Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The moribund Philadelphia Eagles sure
showed some Christmas spirit on Thursday night, gift-wrapping a 34-13 win for
the playoff-hopeful Cincinnati Bengals.
The mistake-prone Birds turned it over five times overall, including a mind-
numbing sequence in which they gave it away four times over an eight-minute
span bridging the third and fourth quarters, as the Bengals scored 24
unanswered points in the second half to remain relevant.
"Sometimes it's the offense, sometimes it's the defense, but we were able to
get things going with the turnovers today and they were a big part of the
game," Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis said..
The Bengals, of course, let a golden opportunity slip through their fingers
last Sunday, faltering and allowing 10 points in the closing minutes of a
devastating 20-19 home loss to Dallas.
A repeat wasn't an option against an injury-depleted Philadelphia team with a
lame duck coach who has basically tapped out on the season. Michael Vick
wasn't playing at Lincoln Financial Field on Thursday. Neither was Shady
McCoy, DeSean Jackson or the Eagles' three best offensive linemen.
Yet Cincinnati still found itself trailing 13-10 at intermission before the
Eagles' implosion of goodwill bailed the Bengals out and allowed them to jump
one-half game ahead of AFC North-rival Pittsburgh for the sixth and final
playoff spot in the AFC.
"It's what you have to do," Cincinnati quarterback Andy Dalton said. "We had a
tough one and we did have a quick turnaround. This is my first Sunday-Thursday
game to play and I thought we did a good job. I thought we were able to put
that loss behind us and just come out and play."
It may seem strange to thumb your nose at any 21-point win in the NFL,
especially this late in a season in which you are still in postseason
contention but you can bet Lewis wasn't all that happy on the flight back to
The Eagles were playing a boatload of young players during a short week and
their makeshift offensive line looked tailor-made for Geno Atkins and Co. to
Instead of rolling over Philadelphia, however, the Bengals were sloppy for
most of the night. Dalton put up Christian Ponder-like numbers on the
offensive side of the ball, and Atkins failed to register a tackle or sack
despite playing in 77 percent of his team's defensive snaps.
Leon Hall deserves credit for camping under a badly underthrown Nick Foles
pass and starting the Eagles fateful sequence, and Pat Sims certainly
should be lauded for busting through the line and nearly taking a handoff
himself when Bryce Brown fumbled.
That said, if Cincinnati, which finishes its season with games against
division rivals Pittsburgh and Baltimore, has any plans of making the
postseason, it will need a lot more from its marquee players.
First and foremost on that list is Atkins, their stud defensive tackle.
The University of Georgia product usually dominates the interior and has
already established a Bengals single-season record for most sacks by an inside
player with 10 1/2. Sacks never tell the whole story, however, and Atkins also
leads the team in QB pressures (33) and tackles-for-loss (13).
"Genos quick, like most small D-tackles," Bengals left tackle Andrew
Whitworth said. "Hes a quicker athletic guy. But the thing that separates him
from all others is he has insane exceptional strength.
"Hes a really, really strong guy for a smaller player. That's what takes him
to a whole other level. It is hard to deal with a guy who's below you and
under you. It's hard to get your hands down there to control him."
Being able to collapse the pocket on a consistent basis gives any defense a
"The position of inside pass rusher is a key position," ESPN analyst Bill
Polian said. "When you get an athletic defensive lineman who can rush the
passer at the tackle position, it makes it so much harder for the offensive
line to slide and help people.
"If you're going to chip, it's going to be with a back or a tight end. The
line can't move because you cannot run the risk of the guard whiffing and
having that guy go clean to the quarterback. I think after the quarterback --
is the most important guy on the team. If you can rush from the inside, that
usually means you can rush with four and cover with seven, and that gives you
a heck of a defensive advantage."
Cincinnati normally has that advantage but not on Thursday. Atkins was
whitewashed against a line which was missing All-Pro Jason Peters as well as
two other high-level starters, center Jason Kelce and right tackle Todd
Herremans. The Eagles then lost left guard Evan Mathis during the contest and
Whitworth still ended with more tackles in the game than Atkins.
To be fair Geno received plenty of attention, enabling far more pedestrian
players like Sims, Carlos Dunlap and Wallace Gilberry to step it up against
And that's nice but you need your playmakers to make plays in big games.
Normally it's Atkins' work ethic which sets him apart.
"When I go in the weight room on Mondays, he's fresh off a two-sack game or
seven tackles, he's got 500 pounds on his back, and he's squatting under the
rack," Whitworth said of Atkins.
So what happens when he's fresh off no tackles and zero sacks?
We are about to find out.
"He's one of those type of guys," Whitworth continued. He's on a mission to be
a really good player and to push himself. That's what makes him good. That's
what makes him who he is."
The Sports Network