Eagles Believe Lions Shouldn’t Have Been Able To Recover Ryan Mathews’ Fumble

Doug Pederson thinks NFL officials made the wrong ruling.

Ryan Mathews. (USA Today Sports)

Ryan Mathews. (USA Today Sports)

The Eagles don’t believe their first turnover of the 2016 season was actually a turnover at all.

According to head coach Doug Pederson, the fumble lost by Ryan Mathews late in Philadelphia’s 24-23 loss to the Lions shouldn’t have been able to be recovered by Detroit.

The controversy doesn’t begin with the fumble itself. Mathews clearly lost control of the ball before he was down (as pictured above). Rather, the fumble recovery is in question. As the ball is loose and heading towards the sideline, it appears to come in contract with Eagles center Jason Kelce. It also appears Kelce may have been out of bounds while the ball touched him. Watch the video below.

If Kelce was truly out of bounds while the ball touched him, the play should have been dead. Pederson explained as much on Monday morning.

“It’s a dead ball out of bounds,” said Pederson. “That’s the rule. That was one of the things I wanted to make sure this morning that I was correct and accurate in that ruling. It’s just one of those things.”

“But we can’t cough the ball up.”

Pederson’s right. The Eagles put themselves in a bad position by needing to rely on a questionable officiating crew to rule on their side. While it sure looks like the ball probably touched Kelce, the replay is not conclusive. Pederson said Pete Morelli’s crew told him that Kelce did not touch the ball. After the game, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino released a public explanation regarding the call.

If the officials did rule Kelce touched the ball, the Eagles would have retained possession and it would have been fourth down. Instead of giving the Lions at the ball at Philadelphia’s 45-yard line, the Eagles would have had a chance to pin Detroit deep in their own territory with a punt. The Eagles’ defense had been playing well in the second half so there was reason believe the Birds could get another key stop.

But alas, that wasn’t the case. And, to Pederson’s credit, he’s not blaming Philadelphia’s loss on the officials.

“We’ll send a few clips in [to the league] out of this game,” said Pederson. “But again, that’s not the reason why we lost this football game.”

There’s no question the officiating at least had some impact on the final outcome, but it was one of many contributing factors to Philadelphia’s one-point loss. The Eagles made a number of key mistakes on their own: two turnovers, a slow start by the defense, a dropped touchdown, and so on. The Eagles created a low margin of error for themselves and it ultimately cost them the game.


The penalty disparity in this game was unquestionably one-sided. The Eagles were flagged 14 times for 111 yards while the Lions were only penalized twice for 18 yards. A team having 12 more penalties than their opponent only occurs in 0.5% of NFL games (via @seanjtaylor). Pederson offered his thoughts on the abundance of yellow flags thrown on Sunday.

“We almost overcame it and won it,” said Pederson. “That’s a tribute to the football team. The way the guys battled, to have as many plays on defense to start this game, you know, three drives … it was like 32 plays if you count penalties and everything. It’s a bunch of football. That was their game. Our game was we battled, we hung in there. Defense played outstanding in the second half. We made plays on offense. Had a chance to win with two minutes to go in the game.”

But did he feel the calls were balanced?

“I’m not going to get into the officiating,” said Pederson. “We have to correct them. We have to play smarter. The facemask on Fletcher [Cox] is always going to be an unsportmanslike, it’s going to be a personal foul. Those type of things. We’ve got to play smart.”

It’s not unreasonable to question the competency of Morelli’s crew. His 2015 unit performed so poorly that the NFL broke his team up.

There was at least one call in the Eagles-Lions game that was downright baffling. While the Eagles offense was on the field late in the first half, a flag was thrown for an ineligible receiver running downfield. The penalty was originally called on No. 98 of the Eagles, which made no sense because Connor Barwin doesn’t play offense. The officials then got together and realized the flag was mistakenly thrown with Lions defensive end Devin Taylor, who wears No. 98, in mind. A long story short, the officials forgot which team was playing offense. That seems like a problem.

Again, the officiating is not the reason why the Eagles lost. But it’s hard to say this officiating crew did a stellar job.


The Eagles had built up a lot of momentum heading into their Week 4 bye. The team was 3-0 after coming off a dominant win over a good Steelers team. Pederson was asked how the Birds can prevent their momentum from spiraling in the wrong direction following this loss to Detroit.

“That’s a great question, because I saw how ticked off this team was at the end of this football game,” said Pederson. “Despite everything that went on in this game — negative, positive, the whole thing — this is a different football team than a year ago. This is a resilient football team. This is a team that, when I walked on the plane last night, when we were halfway home, and everybody’s on their iPads watching the game. They’re watching. They’re correcting the mistakes. They’re wanting to get back out on the football field.

“From a coach’s perspective, that’s great to see. That’s great to see your players take ownership that way. The leaders of your team really step up and, yeah, as bad as it hurts, they understand that ‘Hey, we let one slide.’ And my message to them was that every week is going to be a challenge. Every week has its’ own circumstances. But it was great to see the veteran guys and really all the guys back there, from Carson [Wentz], to Malcolm [Jenkins], to Fletcher, to Connor, to Brent Celek … I mean, everybody is back there looking at the game. So this thing, it won’t spiral. It won’t spiral. They’re taking ownership of it.”


Shortly following Philadelphia’s loss, Johnson told reporters he expects to hear a final decision on his potential suspension on Wednesday or Thursday this week. Pederson says the Eagles won’t make a change to the offensive line until it becomes necessary.

“Again, until we get the final word, Lane is my right tackle, and I’m going to keep going that route,” he said. “If Lane is limited due to his injury on Wednesday then, as I mentioned before, we’ll probably have ‘Big V’ [Halapoulivaati Vaitai] step up and get some reps this week, particularly maybe on Wednesday.”

Pederson first mentioned Vaitai as a possible Johnson replacement last week. The rookie tackle has spent every week on the game day inactive list since the start of the season.


Starting cornerback Leodis McKelvin (hamstring) and special teams contributor Bryan Braman (shoulder) will sit out of Wednesday’s practice, per Pederson. The Eagles head coach did say he expects both players to suit up against Washington this week.

As noted earlier, Pederson said Johnson (elbow) could be limited in practice on Wednesday. If that’s the case, expect Vaitai to take some reps at right tackle. If Johnson isn’t suspended, he’s expected to be healthy enough to play on Sunday.

Pederson also said Cox (ankle), Dorial Green-Beckham (knee), and Bennie Logan (calf) all suffered injuries in the Eagles-Lions game but noted they won’t miss time.