Eagles fumble the ball

Eagles fumble the ball

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Apologies first. I am sorry for that intrusive “Play” symbol in the middle of the picture. I couldn’t find a way to get rid of it except by substituting a “Pause” symbol.

Then there is the misleading title of this essay, which will surely make some Eagles fans think I didn’t watch the game [1] and that is why I have the wrong team fumbling the ball.

OK. Enough of that. The Bear’s player is Anthony Miller. The gesture looks like “Who, me?” The Eagle’s player is Cre’Von Le Blanc. His gesture is pretty common among secondary defenders. It is celebratory. It can be very personal, like “That’s what you get for throwing the ball in my direction.” Or, it can just be the player’s version of the referee’s call, which is very common.  That is the signal the ref gives to show that the pass was incomplete.

A running back who thinks he made a first down will signal first down, not waiting for the referee to signal it. Whole teams will signal that they recovered a fumble—the ball is still buried deep in that pile of players so no one really knows [2]

This picture just shows Le Blanc celebrating that he caused an incompletion. Except that he didn’t. He caused a fumble.

Those two plays are identical in most respects. Le Blanc knows that Miller caught the ball and he knows that he ripped it out of Miller’s hands. He does not know how many steps Miller took while he still controlled the ball—and that is what is going to make the difference between an incompletion and a fumble.

So he celebrates what he thinks he did. And all the Eagles celebrate with him. And while they are all celebrating Le Blanc’s play—it was a superb play; I have no wish to take anything away from him—the football lies there on the turf. Unloved. Ignored.  Look at the picture.  There it lies.

Eventually the ref picks it up. And now there is no reasonable thing to do with it. They have to pretend that it was an incompletion because what do you do with a fumble that the ref recovers? So they give it back to the Bears at the original line of scrimmage.

So the Eagles fumbled by refusing to fall on the ball. Or even pick it up. Or picking it up and running it back the other way for a touchdown. Instead, they took Le Blanc’s word for what had happened. A very small achievement, it turns out, compared to what he actually achieved. He actually caused a fumble and nobody noticed.

There are some very general football maxims that could be trotted out here, like “Keep on playing until the whistle.” That’s perfectly appropriate and that would have helped the Eagles a lot. But what has caught my attention is that the Eagles all celebrated with their teammate. He signaled what he thought he had sone and they all celebrated with him.  That is what I would have wanted to do.  It was a terrific play.

They all gave him credit for the small thing he thought he did. And that made them not capitalize on the big thing he actually did.

I like celebrating your teammates. It is one of the things I like best about watching football. But in this instance, it led to giving the ball back to the Bears and only a missed—“tipped” later video confirms—field goal enabled the Eagles to win the game.

So…really…the Eagles fumbled the ball.

[1] They are mostly right, but I did see this play.
[2] And the ball may changes hands several times after the original recovery.

About hessd

Here is all you need to know to follow this blog. I am an old man and I love to think about why we say the things we do. I've taught at the elementary, secondary, collegiate, and doctoral levels. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. I have taught political science for a long time and have practiced politics in and around the Oregon Legislature. I don't think one is easier than another. They are hard in different ways. You'll be seeing a lot about my favorite topics here. There will be religious reflections (I'm a Christian) and political reflections (I'm a Democrat) and a good deal of whimsy. I'm a dilettante.
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