Winning the game wasn’t final decision for Eagles, Bengals

CINCINNATI (AP) – Trick plays went backward. Punts barely went forward. Chances to take the lead got frittered away with numbing ineptitude.

If ever a game deserved to end without a winner, this was it.

After 3 hours and 46 minutes of ugly and unsettling play, the Eagles and Bengals walked away with the NFL’s first tied game in six years Sunday. It ended 13-13 after Cincinnati’s Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field-goal attempt with 7 seconds left in overtime.

For the first time since the Falcons and Steelers played to a 34-34 tie on Nov. 10, 2002, the NFL had a game that went 75 minutes with neither team coming out ahead.

Basically, it was a waste of an afternoon.

“I don’t believe in ties,” said defensive end Trent Cole, who had two of Philadelphia’s eight sacks. “I’m used to playing football until the end, until someone scores. That should decide the game. Taking a tie is a bad feeling.”

Players on both teams were unsure of the rules, thinking the game would continue until someone scored. It was only in the closing seconds of overtime that they all knew they were headed for a rarity – an NFL game that ends with no one ahead.

They earned the ignominy.

The Eagles (5-4-1) came to town knowing they needed a win to stay in the middle of the playoff chase. Not only that, they needed to start looking like a playoff team. They have one of the league’s top defenses, but quarterback Donovan McNabb has struggled without a running game to help on short-yardage downs.

Philadelphia’s solution? Just throw it.

The Eagles had 18 third-down plays, and tried to throw on every one of them – even the three times they needed only one more yard for a first down. They went 0-for-3 on those short-yardage tries, and were 3-of-18 overall on third downs.

“Today we tried a couple of different things, and we weren’t successful,” said Brian Westbrook, ran for 60 yards in his third straight subpar game.

The play calling is going to come under scrutiny after the Eagles settled for their first tie since 1997. They tried a flea-flicker that fell incomplete. They lined up rookie receiver DeSean Jackson in a shotgun formation during the overtime, and he flipped the ball to Westbrook for a 3-yard loss.

McNabb set the game on course for its unsatisfying finish by losing a fumble and throwing three interceptions, matching his career high. He set up 10 of the Bengals’ points with his turnovers. Then, the 10th-year quarterback showed he needs some help with the rules, too.

He and several teammates thought they would keep going until someone pulled ahead. They weren’t aware that an NFL game could end tied.

“I guess we’re aware of that now,” said McNabb, who was 28-of-58 for 339 yards. “In college, there are multiple overtimes, and in high school and Pop Warner. I never knew in the professional ranks it would end that way. I hate to see what would happen in the Super Bowl and the playoffs.”

Uh, Donovan? They play those until someone wins.

Moving on to the Bengals …

Cincinnati (1-8-1) was coming off two good weeks – its first win of the season, followed by its bye week. The Bengals were trying to match their longest winning streak of the last two seasons by winning two in a row. They had their chance at the end, despite giving up eight sacks and failing to get into the end zone after a first-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line.

Sav Rocca’s third poor punt – this one went 37 yards – and Sheldon Brown’s 15-yard penalty for roughing quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick put the Bengals in range for one of the NFL’s most accurate kickers of all time. Graham was 6-for-6 on tries between 40-49 yards this season, and had missed only one attempt all season.

His kick from 47 yards away was long enough, but drifted inches wide of the right upright with 7 seconds left.

“There’s not much to say,” Graham said. “Just a lot of disappointment.”

The Bengals have long been out of contention, so this was just another bad afternoon in a series of them. The Eagles had a lot at stake.

“We were treating this like a playoff game,” Cole said.

Not really. Those don’t end in ties.