around the league long enough to get these things right, so the leash here is really short.  Unfortunately, almost every coach around the league messes these things up routinely, so it’s a more difficult critique to make.  The baseline rate of boneheaded time management decisions is much higher than we’d all expect/hope.

Wrap It Up

So where does that leave us?  The Eagles are in a pretty good spot.  They’ve likely found their QB for the next 10 years.  That’s a very big deal.  They might also have found their coach (not as sure about that one).  The defense has improved significantly after the shift to the 4-3.  The offense is bad.  But that’s nothing that 2 productive offseason can’t fix.

And that’s the real takeaway here:  The Eagles have put themselves in a strong position to build a contender. But it’s going to take 2-3 solid drafts in a row, something they haven’t done in a long time.  It will also require deft use of free agency, so the pressure is on Howie to deliver.  But the team doesn’t have as far to go as it might seem.

Remember the second-order effects of every move.  Just look at how much better the whole OL looked with Lane Johnson back.  Similarly, adding an impact WR will suddenly make every other WR on the roster look like a better player.  They’ll see softer coverages and be able to slide into a role they’re better suited to.

To put a bow on it, here is what may current hierarchy of team needs is:

#1)  Offensive line starters and depth

#2-5) See #1

#6) A legitimate NFL WR, hopefully 2 of them.  They don’t have to be stars (though one would be nice), but they need to be able to run the full route tree and catch the ball.

#7) Defensive backs.  Similar to the WR spot, a star would be nice, but it’s not mandatory.  Depth is needed most.  After that’s in position, the competition might produce a starter, or at least highlight where a free agent signing can be most effective.

#8) Defensive line.  This is a sneaky one.  It’s the strength of the team, so people will be tempted to ignore it.  However, I’d like to see the team try to cycle in some new blood every year, even if it’s just a couple of late round draft picks.  They’ve got an elite unit, but as the OL has shown, without proper maintenance, even elite units can decline quickly.  It’s the foundation of the team, and once the screaming needs are taken care of (i.e. WRs go from terrible to serviceable), this should be a continued focus for Howie.

Annual investment in a great DL, even at the expense of other areas.  Every team has weaknesses, and there’s just no way to fill every hole on the roster; the league is too competitive for that.  Instead, the Eagles need to find a strength and make it so great that it covers up other holes on the team.  With Cox/Graham/Logan in place, the DL is the best place to build that foundation.  (So yes, they should give Logan his money).

 

 

Eagles are not far off from competing for the playoffs

 Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

There is a belief among some that the Eagles are a bad team in need of a complete overhaul this offseason. Even though the Eagles are 5-9, I’m not buying it. For starters, if Carson Wentz is as good as I think he is, he will be able to mask some of the holes on this roster — much like any other high level quarterback can. But I also don’t buy it because the available data doesn’t back it up.

Point Differential

Let’s start with point differential. The Eagles are 5-9, but have a +17 point differential. That is better than the following teams at or above .500:

  • Houston 8-6 (-44)
  • Tampa Bay 8-6 (-9)
  • Miami 9-5 (+1)
  • Washington 7-6-1 (+2)
  • Minnesota 7-7 (+5)
  • New Orleans 6-8 (+14)
  • Detroit 9-5 (+16)

In fact, since 2006, only six teams out of 320 finished with a losing record but positive point differential. That’s 1.8%. The Eagles are currently on track to be the 7th.

So why does this matter? Because point differential is proven to be a more reliable predictor of a team’s future win-loss record than its actual win-loss record. As Bill Barnwell explained:

We can produce an “expected” win total for each NFL team, given its point differential, by running the Pythagorean Expectation formula — Points For x 2.37 / (Points For x2.37 + Points Against x 2.37) — and multiplying it by 16, for the number of games in a season. Ever since Bill James created this for baseball and Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey modified it for football, the results have shown that winning more games than your Pythagorean Expectation tends to mean a team will decline the following season, while falling short of expectations tends to mean a team will improve.

Apply that formula to the Eagles (but divide by 14 games since the season isn’t over), and we get an expected win total of 7.22 games this season, which is a net positive of 2.22 wins. If that number holds, it will likely be one of the highest in the league, meaning the Eagles have likely fallen victim to bad luck this year.

