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News » Eagles - Eagles all but dead for playoffs after tying Bengals in Cincinnati

Eagles - Eagles all but dead for playoffs after tying Bengals in Cincinnati

Eagles - Eagles all but dead for playoffs after tying Bengals in Cincinnati
CINCINNATI - Andy Reid tossed aside the defibrillator paddles and turned off the life-support machinery at 4:51 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.

Actually, it was just his headset that Reid discarded at the end of the Eagles' 13-13 tie (read: loss) yesterday at Paul Brown Stadium. Same difference, though.

The Eagles' playoff hopes died in Cincinnati. Not officially, perhaps, but every other way. Reid, for the first time in memory, looked lost and haunted afterward, instead of unreadable or obdurate.

"I've never been in a tie, so I don't know how this works in the standings," Reid said, after the Eagles' first deadlock in exactly 11 years, since Nov. 16, 1997, 10-10 at Baltimore. It was the NFL's first tie since Nov. 10, 2002, Pittsburgh at Atlanta, 34-34. "I know it's not good enough. We need wins, and this is not a win."

Donovan McNabb threw 58 passes without ever getting on a roll, completing just 28, looking as ineffective and ordinary as he has ever been when healthy. McNabb compiled a 50.9 passer rating amid three killer interceptions, and acknowledged afterward he'd had no idea there wouldn't be a second overtime at the end of what had to be the ugliest 15-minute extra period in the history of the NFL.

Just a guess: You'll be hearing a fair amount of discussion of McNabb's obliviousness over the next few days. The quarterback was not the only Eagles player who thought the game was going to keep going when the final gun sounded. But none of the other guys who didn't know were taking the snaps from center in the dying minutes.

The Eagles faced third-and-1 three times yesterday and threw three times, all three attempts incomplete. Bengals players talked afterward of how easy the Birds' tendencies were to decipher. Unable and seemingly unwilling to run the ball on what was the NFL's 25th-ranked rushing defense coming into the day, the Eagles gained 68 rushing yards (on just 18 carries) and spent the whole afternoon trying to establish offensive rhythm by throwing over and over again into a swirling crosswind and a blitzing, stunting defense that came in ranked 10th against the pass - a very good ranking for a unit on a 1-8 team.

The Birds would have lost if Bengals kicker Shayne Graham hadn't faded a 47-yard field-goal attempt wide right, the ball plopping to the turf with 7 seconds left in OT.

"It feels like we lost," said middle linebacker Stewart Bradley, who was credited with 10 solo tackles and a forced fumble, for a defense that allowed just 282 net yards in 75 minutes.

"We're lucky that this game ended up tied, with the turnovers we had," right tackle Jon Runyan said.

"We brought it on ourselves,'' said weakside linebacker Omar Gaither. "No disrespect to the Bengals, but you're supposed to beat a 1-8 ballclub. We feel like we're a lot better than we played today; we didn't show up."

For the fourth game in a row, McNabb got off to a shaky start. This time he was 1-for-5 for no yards in the first quarter, and fumbled the ball away at his own 1, a disaster mitigated by the defense making the Bengals settle for a field goal.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," said McNabb, who finished by completing 1 of his last 6 passes, for 9 yards, that completion coming on third-and-10 from his 13. McNabb threw three interceptions for the first time since Oct. 22, 2006, a 23-21 loss at Tampa Bay.

"[I was] being careless with the ball, just trying to be aggressive, and it obviously led to turnovers," said McNabb, whose three picks all came in Bengals territory. The first, thrown straight to Cincinnati linebacker Brandon Johnson, came on first-and-10 from the Bengals' 22, and sparked the home team's only touchdown drive, after Johnson ran the ball back to the Eagles' 49.

McNabb hit on two big catch-and-run plays - a 44-yarder to Correll Buckhalter and a 57-yarder to Hank Baskett. His other 56 pass attempts accounted for 238 yards - 4.25 yards per attempt. There were some drops, and way more balls batted down at the line of scrimmage than in most games. The playcalling was as confused and inept as ever. But there still weren't nearly enough money throws from a 10th-year franchise quarterback.

"In this game, you're going to go through some dry times," said McNabb. "And unfortunately, that's what we did this game."

Brian Westbrook was held to 6 yards on four carries in the first half. He still looks nothing like last year's All-Pro running back.

"We're starting very slow," Westbrook said. "Early in the game, we're not completing balls. We're not running much, and when we do run, we're not very effective with it . . . We're a better team than that offensively. We have to find a way to start faster, of course, as well as finish the game stronger. It's a mystery to us as well."

Also a mystery is Westbrook's health.

"I'm getting better. Still not 100 percent, of course. I'm still fighting the injury bug," said Westbrook, who has endured a high ankle sprain, rib fractures and his perennial knee swelling this season. "I'm trying to go out there and give it all I can to help this team win."

It's unlikely the tie will be any better than a loss when it comes time to decide who gets into the playoffs. Of course, there is no guarantee the 5-4-1 Eagles will even be in the playoff discussion in the final weeks.

Asked how deep a hole the Birds are in now, heading to 6-4 Baltimore next Sunday, Westbrook said: "It's deep. It was deep before this game. But we have the talent here to do it. We have to stay upbeat, we have to stay encouraged that we can go out there and win a Football game."

Reid has insisted through the Birds' struggles, which include an ugly 0-3 NFC East mark, that he knows what he has here, and what he has is a championship-worthy group. Until yesterday, the Eagles were performing statistically better than their record; you could see what the 10th-year coach was talking about if you squinted a little. Reid was asked yesterday if he was still so sure about knowing what he has.

"I feel like I'm sure," said Reid, whose offense took another delay penalty when a call didn't come in quickly enough, and had to call a timeout before kicking the tying field goal, apparently because Reid wanted more time to process his options on fourth-and-1. "I'm not proving it to you, I know, but I do feel like I'm sure. We've gotta do it. I can stand up here and answer all your questions and talk about it and all that, but that's not doing anybody any good."

Reid said McNabb is healthy. Asked if he was considering switching to backup Kevin Kolb, Reid indicated he was not.

"You just keep firing,'' Reid said.

A couple of Bengals drops saved McNabb from his first career four-interception day.

Reid and offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg spoke about needing to "pitch and catch'' better. They didn't provide any reasons why that wasn't happening, with McNabb and his receiving corps apparently healthy.

Left guard Todd Herremans said hearing the referee declare the game a tie was an odd experience.

"I've never tied before. Definitely a strange feeling,'' Herremans said. "Empty. It feels like the game's unfinished. Neither team is happy with a tie.''

"We've gotta keep clawing and scratching," said Eagles defensive end Trent Cole, who notched two sacks, two hurries and two tackles for a loss in his return to his native area. Cole played collegiately at Cincinnati. "I don't believe in ties. I'm used to playing Football until the end, until someone scores. That should decide the game. Taking a tie is a bad feeling. It's a tie, but in my opinion, it's a loss.'' *

For more Eagles coverage and opinion, read the Daily News' Eagles blog, Eagletarian, at www.eagletarian.com.

Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 17, 2008

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