Missed opportunities haunt Eagles

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
10:50
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LANDOVER, Md. -- After a discouraging loss like the Philadelphia Eagles experienced on Saturday, there are plenty of missed opportunities to linger over.

Two especially hurt.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins tore the ball from the arms of Washington return man Andre Roberts. Nolan Carroll saw the ball come out and made a beeline for it. Carroll dove on the ball before it could bounce out of bounds, and the Eagles had the ball on the Washington 16.

Four plays later, the Eagles had nothing. No ball, no points, no ground gained against Washington.

“That was big,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said after the 27-24 loss. “You want to come away with points, obviously. You start off, it was a momentum swing and Malcolm makes a nice play on the kickoff. You think you are at least coming away with three points, but you always want seven in those situations.”

LeSean McCoy ran around left end for 1 yard on first down. He caught a Mark Sanchez pass but was dropped for a loss on second down. On third down, Sanchez threw the ball into the end zone. Unfortunately, none of his teammates were near where it landed.

Rookie kicker Cody Parkey, who had missed just two field goal tries all season, came out for the 34-yard attempt. Parkey has had some issues with his groin muscle, but Kelly said that did not bother Parkey on Saturday. He just kicked the ball a few feet wide to the right. Parkey missed a 46-yard attempt later in the quarter.

“I just left my hips open a little bit and missed it wide right,” Parkey said. “I’m still confident in my ability because I know what I can do and I know what I’m capable of doing. Tonight just didn’t go my way.”

In the fourth quarter, the Eagles had driven from midfield to the Washington 4-yard line. On third down, Sanchez dropped back. Tight end Zach Ertz had slipped out, picked his way through Washington’s zone coverage and found a spot in the end zone.

“I tried to squeeze it in to Ertz,” Sanchez said. “They ended up dropping eight [players into coverage], so I was just trying to get a quick one over the middle to him. They converged on him pretty quick. A safety got a hand on it. [Ertz] came over and was, like, 'I’ve got to catch it, I’ve got to catch it.' That’s just the way he is. He’s an awesome guy and wants to catch every ball.”

Parkey kicked a 22-yard field goal to tie the game at 24, but the Eagles had blown a chance to take a four-point lead there.

“I was hoping to have another [chance],” Parkey said. “Obviously, I wasn’t able to do that. It falls on me because if I make those two [missed] kicks, it could be a different story.”
LANDOVER, Md. -- Eagles fans no doubt used some choice language to describe the way the team’s defense chose to handle Washington wide receiver DeSean Jackson.

Jackson
 Jackson didn't hold anything back after the game.

“That’s how they play,” Jackson said of the Eagles defense. “They’re very na´ve, and they play how they play, so they can care less who’s out there or who’s at wide receiver. They’re going to play their defense the way they play it. I’m just glad I was able to get the opportunities I got on them.”

Jackson found himself lined up across from cornerback Bradley Fletcher. During the week, Jackson enjoyed watching tape of Fletcher giving up three touchdown passes to Dez Bryant last Sunday.

In the first quarter, Jackson ran past Fletcher and under a pass from Robert Griffin III. Jackson veered to his right and caught the ball for a 51-yard gain.

On the next play, Alfred Morris ran 28 yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 Washington lead.

In the third quarter, with Washington holding a 17-14 lead, it happened again. Fletcher was singled up on Jackson. The receiver blew past him, drifted toward his right and caught another Griffin bomb. This one went for 55 yards.

After that play, Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis took Fletcher out for a while. Nolan Carroll played cornerback in his place.

“He’s had two bad weeks,” Davis said. “I was hoping he could get out of that slump. He didn’t. They went at him deep. They made the plays on him, so I made the switch. I think Fletch is a good corner. He’s just lacking confidence right now.”

Two plays later, Jackson drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone. Darrel Young ran for a 1-yard touchdown on the next snap.

“We felt like our corners could stay with him and obviously, they didn’t,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said.

That was the second miscalculation the Eagles made regarding Jackson this year. Back in March, Kelly decided Jackson was a poor fit for the kind of team he was trying to build. Jackson was released.

He caught an 81-yard touchdown pass when the teams met in September at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. The Eagles won that game, though. This time, Jackson didn’t get into the end zone, but his team won.