For the Doubting Thomas’ of the group, let’s put this theory to the test with concrete examples. Consider those six teams I mentioned before that finished the year with a losing record but positive point differential. Look at how they fared the following season:

Year Team Record Point Diff Record the Following Year
2008 Green Bay Packers 6-10 +39 11-5*
2010 Tennessee Titans 6-10 +17 9-7
2011 Seattle Seahawks 7-9 +6 11-5**
2011 Miami Dolphins 6-10 +16 7-9
2012 New Orleans Saints 7-9 +7 11-5**
2013 Detroit Lions 7-9 +19 11-5*

* = made the playoffs          ** = won a playoff game

Every team improved on their win total the following year, winning an average of 10 games. Four of six teams won 11 games and made the playoffs. Two of those four teams won at least one playoff game. Only one team (2012 Dolphins) had a losing record, yet they still improved on their win total from the prior year.

In other words, point differential is the more reliable metric we should be using to evaluate the Eagles, and based on that metric, the Eagles should be around 7-7. 

Look over the Eagles schedule, and it’s not that hard to see how, with a few breaks here and there, they could have easily have reached that mark. Maybe Doug Pederson doesn’t blow it against Dallas, or Wentz connects with Jordan Matthews on the final play against the Giants, or Ryan Mathews hangs onto the d*mn football against the Lions.

This isn’t cherry picking selective games. It has been a consistent theme all season. The Eagles have lost six games by seven points or less. Two of those games were decided by only one point. Conversely, the Eagles lost only one game (to the Bengals) by more than 14 points. In other words, they have been in almost every single game they lost this year. That puts them in good company league wide, as only eight teams in the NFL have fewer losses by that margin: the Falcons, Ravens, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Giants, Chargers and Redskins. Other teams with an equal number of 14+ point losses include the Patriots, Raiders, Seahawks and Chiefs. While the Eagles have less losses by 14+ points  than the Steelers, Packers, Dolphins or Texans, each of which are currently slated to make the playoffs.

Number of 14+ point losses Teams
0 Falcons, Ravens, Cowboys, Broncos, Lions, Giants, Chargers and Redskins
1 Eagles, Patriots, Raiders, Seahawks, Bills, Bengals, Chiefs, Vikings,  Saints, Titans
2 Steelers, Packers, Cardinals, Panthers, Colts, Jags, Dolphins
3 Bucs, Texans, Bears
4 Rams
5 Jets, 49ers
6 Browns

Football Outsiders

Other metrics rank the Eagles highly as well. According to Football Outsiders, the Eagles are 6th overall in DVOA, 10th in weighted DVOA, 22nd in offense, and (somewhat remarkably) 5th in defense.

Even Scott Kacsmar, who has drawn the ire of Eagles fans with his anti-Carson Wentz takes (AIR YARDS!!!!!!!!), concedes that the Eagles are better than their record suggests:

PFF

Finally, we reach a similar conclusion if use Pro Football Focus’ player grades to compare how the Eagles roster stacks up with the rest of the league. (And I know, I know– PFF’s rankings deserve a giant grain of salt).

Below is a chart which counts the number of players on each team that fall into certain categories of PFF’s ranking system — i.e., elite, high quality, poor, etc., etc. First, compare the difference between the Eagles and obviously terrible teams like the 49ers and Browns. The talent disparity is stark.

Team Elite High Quality Above Average Average Below Average Poor
Eagles 1 6 1 7 3 4
49ers 0 0 1 7 2 11
Browns 0 1 1 9 1 9
Packers 1 5 3 8 1 4
Seahawks 2 5 4 5 1 6
Patriots 1 6 1 5 6 2
Raiders 1 4 6 5 0 6
Chiefs 1 2 6 9 2 2
Cowboys 0 7 5 7 1 2
Steelers 0 4 6 7 1 4
Redskins 1 2 8 5 3 3
Giants 1 5 3 3 1 9
Lions 0 2 5 6 2 8
Falcons 2 3 4 11 1 2
Texans 0 4 3 5 2 8
Ravens 2 1 5 10 0 4

Next, compare the Eagles to the remaining teams on this list, which consist of the other NFC East teams and most of the teams in playoff contention. Of the 22 starters, the Eagles have 8 that rank as above average or better. That’s 36.36% of their current starters. That rank is on par with several playoff teams, including the New England Patriots, and isn’t far behind others:

Teams Above Average Starters %
Texans, Lions 7/22 31.8%
Eagles, Ravens, Patriots 8/22 36.36%
Falcons, Packers, Giants, Chiefs 9/22 40.9%
Steelers 10/22 45%
Seahawks, Raiders 11/22 50%
Cowboys 12/22 54.5%

Bottom line: all of this is not to say that the Eagles are an elite team ready to contend for the Super Bowl. They undoubtedly need to add at least 2-3 more above average players to their roster before they can even think of that happening.

