The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

How LeSean McCoy and Mark Sanchez cost the Eagles a playoff spot

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally)

In the immortal words of Colonel Samuel Trautman: “It’s over Johnny.

The Dallas Cowboys beat the Indianapolis Colts, 42-7, and officially ended Philadelphia’s playoff hopes, making the Eagles just the third team since 1990 to miss the playoffs after a 9-3 start or better (1993 Miami Dolphins and 2008 Tampa Bay Buccaneers).

One way we can gauge the importance of each play is by using the difference in expected points — an estimate of points per play based on down, distance, and yard line or actual scoring results of the play if it was a score — before and after the play. The average play is expected to generate 0.03 of a point.

Here are three plays, one in each of the last three losses, that all but sealed the Eagles’ postseason fate.

LeSean McCoy fumbles on the opening play of the third quarter against Seahawks

Change in expected points: 4.6 fewer points

The Eagles started the second half with the ball, and running back LeSean McCoy fumbled on the very first play. The Seahawks would quickly take advantage, with Russell Wilson finding running back Marshawn Lynch for a 15-yard touchdown.

“We knew we had them, and once you take away their jab, you have them pretty much beat,” Seattle linebacker K.J. Wright said after the game. “We took away what they did best. With stopping [LeSean] McCoy, that guy carries the ball like a loaf of bread. We knew he wasn’t going to come out of this game without having a fumble. We pushed it all week of attacking the football.”

Mark Sanchez has a pass intercepted during the third quarter against Cowboys

Change in expected points: 2.3 fewer points

The Eagles were staging a comeback against the Cowboys, who they were trailing by just four points. Then with four seconds left in the third quarter, Sanchez threw a third-down pass to tight end Zach Ertz, which bounced into the waiting hands of J.J. Wilcox. The Cowboys would get the ball back at the Eagles’42-yard line and score a touchdown two minutes later.

We can’t turn the football over and expect to win games,” Eagles coach Chip Kelly said after the game. “We’re not coaching it and we’re not doing the right things.”

Mark Sanchez has a pass intercepted during the fourth quarter against the Redskins by Bashaud Breeland

Change in expected points: 3.3 fewer points

The Eagles, tied 24-24 with the Redskins, had 90 seconds remaining and were driving into field goal range when Sanchez made a poor decision with the football. Instead of hitting Ertz (red circle) or a soon-to-be wide-open Jordan Matthews (blue circle) he instead tired to force the pass to Jeremy Maclin (green line), who was wearing Redskins’ corner Bashaud Breeland like a coat.

The pass would be intercepted, and the Eagles would go on to lose by three.

Kind of missed the playoffs, too.