“As far as my ex-teammates, I think a lot of guys miss me,” Jackson said. “They tell me that during the game. I still have good relationships with a lot of guys over there. They constantly tell me how much they miss me and wish I was still there. But that’s a decision they chose to make in the front office.”
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LANDOVER, Md. – The mirage lingered there, just out of reach. Mark Sanchez was zipping the ball this way and that and led the Eagles to one, two, three scoring drives. After falling behind to the 3-11 team from Washington on Saturday, the Eagles tied the game and were making a fourth drive.

They were on the edge of field-goal range when the mirage evaporated.

Sanchez’s second turnover of the game, an interception to Washington rookie Bashaud Breeland, ended the Eagles’ chance of completing the comeback. Washington drove to the game-winning field goal, which ended more than the Eagles’ already faint chances of getting back into the playoff picture.

Sanchez
The 27-24 loss also dashed the illusion that Chip Kelly’s program was on a steady upward climb. Once 9-3, the Eagles are suddenly 9-6. They can equal the previous season’s record by beating the Giants on Sunday, but their chances to take another step forward disappeared with Kai Forbath’s 26-yard field goal. The Eagles will now be rooting for Indianapolis to beat the Cowboys (10-4) on Sunday. A Dallas win eliminates Philadelphia. A Dallas loss keeps a modicum of hope alive.

Sanchez was making his seventh start since starting quarterback Nick Foles fractured his collarbone. When the Eagles were 9-3, coming off that big win in Dallas on Thanksgiving, anything seemed possible. Sanchez could be re-signed and brought back as the No. 1 QB. Foles could return and, rising to the challenge posed by Sanchez, reassert himself as the starter.

Now?

After three consecutive losses, Sanchez looks more like the turnover-prone, limited quarterback who inspired the New York Jets to move on last year. With Foles not cleared by doctors, there is little chance for him to show he deserves to be the No. 1 quarterback when training camp opens in July.

“You have to win games,” Sanchez said. “The head coach and the quarterback, we are the only ones who they keep a record [on]. So it goes with the territory of this position. There have been three really tough games, and this one came down to the wire, and we came up a little short.”

Kelly will be going into his third NFL season without knowing if he has a legitimate No. 1 quarterback. That was the risk he took when he got to Philadelphia last year. Kelly had Foles and Michael Vick on his roster and decided to let them compete for the job. He wanted to try to win right away -- no building around a young quarterback for Kelly -- and, for a while, that’s exactly what he did.

Foles’ astonishing 2013 season (27 touchdowns, two interceptions, 7-1 second-half record) created the impression Kelly had his quarterback. But Foles was nowhere near that level of excellence this season. His injury forced Kelly to make a decision he might have come close to making soon anyway.

Foles and Sanchez have each thrown 10 interceptions this season.

“I think we’re currently minus-9 in turnover margin,” safety Malcolm Jenkins said. “So us having nine wins is impressive. We’re living on borrowed time playing that style of football. If we had come out and run the table in December with that kind of football, it would have been surprising.”

The 26 turnovers from quarterbacks is the most in the NFL. There is no good time to turn the ball over, but there are especially bad times. Sanchez fumbled the ball away to end a drive that had started in promising fashion. But the interception, which gave the ball to Washington with under two minutes left in a tie game, was a killer.

Because of the Oregon connection, there already has been speculation Kelly will try to get in position to draft Heisman-winning quarterback Marcus Mariota in April. That would mean finding a team willing to trade down and giving up multiple draft choices, but it would give Kelly a cornerstone player at the most important position in sports.

If it’s not Mariota, the Eagles still have to find someone. Kelly tried to get by with the quarterbacks at hand, and he got the Eagles to the playoffs last year. They lost in the first round. This year, it seems likely they will miss the playoffs altogether. That is not progress. It is not enough to provide a fig leaf over the lack of a franchise quarterback.

They deserved to lose this game. They committed too many penalties, made too many mistakes and dropped too many passes.

“You aren’t going to win a football game that way,” Kelly said. “Thirteen penalties and two turnovers is not going to win football games in this league.”