But this is to say that the Eagles aren’t as bad as we think. With some smart roster improvements and internal player improvement, we should expect the Eagles to be able to do so next year. In fact, even if neither of those things happened, the Eagles point differential suggests they can still compete for the playoffs.

Offensive Line is a Massive Priority for the Eagles

While the Eagles have many holes on their roster, their offensive line is the most pressing need thanks to the units collective age and Lane Johnson’s tenuous status in the league. 

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

Andrew Luck was considered a can’t miss prospect — a once in a generation talent that was going to cement the Colts franchise as perennial contenders for the next 15 years. Luck has been a very good quarterback, but he’s been marred by inconsistency and the Colts are 14-15 over the last two seasons just as Luck should be entering his prime. What gives?

It wasn’t for a lack of skill position players. The Colts invested significant draft capital in the receiving position, using a 1st and two 3rd round picks on Phillip Dorsett, TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief, respectively. They signed the ageless Frank Gore in free agency. And they surrounded Luck with dependable(ish?) tight ends in Dwayne Allen and Luck’s favorite college target, Coby Fleener (who has since signed with the Saints).

Look instead at the big uglies — the often overlooked, but critically important offensive lineman. Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson committed managerial malpractice by neglecting that unit during the first four seasons of Luck’s career, and it showed. Luck was hit an absurd 375 times since he was drafted, most in the NFL by a considerable margin. The cumulative effect was Luck missing 9 games last season with a litany of injuries, including a lacerated lung.

Juxtapose this team building philosophy with the Oakland Raiders, who spent a league high $37.7 million on their offensive line — dubbed Carr Insurance by Oakland fans — to create one of the best lines in  the NFL. Sure, the Raiders also have stud receivers Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree. But without that offensive line, which has only given up 13 sacks on the year, odds are Derek Carr would end up more like his brother, David Carr — who was sacked a comical 76 times during his rookie season — than his current MVP-contending self. Or compare it to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a team flying under the radar as a legitimate playoff contender this season. Yes, the Bucs used the number 7 overall pick on Mike Evans to pair with their young franchise quarterback, Jameis Winston. But they also used a mix of free agency and the draft (including a high second round pick on Donovan Smith) to build one of the deepest offensive lines in football. Or the Tennessee Titans, who have assisted Marcus Mariota’s ascension to the ranks of one of the best young quarterbacks in the league by building a young and talented offensive line, thanks in part to using top 10 draft picks on Chance Warmack (now on injured reserve) and Jake Conklin, the latter of which is considered one of the best young tackles in all of football.

What the above examples show is that it doesn’t matter how much capital you invest in shiny new toys because they, and your franchise quarterback, won’t be nearly as effective if their offensive line is in shambles.

Which brings me to the Eagles. We have entered that point of the season where we don our armchair general manager caps and devise ways in which we can we can improve the Eagles roster. It is an annual tradition of sorts, providing therapeutic relief from the realization that the Eagles are, yet again, missing the playoffs. Most fans focus their attention on wide receiver, cornerback, and running back, given the obvious limitations of each position. And indeed, those positions must be upgraded if the Eagles want to have any realistic chance at competing for the playoffs. But, the offensive line is often overlooked, and it is a mistake.

To an extent, I get why. The offensive line has played pretty well this year according to most metrics. Football Outsiders has the Eagles ranked 8th in pass blocking and 15th in run blocking. PFF has handed out above average grades to every offensive lineman save for Jason Kelce:

  • Peters: 84.7 (above average)
  • Barbre: 82.8 (above average)
  • Kelce: 60.2 (below average)
  • Brooks: 84.8 (above average)
  • Johnson: 87.2 (high quality)

Given that our receivers can’t catch, our corners can’t stop receivers from catching, and our best running back is a  34-year old scat back, the temptation likely exists to assume the offensive line is good enough for another year and invest our limited resources elsewhere. Maybe Isaac Seumalo challenges Kelce for the starting center job, Jason Peters defies Father Time one last time, and the Eagles get away with just injecting the line with youth vis-a-vis late round draft picks.

