The Washington Redskins sealed their first playoff appearance since 1999 when Sean Taylor scooped up a fourth-quarter Eagles fumble, rambled 39 yards, and launched himself into the endzone. Taylor's score was the perfect capstone to a season nearly sabotaged by what must have been one of the worst strings of fumble recovery luck experienced by an NFL team.
After the first seven games of the season Washington had recovered just 4 of 26 fumbles on offense and defense combined. Their 15 percent recovery rate at that point was far behind the rest of the league and was extremely improbably. (The chances of recovering just 4 of 26 fumbles are 1 in 3,333--about as likely as tossing 12 heads in a row while flipping a coin.)
From that point to the start of today's game Washington recovered 20 of the next 29 offensive and defensive fumbles to move from worst (by far) to ninth-worst in the league. In today's game Washington recovered four of seven Philly fumbles, lifting their season recovery rate to 45 percent. (The NFL.com stats for today are confusingly contradictory--as of this writing they show five Eagles fumbles and four Skins recoveries on the team stats page; four Skins recoveries and three Eagles recoveries on the game stats page; and three Eagle fumbles and three Skins recoveries on the play-by-play page.)
The five teams with the worst fumble recovery rates through 15 games are Houston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, Green Bay, and Seattle--all tied at 38 percent. With this poor recovery rate and one of the toughest schedules this year the Texans are likely much better than their 2-14 record indicates. At the other end of the league are New Orleans, the New York Giants, Carolina, Atlanta, and New England with respective recovery rates of 69, 61, 58, 58, and 57 percent. That's bad news for the Saints who may be worse than their 3-13 record--perhaps why Jim Haslett is so eager to escape!
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