That’s true. But a special quarterback would have erased all those mistakes by completing that final drive. The ball was in Sanchez’s hands. He threw it to the other team.
LANDOVER, MD. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Eagles' 27-24 loss to Washington:

Carroll
Change is slow. Eagles defensive coordinator Bill Davis finally flipped the switch on his left cornerback position. Davis was hoping Bradley Fletcher could play his way out of a slump. Fletcher was back in the lineup despite giving up three touchdowns to Dez Bryant last week. But after former Eagle DeSean Jackson beat him for a second 50-yard-plus reception, Davis sent Nolan Carroll out to play Fletcher's spot. "I wanted to get him out of there for a second," Davis said. "Catch his breath, get his perspective, and try someone else. They made the plays on him, so I made a switch."

Hot read, cold throw. With Washington showing an all-out blitz, Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez was hoping to throw a quick pass to Jeremy Maclin. "They were in an all-out pressure," Sanchez said. "I was trying to buy a little time and anticipate when Mac was going to be there. I just kind of missed it. We didn't capitalize." The ball was intercepted by Washington rookie Bashaud Breeland, who made a nice diving catch.

Ertz so good. Eagles tight end Zach Ertz set a franchise record with 15 receptions for 115 yards. He was not feeling celebratory, however. "I'd rather have one catch, or zero catches, in a win," Ertz said. "The record is what it is. I'd rather take the win than this record any day of the week."
LANDOVER, Md. -- Observed and heard in the locker room after the Redskins' 27-24 win over Philadelphia:

Bush
Breeland
Big-time pick: Rookie corner Bashaud Breeland continues to impress. He was a popular stop in the locker room for the media, many of whom waited around as he got dressed just because he was a must to interview. Before others arrived, Breeland said of his interception with under two minutes remaining, “I knew it would come out quick. I tried to jam [Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin]. The quarterback threw it inside instead of throwing it outside. He threw to the leverage where I was at. It was a low ball and I just tried my best to get underneath it.”

Painful performance: The smile on Trent Williams’ face hid the pain stemming from his right shoulder. Williams thought his day was done when he exited early in the fourth quarter because of the shoulder injury. But Williams later returned against the initial wishes of offensive line coach Chris Foerster. “To see the looks on their faces, to beat a division [rival], it was worth it,” Williams said.

Ouch: Rookie Trent Murphy broke a bone in his right hand in the opening half and was replaced by linebacker Jackson Jeffcoat, who recorded a sack. So, too, did linebacker Trevardo Williams. Murphy was doing a solid job against the run. Eventually, the Redskins’ pass rush was slowed but it’s hard to ask a lot more from the two replacements than combining for two sacks.
IRVING, Texas – Christmas came early for the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday.

With the Washington Redskins beating the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cowboys can clinch the NFC East and a playoff berth with a win Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts at AT&T Stadium.

The Cowboys have chances at having homefield advantage or a first-round bye in the playoffs if they win their final two games. They close the season Dec. 28 at the Redskins.

For a team that has lost three straight Week 17, winner-take-all, NFC East championship games, the chance to cement their first playoff appearance since 2009 with a win in Week 16 – or any week – was something few expected at the beginning of the season.

But now comes the hard part.

The Cowboys are just 3-4 at AT&T Stadium this season. The Colts have the NFL’s passing leader in Andrew Luck and a high-scoring offense (30.3 yards), although they could be without their leading receiver T.Y. Hilton because of a hamstring injury.

The Cowboys expect DeMarco Murray, the NFL’s leading rusher, to play despite breaking his left hand last week and having surgery on Monday. He is officially listed as questionable.

Rapid Reaction: Washington Redskins

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
7:54
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts and observations after the Redskins' 27-24 win over the Philadelphia Eagles:

What it means: The Redskins haven’t given up on the season and improved their win total by one over 2013. It’s a significant win for a team that’s been horrible for most of the second half. They avoided the negative plays that killed them in previous games, such as penalties, and they overcame two turnovers. Of course, two missed field goals by Philadelphia helped. But it was the Eagles who played a more undisciplined game, with three roughing the quarterback penalties and 13 flags overall. The Redskins absolutely needed this sort of game, at home and against a division opponent, after all that has transpired in recent weeks. Also, they might have delivered a death blow to Philadelphia’s playoff hopes. It's not as if the Redskins' defense was great, but holding the Eagles to 24 points was impressive.