 

Truth be told, I’d love nothing more than to get Carson Wentz a true number one receiver and a stud running back. And while we still need to address those positions over the next two offseasons, it cannot come at the expense of the offensive line. According to Jimmy Kempski of Philly Voice, the Eagles entered this season with the oldest offensive line, in terms of average age of each lineman, in the entire league, with their average age of 29.2 years just beating out the Atlanta Falcons (29). This chart, again courtesy of Jimmy Kempski, underscores just how old the unit has become:

Player Positional rank
J. Peters 2nd oldest LT
A. Barbre 2nd oldest LG
J. Kelce 11th oldest C
B. Brooks 10th oldest RG
L. Johnson 24th oldest RT

If the Eagles do not make any changes to the above group next season, they will have an absurd average age of 30.6 years old, which is almost two-years older than the second oldest. Even if we substitute Isaac Seumalo for Allan Barbre at left guard, the units average age would be 28.8, which would rank tied for the 29th oldest unit in the league based on this year’s numbers (which shouldn’t be too far off from what we would expect next season).

That was a long way of saying the Eagles offensive line is old as dirt. This is the direct result of the Eagles failing draft a single lineman during the last two seasons of the Chip Kelly era, and the situation won’t get any better until the Eagles invest significant resources in this position in the very near future.

This investment is especially needed at the tackle position, where Peters age (he will be 35 next year) and Lane Johnson’s tenuous grasp on his NFL career paint a bleak outlook. While Peters has played better longer than anyone (including yours truly) expected, there isn’t a single starting lineman in the NFL that is 35 years old, which is how old Peters will be next year. While Johnson has been suspended twice for violating the NFL’s PED policy, meaning he is one mistake away from a 2-year suspension.

Can the Eagles risk heading into next season under those circumstances? Here are the three potential outcomes for next season:

  • Best case (unrealistic?) scenario: Peters has another solid season left in the tank, Johnson keeps himself out of trouble, and the Eagles find a way to address the right tackle position in 2017.
  • More realistic scenario: Peters regresses and/or gets hurt, forcing the Eagles to slide Johnson to left tackle and Big V to right tackle.
  • Worst case scenario: Peters gets hurt and Johnson gets suspended, forcing the Birds into relying on Barbre and Big V as their starting tackles for the season. No offense to either of those two, but that is simply not a situation in which we want to place our young franchise quarterback.

And of course, I haven’t even addressed the fact that Jason Kelce has regressed in each of the last three seasons, and Brandon Brooks — the Eagles free agent signing this offseason — just announced today that he has missed the last two weeks of football because of a serious anxiety disorder.

Simply put, as important as receiver, running back and corner back are to this team — and indeed, they are critical — offensive line should be our top priority.

Five Plays that Determined the Outcome of Eagles/Redskins

Patrick Causey, on Twitter @pcausey3

Apologies for going MIA for the last two weeks; the downside of being a litigator is unavoidable at times.

In one of my favorite scenes in a sports movie, Al Pacino’s Game of Inches speech perfectly encapsulates the difference between “winning and losing” in professional football:

The key moment for present purposes is delivered about halfway through the above clip, when Pacino’s vintage cadence and delivery are in full effect: “One half a step too late or too early and you don’t quite make it. One half a second too slow or too fast and you don’t quite catch it. The inches we need are everywhere around us. They’re in every break of the game. Every minute. Every second. On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch. Because we know, when we add up all those inches, that’s gonna make the f*ing difference between winning and losing.

Indeed, the NFL really is a game of inches where games turn on only a handful of plays. A good illustration of this point was the Eagles v Redskins game, which the Eagles lost 27-22. There were five plays that I zeroed in on that swung the outcome of this game in the Redskins favor.

Jordan Matthews TD Drop

The first and most obvious example is this drop from Jordan Matthews. The Eagles had their second consecutive drive in the redzone, and Carson Wentz placed a beautiful ball over two Redskins defenders where only Matthews could catch it. But, as we all know by now, Matthews didn’t drag his foot in time to make the catch.

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Watching it in real time, I knew Matthews messed up. But it wasn’t until I turned on the tape to see just how egregious his mistake was. This screen shot is almost exactly when the ball enters Matthews hands. He has a good two feet within which he can drag his right foot to make the catch, but fails to get it done. NFL caliber receivers need to make this catch 99 out of 100 times. And that Matthews is our best receiver but was still unable to make this play tells you everything you need to know about the state of the Eagles receiving unit this year.

