This was the definition of giving a game away. Every single
point the Cincinnati Bengals scored in a 34-13 win against the Eagles was the
direct result of a hilariously unacceptable mistake – and the act went
on just one minute into the game
• Second play from scrimmage: Jeremy Maclin is
tracked down from behind and has the football punched out by defensive end Carlos
Dunlap on a wide receiver screen. Cincinnati gains possession at the
Philadelphia 44-yard line, drives six plays for a touchdown. 7-0.
• Next series: Following a three-and-out, there is
some confusion getting the punt coverage unit on to the field with Clay Harbor running on late, so who knows whether they are even lined up correctly. Daniel Heron
drives Marvin McNutt backward into Mat McBriar, who winds up kicking the ball right off of his own man. The Bengals take over at Philly’s 11, leading to an
easy field goal. 10-0.
Having watched this team all season, you got the feeling it
was already over right there, seven minutes in. The Birds fought back though,
and actually controlled the action for the equivalent of one half of football.
Nick Foles got the team on the board with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Riley
Cooper, while a pair of strip sacks of Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton by
Brandon Graham and Cullen Jenkins led to Alex Henery field goals.
You read correctly. The Eagles actually took a lead into the
locker room, one they still held 10 minutes into the second half. Then all of this happened in the span of
five plays from scrimmage.
• Midway through the third quarter: Eagles have good
field position at Cincinnati’s 47. Nick Foles takes a shot downfield, but the
ball is criminally underthrown to Jeremy Maclin. Leon Hall makes the easy
interception, and returns it 40 yards into Philadelphia territory to set up
another short march. 17-13.
• Next drive, two plays later: Nobody blocks
defensive end Wallace Gilberry as he shoots right up the middle unattended. He
disrupts Foles’ handoff to Bryce Brown, who has his eyes closed and has already
lost possession before there is even impact. Gilberry picks up the rock and
takes it in himself. 24-13.
• The very next play: Foles connects with Harbor on a sharply-threaded pass down the seam, where the target is greeted almost
immediately by defenders. Safety Chris Crocker puts his helmet on the ball then
recovers his own forced fumble, while a short return places them inside the red zone.
• The ensuing kickoff – seriously: Josh Brown
kicks the pigskin short and high in the air, sending it hurtling to earth into the breadbasket of Cedric Thornton on the coverage unit. He drops it, and
immediately boots it directly to Taylor Mays, who is already in field goal range.
All things considered, the defense played well. The front
four was the most active we’ve seen all season, sacking Dalton six times. Not
surprisingly, the coverage looked far better behind them, getting hands on
seven passes. It all took its toll on the second-year QB, who connected on 13
of 27 attempts for 127 yards, not to mention superstar wide receiver A.J.
Green, who was limited to six receptions for 57 yards. The two did connect for six
late in the game however on a goal-line pass that was nearly impossible for Dominique
Rodgers-Cromartie to defend.
Unfortunately, the offense could not capitalize on a couple of opportunities
to put some distance between themselves and Cincinnati. Foles was 12 of 24
for 145 yards in the first half, and had managed not to get sacked at all, but
the Birds were only able to convert one of their three trips to the red zone
into a touchdown.
Then things got out of hand. Due to all the turnovers, Foles
only had nine more attempts in the final 30 minutes, as the Bengals dominated
time of possession nearly 38 to 22. The rookie finished 16 for 33 with 182 in a
hopeless situation. It didn’t help that Brown was stifled for the second week
in a row, either. He gained 34 yards on 16 carries.
Those numbers were all pretty meaningless though compared to
the five turnovers and blocked punt that resulted in 34 points for their
opponents. Take away even half of those, and maybe this would have been a game.
Instead, it was a total humiliation.
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