Griffin’s day: Robert Griffin III showed enough to whet your appetite and enough to cause you to wonder if he’s just a guy who will be up and down for his career. But he did a good job, for the most part, of hanging in the pocket and delivering the ball as he did on his one completion en route to the game-winning points. Yes, he could have hit some other passes and maybe better throws would have resulted in touchdown passes to DeSean Jackson. But Griffin helped deliver a big win -- whether it was because of a stripped-down game plan or just (mostly) avoiding the big mistake. Another key was that he did not rely on his arm, attempting only 23 passes.

Stock report: Going up: The Redskins’ run game. It wasn’t always a pretty attack, but they could have stuck with it more. But the run game offered enough to keep the Eagles’ defense off-balance at times. The Redskins only gained 100 yards rushing, but Alfred Morris finished with 83 yards on 21 carries. The commitment led to some play-action passes that worked well.

Game balls: Jackson reminded the Eagles of what they once had, with a couple of 50-yard catches. It took a while for the Eagles to realize they should provide safety help against him. Jackson bailed the Redskins out of bad spots, too. His routes gave Griffin room to work on the outside, and Jackson made some nice catches.

What’s next: A 1 p.m. season finale at home against Dallas on Dec. 28 -- and then a lot of work ahead in the offseason.

Rapid Reaction: Philadelphia Eagles

December, 20, 2014
Dec 20
7:35
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LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Philadelphia Eagles27-24 loss to the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field.

What it means: The Eagles’ 2014 season is officially falling apart, and playoff talk is now just wishful thinking. It was one thing to lose to the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks two weeks ago. It was another to lose to Dallas, a division opponent the Eagles had beaten decisively on Thanksgiving Day. But it was unthinkable for this Eagles team to turn in a flat, uninspired performance against a 3-11 Washington team -- not with its postseason hanging in the balance. That’s what happened, though. Fans of poetic justice can savor the two 50-plus-yard catches by DeSean Jackson, who burned cornerback Bradley Fletcher for both. In March, coach Chip Kelly shocked Eagles fans by releasing Jackson. In December, Jackson got his revenge. Advantage: Jackson.

Stock watch: It is dropping for the Eagles across the board. A couple of months ago, it seemed obvious they were heading for a second consecutive NFC East title and a trip to the playoffs. Even a few weeks ago, the Eagles seemed postseason-bound. With three consecutive losses, they now are 9-6 and need a win against the Giants next week just to equal last year’s record.

No Parkey zone: Cody Parkey, the Eagles’ rookie kicker, had missed just two field goal attempts all season. Parkey missed two consecutive attempts in the third quarter. His 34-yard attempt went just wide right. A few minutes later, Parkey was way wide to the right on a 46-yard attempt. Parkey made a chip-shot field goal to tie the game at 24-24 in the fourth quarter, but six points would have made a difference in this game.

Game ball: Before his inevitable fourth-quarter interception, Mark Sanchez was playing his best game of the season. But it was hard to miss tight end Zach Ertz on the other end of many of Sanchez's throws. Ertz caught a career-high 15 passes for 115 yards. Throw the game ball to him. He'll catch it.

What’s next: The Eagles close out their regular season next Sunday against the New York Giants at the Meadowlands. It will be an anticlimactic game, but it will be interesting to see how Kelly gets his players to react in such a situation. The Eagles can’t salvage their season, probably, but they can salvage a little bit of pride after three consecutive losses.
LANDOVER, Md. -- Running back Roy Helu and starting inside linebacker Keenan Robinson are among the Washington Redskins' inactives for Saturday's game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Helu missed last week with a sprained big toe -- he looked good at times during individual drills Thursday, but it's a tricky injury for any skill position player. The Redskins will use the same rotation as last week, with Silas Redd and Chris Thompson taking turns as the third-down back. They also used fullback Darrel Young at times, though mostly in a blocking role.

Robinson was listed as doubtful so his not playing isn't a big surprise. It's tough to lose a good athletic and speedy inside linebacker against the Eagles' offense, which forces defenses to defend the entire width of the field. Will Compton will take over for Robinson.

