A 13-13 tie.
Words could not describe the anger and confusion any Eagles fan could be feeling right now, just hours after a dismal showing by Philadelphia, as they fought (kind of) with Cincinnati to the bitter end.
Today's effort put forth by the Eagles was so bad that this actually feels like a loss—yes, it's that bad.
With that said, you can't take anything away from the Cincinnati Bengals. They really went out today with a spoiler's mentality and have thrown a giant monkey wrench into the Eagles' playoff hopes.
Throughout the week, all the talk was about how the Eagles' offense must come out, play with nastiness, and match the intensity of the opposition.
They did none of that.
On offense, Philly really never got on track, as they were inconsistent all game long. Donovan McNabb had his worst game of the season, throwing three hideous interceptions and missing numerous open receivers.
McNabb has played well this season, but let's take a long hard look at it: With the time that the offensive line gives him, how does he not put up 400 yards per game? Is it the receivers? Is it McNabb's inability to hit a receiver in stride consistently? Who knows, but Philly can't play like this next Sunday, as they have the tough task of dissecting the Baltimore Ravens' defense.
On the ground, the Eagles got stronger as the game wore on, and Brian Westbrook started to gash the Bengals for significant yards. But, as usual, Andy Reid refused to stick with the ground game and attack the league's fifth-ranked pass defense.
Why? Andy has such an infatuation with the pass game that he fails to recognize that his team is struggling to throw and forgets that he has a pretty good combo of running backs in Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter.
To add on to the bashing of Reid, here's a scenario: 2nd-and-1, following a nine-yard carry from Westbrook—pass play (incomplete); 3rd-and-1, ANOTHER pass play (incomplete).
Seriously, why does Reid continue to run such a horrible strategy that, week in and week out, fails?
Yes, the Eagles put up points. Yes, they put up a lot of yardage. But it's the little things that they do wrong, like missing the open man, or missing a block, or the usual horrible play call that have done them in during every loss they've had this year.
Defensively, the Eagles were strong, as usual. They sacked Ryan Fitzpatrick eight times and held Cedric Benson to a dismal 42 yards on 23 carries. They allowed some big plays in the pass game and made some mental mistakes, but in the end, they played well enough to win, despite the tie.
The defensive line of the Eagles was absolutely dominant; they controlled the line of scrimmage and kept Ryan Fitzpatick under heavy duress all game long.
The mistakes that were made by the defense were really iffy roughing-the-passer penalties. Both Trent Cole and Sheldon Brown were flagged for unnecessary roughness penalties for hits on the quarterback that seemed to be clean hits.
To quote Troy Polamalu, "The NFL has become a pansy's league."
This is a contact sport. You can't even hit the quarterback hard anymore without drawing a flag or a hefty deduction from your wallet.
The positives that the Eagles can take from this game are two of their youngest and emerging stars. DeSean Jackson and Stewart Bradley have continued their progress through the season and both had strong performances this afternoon.
Jackson hauled in four passes for 66 yards, remaining the Eagles' leading receiver. Bradley followed up his 14-tackle performance on Sunday night against the Giants with a 12-tackle game today.
The negatives are on the Eagles' offense and special teams. The offense continues to struggle out of the gates, and McNabb has been very inconsistent for the past two games, both with a below 50-percent completion rate.
Philly's special teams were very poor today—no, not David Akers; I'm talking about Sav Rocca and the return units. Rocca had a string of about four or five absolutely dismal punts that gave Cincinnati numerous opportunities to put points up, but thanks to the defense, they went unnoticed.
DeSean Jackson and Quintin Demps, the Eagles' two dynamic returners, were anything but this afternoon, as both failed to give the offense good field position.
Cincinnati should be proud of today's tie (I say that with a hint of sarcasm). While I don't think either team deserved to win, they forced turnovers at great times, and quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to gain confidence, as he showed tremendous poise in the heavily Eagle-clad pocket.
The Cincinnati offense did a great job of moving the football through the air, mostly due to T.J. Houshmandzadeh's 12 receptions and 149 yards—highlighted by a 26-yard scoring strike in the second quarter.
Their defense was shaky for the better part of the game, but when they need a key stop or a turnover, they got it. They forced four Donovan McNabb turnovers on the day, three of which led to points.
So where do both teams go from here?
The Eagles will travel to Baltimore next Sunday, where they will lock horns with former special-teams coordinator and secondary-coach-turned-head-coach John Harbaugh and the Ravens.
That is a must-win game for the Eagles. There can be no tie. There can't be a loss. The season rides on next Sunday.
The Bengals will head to Pittsburgh next Thursday to do battle with the hated Steelers in a prime-time show. The Bengals will remain in last place in the AFC North at 1-8-1.
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