By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — An eerie whistle coursed through open areas of Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night just 45 minutes prior to the Eagles primetime game against the Cincinnati Bengals.
The stadium, for perhaps as long as anyone could remember since the Eagles have played there, carried the appearance of a desolate ghost town. Hardly anyone was there. Drift out into the parking lot and large segments were vacant.
After kickoff, it didn’t take long for the ghost town to reappear. With 12:47 left to play, the Linc was barren again. That came in response to the Eagles’ four fumbles, an interception, a blocked punt and one unsportsmanlike penalty for “disconcerting signals,” which all led to a laughable 34-13 loss to the Bengals.
Cincinnati scored 31 of its 34 points off of five turnovers (giving the Eagles a total of 34 this season, 21 fumbles and 13 interceptions). It marked the second time this season the Eagles turned the ball over five times in a game. The other occasion seems now like a distant memory, coming against Cleveland in the season opener when Michael Vick threw four interceptions and the Eagles lost a fumble. That’s a total of 10 turnovers against Ohio teams.
If Eagles fans wanted to make a tacit statement about this dismal 2012 season, they made a resounding thud with empty seats and apathy.
The Eagles dropped to 4-10, while Cincinnati kept its playoffs hopes alive by improving to 8-6.
Just when the Eagles thought they couldn’t outdo the depths of their ineptitude, they sank deeper against Cincinnati, trumping themselves once more in this debacle.
During one six-minute sequence, late in the third quarter and early into the fourth, the Eagles turned the ball over four times in five plays: a Nick Foles interception, followed by a Bryce Brown fumble (credited to Foles), followed by a Clay Harbor fumble, followed by defensive tackle Cedric Thornton’s muff on a kickoff return.
It’s kind of hard to make this stuff up.
“I never saw anything like that, all those fumbles, I haven’t, but it was good that we were on the receiving end of it, and it felt good,” said Bengals’ defensive end Wallace Gilberry, whose 25-yard fumble return in the third quarter was his first touchdown since in high school. “We knew we had to hone in on how they carry the ball. Their running backs carry the ball loose, their quarterback is a gun slinger and you watch for keys and your tips.”
The Eagles took a 13-10 lead into halftime, after trailing 10-0 and unable to get of their own way. A Jeremy Maclin fumble on the Eagles’ second play led to the first score of the game, a BenJarvis Green-Ellis one-yard touchdown plunge. A blocked punt spelled the second Bengals’ score, a 24-yard Josh Brown field goal.
If there was a glimmer of anything positive, it was the Eagles’ defense. Playing on a short field most of the night, the defense was momentarily resurrected since the Eagles have eschewed the flimflam Wide-9 front. The Eagles had a season-high six sacks, and forced two first-half fumbles, which led to a pair of Alex Henery field goals.
In 12 games under Jim Washburn, the Eagles had 13 sacks. In the last two games under new defensive line coach Tommy Brasher, and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ complete reign of the defense, the Eagles have produced eight sacks.
On Thursday night, it didn’t matter.
After trailing at halftime, Cincinnati responded with 24 unanswered second-half points. Thanks to a waft of Eagles’ clumsiness that only a handful remained to witness in the end.
“We thought we could jar the ball loose against them, we saw their running back carried the ball like a loaf of bread and we had to get after it,” Bengals’ nose tackle Domata Peko said. “Well actually, their whole team seemed liked they carried the ball like a loaf of bread, and our whole team is noted for causing fumbles, and a lot of guys in this locker room like bread, especially the way they carried the ball.”