Among the other Redskins inactives: cornerback Kenny Okoro, linebacker Gabe Miller, receiver Leonard Hankerson, defensive end Jason Hatcher, and guard Josh LeRibeus.
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- New York Giants running back Rashad Jennings missed a third straight day of practice and has officially been ruled out of Sunday's game in St. Louis. Jennings has a sprained right ankle that he aggravated on the first play of last Sunday's game against Washington.

Jennings
Earlier this season, Jennings missed four games with a knee sprain. This is the first game he'll miss due to the ankle injury, which he suffered in Week 13 in Jacksonville, but he was a non-factor in Week 14 in Tennessee and was injured on the first play of the game in Week 15.

Jennings said Friday that his hope is to return to practice next week and play in the season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles next week. In the meantime, rookie Andre Williams will make his sixth start of the season. Orleans Darkwa will serve as his backup, and Chris Ogbonnaya is likely to be active for the first time as a Giant.

The only other Giants player on the injury report this week was middle linebacker Jameel McClain, who missed Wednesday's practice with a knee injury but practiced Thursday and Friday. McClain is listed as probable and is expected to play.
The Washington Redskins haven’t solved their quarterback problem, even if it appeared they had done so two years ago. One quarterback said he could be the answer to their woes: Michael Vick.

It’s considered home -- and there is a certain player on their roster he has had success with in the past.

Vick
Vick
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Vick is on a one-year contract with the New York Jets. And there is little reason to believe the Redskins would want to sign him at this point. He’s 34, hasn’t started more than 13 games since 2011, and hasn’t been his team’s primary starter since 2012. Besides, they have two quarterbacks under contract for next season, Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins, and they also like Colt McCoy, who is a pending free agent.

The Redskins still appear committed to Griffin, despite a rocky season and an apparent clashing of what he can do vs. what the coaches want to run. So any talk of a Vick stop in Washington is way premature and most likely a stretch.

But Kimberly Martin of New York Newsday reported that Vick beamed "like a child" when during an interview she raised the idea of playing in Washington. Vick is a Virginia Beach native.

"I'm open to playing for anybody that wants to win," Vick said. "But obviously, going back home, I mean, that'll be a dream come true ... But I would hate to get my hopes up for something that wouldn't happen. So I can't even think about it right now."

Part of the lure would be would reuniting with former Philadelphia Eagles teammate DeSean Jackson. According to ESPN Stats & Information, in their 42 games together, they connected for 152 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Vick averaged 10.70 yards per pass attempt to Jackson and had a 101.5 passer rating when throwing to him. They connected for 18 passes of at least 40 yards.

Jackson signed with Washington in the offseason. He has caught 50 passes and averaged 19.1 yards per catch with five touchdowns. Vick said they talked about playing together.

"I know his speed, I know his acceleration path, I know when he's coming out of his breaks," Vick said. "There's nobody that knows DeSean Jackson better than me."
IRVING, Texas – Earlier in the week ESPN.com assembled reporters from NFL Nation and NFL Insiders to discuss the NFL’s Most Valuable Player award.

The focus was on Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, J.J. Watt and, yes, Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray.

Packers NFL Nation reporter Rob Demovsky gave this assessment of Murray’s chances:
He absolutely should be on the list, and around the midseason point he probably was considered one of the front runners. That has waned a little since then. Running backs are underappreciated in the league today, but he's truly special regardless of whether he's playing now or whether he played when MVP runners such as Thurman Thomas, Emmitt Smith and Terrell Davis were in the game.

Murray is fighting history a bit and the fact that the NFL is a quarterback-driven league.

Romo
Tony Romo’s name did not come up in the discussion. They were focused on these five candidates, but I’ve mentioned before how Romo should be in the discussion for MVP.

Even with Murray expected to play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts less than a week after undergoing hand surgery, he just can’t be the same runner, can he? Will the Cowboys give him the ball 30 times? I can’t see it happening.

So, to me, that puts more on Romo and will help his MVP case if the Cowboys beat the Colts. If Romo delivers wins and big performances in the final two games, he has to insert himself into the conversation. The preseason expectations for the Cowboys were as low as they have been since the early 2000s when they were putting up three straight 5-11 records. Romo's numbers are terrific, but it is not just the stats. It's how he is doing it and when he is doing it.

On Thursday, owner and general manager Jerry Jones was asked if this has been Romo’s best season. He didn’t want to go there. Yet.