We all know what happened next: a miscue between Carson Wentz and Zach Ertz led to an interception in the end zone.  On three trips inside the red zone in the first quarter, the Eagles came away with a whopping 6 points.

Zach Ertz block in the back negating Sproles’ TD

Early in the third quarter, the Eagles were up 13-7. On the Redskins opening drive to start the half, the Eagles much maligned defense forced a 3 & out thanks to a Fletcher Cox sack on third down.

The momentum swing in the Birds favor was given an emphatic exclamation point when Darren Sproles returned Tress Way’s punt 49 yards to the house, putting the Birds up 20-7….. Or so we thought.

Instead, the play was nullified by a block in the back penalty on Zach Ertz. The broadcast just showed the tail end of the play, which gave the impression that the refs made a ticky tack call at the most inopportune of times. But rewind the tape a few seconds earlier, and it’s easy to see why the penalty was called.

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As you can see, the Redskins’ gunner had his back to Ertz the ENTIRE time, yet Ertz fully extended his arms for a two-handed shove. That’s the text-book definition of a block in the back. It’s unclear why Ertz thought he could get away with something so blatant. The Eagles ended up going three-and-out on the drive and punting, which led to…..

DeSean Jackson Mid-Route Adjustment on his 80-yard Touchdown

Yup. Two plays after this punt, Kirk Cousins hit DeSean Jackson for an 80-yard score. In a game that was decided by only 5 points, this 14-point swing, separated by only 6 plays, was especially influential. Jackson’s touchdown provided the Redskins with a lead that they would never relinquish.

ezgif.com-video-to-gif (2).gif

Jackson made an adjustment mid-route to catch the football that was overlooked by the broadcast team.  But watch it unfold in slow motion; you can see how Cousins throw was inaccurate.  Jackson was running towards the center hash of the field but had to turn to his outside shoulder to make the grab.

Tracking the ball on deep routes is a subtle, yet difficult skill, and is one that Eagles receivers clearly lack (look no further than the interception Carson Wentz threw to Nelson Agholor that ended the Lions game). This play underscores the tight rope with which Wentz must walk on a weekly basis, as his receivers are simply not talented enough to bail him out on inaccurate throws like we see Jackson do here.

Brent Celek’s botched long-snap 

The parade of horrors continued in the third quarter as the Eagles wasted a potential momentum saving, 6 minute, 49 yard drive by botching a 50-yard field goal attempt. Gone was the potential 16-14 lead after Brent Celek — who was filling in for the injured Jon Dorenbos — botched the long snap.

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We can’t fault Celek here. He was filling in on the fly during a key moment in the game. But the broadcasters suggested that Celek was not afforded the opportunity to even practice long snapping once on the sideline before this play. That raises legitimate questions as to what the hell Doug Pederson was thinking. In a close game, every point matters. Armed with 3 timeouts, the Eagles unquestionably should have burned one to let Celek at least get a few practice snaps before rolling him out there during a critical period in the game. I thought Pederson had one of his better games of the season last week, but this was another rookie mistake from the head coach.

 

DeSean Jackson’s Toe-Tap

As if to rub salt further into the Eagles wounds, Jackson made an acrobatic catch on the very next drive that was instrumental in the Redskins scoring another touchdown. Faced with a 2nd & 10 at their own 46 yard line and clinging to a 1 point lead, Cousins hit Jackson on a 21-yard corner route, which Jackson hauled in thanks to some nifty footwork and body control.

ezgif.com-video-to-gif (5).gif

It was almost as if Jackson was making these plays to remind the Eagles organization what could have been: “oh, your best receiver can’t do a routine toe-tap in the end zone? Allow me to show you how I can stop on a dime, adjust to an outside throw and get both feet in bounds in one fluid motion.” Punch me in the face.

If you need another reason to hate your life, here is a screen shot of Jackson poised at a 45-degree angle with both feet in bounds making the catch. I can only imagine what Wentz was thinking when he saw this play.

Four plays later, the Redskins scored a touchdown to go up 21-13. For those keeping track at home, the Eagles started the third quarter up 13-7, but thanks to a series of unfortunate events were down 21-13 just four drives later.

In all, these five plays gave the Redskins 14 points while taking 17 points off the board for the Birds. That’s a thirty-one point swing in a single game. As I mentioned on Twitter a few times: this game turned on the Redskins making plays when it mattered most, and the Eagles failing to do the same.  In the infamous words of Al Pacino, those five plays contained the inches that added up and made the  “f*ing difference between winning and losing.”