“I don’t want to say that, because we’re not through,” Jones said. “But it has the potential to be his best season. I guess the factor that would impact the most in my mind would be if we do have the kind of season that we’re all dreaming about here, then it would be his best. Of course, he’s played well at the position. He’s played well as a quarterback, all of his percentages are certainly qualified to be one of his best. The way he’s doing it is really getting, and should get, a lot of weight as to comparing his seasons. But we’d all say let’s see how many wins we’ve got, and let’s see what the wins get for us.”
IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray is on the practice field for the third straight day, but the right side of the offensive line -- tackle Doug Free and guard Zack Martin -- isn’t.

Speaking on 105.3 The Fan in Dallas on Friday, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said he is “pretty positive,” Murray and Martin will play Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. The Cowboys are not as sure about Free.

Murray is attempting to play with a broken hand that was surgically repaired on Monday. Free and Martin have ankle injuries. Coach Jason Garrett said there are no hard and fast rules as to whether Martin, a rookie, has to practice in order to play.

As for Murray, Garrett said the running back “looked good,” in Thursday’s practice in which he took limited team snaps but he wasn’t ready to commit to Murray playing against the Colts.

“He hasn’t done much with the ball in his left hand,” Coach Garrett said, “He’s just trying to work his way back. He had surgery a couple of days ago. I think his mind is right, but he has a long way to go. We’ll take it day by day and see how he is come game time.”

Defensive tackle Josh Brent (calf) and linebacker Dekoda Watson (hamstring) are not practicing and will likely miss Sunday’s game. Backup quarterback Brandon Weeden is missing practice for personal reasons.
PHILADELPHIA -- Eagles coach Chip Kelly has been talking about reducing the number of turnovers committed by his team all season. This is not what he had in mind.

Elias changed the scoring from Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys, taking away one of the Eagles’ turnovers. The opening kickoff, which took an odd bounce and was recovered by the Cowboys, has been scored officially as an onside kick. It was originally ruled a fumble lost by the Eagles.

The Eagles still lead the NFL with 33 turnovers this season. As bad as that sounds (and is), there is one simple conclusion to be drawn. The Eagles’ quarterbacks have turned the ball over way too much this year.

[+] EnlargeMark Sanchez
AP Photo/John F. RhodesIn the seven games Mark Sanchez has played in since taking over for Nick Foles, he has 11 turnovers (9 picks and 2 fumbles).
Nick Foles, who started the first eight games, committed a total of 13 turnovers. Foles was on a pace to give the ball away 26 times all by himself over the full season. That number is especially jarring because Foles was so good at taking care of the ball last season. He threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

This year, Foles threw 13 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Mark Sanchez took over for Foles in the Eagles’ Week 8 game in Houston and has started the six games since then. Sanchez has a total of 11 turnovers -- nine interceptions and two lost fumbles.

Add them up and the two quarterbacks are responsible for 24 of the Eagles’ 33 turnovers.

Last season, the Eagles turned the ball over a total of 19 times. Quarterbacks were responsible for 14 of those turnovers, nine interceptions and five fumbles. Foles, with two interceptions and two fumbles, was responsible for just four turnovers. Michael Vick (two fumbles, three interceptions) committed five turnovers. So did Matt Barkley, with four picks and one lost fumble.

The rest of the Eagles’ roster committed just five turnovers last season. It has committed nine this season. That’s obviously more, but it is not the huge leap made by the quarterbacks. If Sanchez commits two more turnovers in each of the remaining games, Eagles quarterbacks will have double the amount of turnovers they committed in 2013.

That begs the question: Why? Is there something about Kelly’s offensive system that makes quarterbacks more prone to committing turnovers? Foles’ numbers from last season make a pretty compelling case that it has nothing to do with the system.

Pressure on quarterbacks is the No. 1 cause of turnovers. For most of the first half of the season, the Eagles were juggling offensive linemen because of injuries.

As the line returned to its current state of health-related stability, Sanchez replaced Foles. Considering Sanchez had thrown 69 interceptions and 68 touchdown passes in his first four seasons combined, his turnover rate is hardly surprising.

The good news is Elias took one of the turnovers off the Eagles’ ledger. The bad news is they aren’t about to turn any of those interceptions into touchdowns.
IRVING, Texas – DeMarco Murray has looked at the play in which he broke his left hand last week against the Philadelphia Eagles and he is still not sure how it happened.

“It kind of stung for a minute, then went away,” the Dallas Cowboys running back said. “I kind of went over to the sideline and felt a little clicking and asked [head athletic trainer Jim Maurer] about it and he kind of knew right away what happened.”

That clicking Murray felt was a broken fourth metacarpal, the long bone that runs across the top of his hand. On Monday night Murray had surgery on his hand that included a plate and eight screws. On Sunday he expects to play against the Indianapolis Colts.

[+] EnlargeDeMarco Murray
Mitchell Leff/Getty ImagesDeMarco Murray had surgery to repair a broken bone in his hand and plans to play less than a week later.
In the regular world, that is not normal. Not even close to normal. Yet in the football world, it is met with a shrug as if it is no big deal. Even Murray downplayed what he is doing.

“People deal with injuries all the time, so you’ve got to be able to fight through the pain,” Murray said.

Tony Romo played with two transverse process fractures in his back and has required pain-killing injections or pills to work through that and torn rib cartilage. Jason Witten played the 2012 season opener with a partially torn spleen. Dez Bryant passed on season-ending surgery for a broken finger late in 2012. Two games later, he caught nine passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Orlando Scandrick played with a finger so shattered that reconstructive surgery did not fix it.

“It’s stuck,” Scandrick said. “It never got back. I mean it was just something [that] over time I learned how to deal with it.”

Other Cowboys have played through injuries not even known or talked about. They will wait until after the season to have surgeries on shoulders or knees that are cranky but not so bad – in their minds, anyway – to knock them out of a game.

Why do they do what they do? What is the pull of the game? What is it about that rush from that opening kick that keeps them doing what they do?

“I mean, your focus is so on the short term and now the adrenaline that goes along with it,” Witten said. “I’m the player rep, so I've got to be careful with what I say, but, yeah, this is awesome man, to be in this opportunity and a lot of us waited a long time to get here. 'Whatever it takes' is a good mindset to have. It’s just you put all this work to get to this moment in December to be in the hunt and here you are. I think you want to give yourself every chance to play.”

Romo missed just one game with his back fractures. Standing at a podium after practice in London last month, he talked about why he wanted to play so badly.

“I’m a football player; this is what I do for my life's work,” Romo said then. “It's important to me. I care about playing and competing and helping this football team win … You're only afforded so many opportunities at that, so you want to take advantage of that when you have that opportunity. If you love the game, you'll always try and get on the field.”

There is a healthy selfishness to why they play through injury. Their careers are short. There is something about being there for your teammates even when you are not at your best that brings a loyalty not seen in other walks of life. When players retire, the first thing they mention they miss most is the camaraderie -- not the game and not necessarily even the money.

Before the word ‘regret’ can be finished, Scandrick says no.

“My job is on the line every day,” Scandrick said. “The job of the scouts and people around here is to find someone better than me, that’s cheaper than me.”

Chicago Bears safety Chris Conte said earlier this week he would rather experience the NFL even if it cuts short his life span. He later clarified that his comments were not related to concussions.

“Just the associated risk with football and accepting the fact that life expectancy of someone who has played in the NFL is shorter than the average person," he told ESPNChicago.com. "And I'm fine with trading that risk for the opportunity to play football since it's something I have always wanted to do and a dream come true.”

There is a line players won’t cross: head injuries.

“I’m not messing with my head,” Scandrick said. “I got kids.”

But they’ll risk just about anything else. The pain might not last forever, thanks to modern medicine, but the memories will.

The Cowboys are 10-4 and in first place in the NFC East. If they win two more games, they guarantee themselves a playoff spot for the first time since 2009. There are only so many times a player has to achieve Super Bowl glory.

That’s why Murray wants to play less than a week having surgery and why the others play through pain.

“I love playing,” Witten said. “And I love playing with the guys you’re in the locker room with. Just an awesome deal that we have this opportunity. There’s a sign out there that says it’s a privilege, not a right, to play and coach for the Dallas Cowboys. I think that’s the way kinda this team has gone about it since April, when nobody thought we could do anything.”

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