Bengals finish off Eagles to finish 8-8
BY GEOFF HOBSON, Posted: 4:20 p.m.
PHILADELPHIA - The Bengals did what they were supposed to do in ending the season here Sunday against an Eagles team that went on vacation a week before its bye.
Cincinnati engineered a 38-10 rout by taking advantage of an Eagles offense without MVP candidate Donovan McNabb and shoddy special teams play to produce five turnovers and a bevy of single-season club records against the NFC's top-seeded team in the Super Bowl tournament that begins next week.
"You can't diminish this win," said linebacker Brian Simmons, "because you guys would have been getting on us if we had lost and been 7-9."
The cynics and the 67,074 here at Lincoln Financial Field can grumble all they want. But Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis just completed his second straight season at 8-8 by leading his team to its most victories in back-to-back seasons since 1989-90. Lewis admitted his team fell short of its preseason goal, but he wouldn't scoff at Sunday's victory because so many Eagles didn't play.
"Neither did Carson Palmer. Carson Palmer, Richie Braham, Tony Williams, Nate Webster, I could go on and on," said Lewis, who could have added Peter Warrick. "I can't make an apology for winning. You have to go win as many times as you can. [Philadelphia] earned their season the way that they did today. Jon [Kitna] did a good job out there managing the offense."
The Bengals found themselves in a rare lap of luxury in a fourth quarter they could attack the record book instead of watching the scoreboard. Running back Rudi Johnson led the way, scoring his career-high third touchdown with about 10 minutes left in the game on a three-yard run on his way to 99 yards. Johnson finished with 1454 yards to break Corey Dillon's franchise single-season rushing mark of 1435.
When kicker Shayne Graham converted the extra point after that touchdown, it gave him 122 points for the season to break Doug Pelfrey's 1995 record of 121.
A six-yard pop behind right tackle Willie Anderson and right guard Bobbie Williams with six minutes left gave Johnson his record.
Anderson stayed in the game until Johnson got the record, despite playing on a knee that will undergo arthroscopic surgery in the next couple of days. Anderson even waved off Scott Kooistra when Kooistra tried to come into the game in the second half.
It is uncertain whether or not Anderson will be able to play in the February 13 AFC-NFC Pro Bowl, depending on the outcome of the surgery.
"We wanted to rip up the old page and write a new chapter," Anderson said. "People thought it was just Corey, and Corey is a great back. But we knew we were a good offensive line too.
"It's not like they didn't play all of their guys," Anderson said of the Eagles. "They were playing guys like Corey Simon, Hugh Douglas, Jeremiah Trotter into the third quarter."
The Bengals defense also got into the act when rookie defensive end Robert Geathers picked off Eagles quarterback Jeff Blake's screen pass and raced 36 yards for a touchdown that marked the club's fifth defensive touchdown of the season to tie the record set by the 1983 team.
That gave the Bengals a 24-3 lead with 6:20 left in the third quarter, and they got the ball right back when linebacker Marcus Wilkins leaped on Ron Hood's fumbled kickoff at the Philadelphia 15. Johnson did all the work from there, getting the final six yards up the middle for the touchdown that made it 31-3 with 4:59 left in the third.
"I knew I was going to get it; there wasn't a doubt," said Johnson of the record. "There were too many people pulling for me. It means a lot to me, my teammates and my coaches."
The Eagles didn't score a touchdown until six and half minutes left in the game on Blake's three-yard touchdown pass to Freddie Mitchell, but it wasn't a good outing for Blake against his old mates as he threw his first interception against them in four games.
Geathers became the second Bengals rookie to take a pick all the way this season, joining safety Madieu Williams and his 51-yard interception return against the Titans. Simmons, safety Kevin Kaesviharn and cornerback Deltha O'Neal also accomplished the feat as rookies. O'Neal also had an end-zone interception Sunday.
Bengals put up early lead
The Bengals built a 17-3 halftime lead against an Eagles team clearly looking ahead to the playoffs, and they no doubt thought it could have been more.
The Eagles turned to backup quarterback Koy Detmer to start the game and he didn't produce any points until David Akers hit a 46-yard field goal with three seconds left in the first half.
While the Bengals mulled the eighth score against them this season in the last 22 seconds of the first half, they also had to wonder how cornerback Tory James intercepted Detmer and defensive end Justin Smith recovered Detmer's fumble on the good side of the 50 and they only got Graham's 50-yard field goal out of the turnovers.
A major part of the reason is the Bengals couldn't get Johnson going against a defense that didn't play more than half of its starters for the bulk of the half.
Johnson, needing 81 yards for the Bengals season rushing record, had just 30 yards on 15 carries in the first half. But quarterback Jon Kitna had enough success with his wide receivers to coax out two touchdowns in the half, hitting 11 of 17 passes for 125 yards.
Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh wasted little time in getting into the record book. Needing 61 yards to become the most prolific receiving duo in club history, they grabbed 59 on the team's longest drive of the season on an 89-yarder that yielded the game's first score and gave the Bengals a 7-0 lead in the first minute of the second quarter.
Houshmandzadeh, also involved in the record subplot to make him and Johnson the Bengals first 1,000-yard receivers in the same season, got 20 of the 93 yards he needed on a third-and-10 that Kitna rifled through a double team for a 20-yard gain.
Then it looked like Kitna and Chad Johnson audibled at the line of scrimmage, and Johnson skated past Eagles cornerback Sheldon Brown in one-on-one coverage for a 27-yard gain when Kitna threw it up quickly over Johnson's shoulder.
Rudi Johnson did the rest when he got a tough yard on fourth-and-one at the Eagles 9, and then a few seconds later ran behind the right side and through the arms of safety Michael Lewis for a five-yard touchdown run in the first minute of the second quarter.
The Bengals thought the Chad Johnson-Houshmandzadeh duo had the record on the first snap after the touchdown at the Bengals 24 when Johnson torched the Eagles coverage. But Kitna underthrew him and Johnson had to fight back through Lewis, backup safety J.R. Redding and nickel cornerback Rod Hood to make what appeared to be a rolling 45-yard catch.
It took until the second quarter of the last game of the year, but an opposing coach won a replay challenge when the Eagles' Andy Reid argued Johnson scooped it off the ground and the replay officials agreed.
Johnson got the receiving duo record for him and Houshmandzadeh with 9:15 left in the half when Kitna hit him on a 12-yard slant.
Then about a minute later Houshmandzadeh kept marching to 1,000 when Kitna led him on a 20-yard touchdown pass, lofting it just enough for Houshmandzadeh to outjump cornerback Dexter Wynn as he crossed the goal line.
Johnson had five catches, ending up five shy of tying the club record of 100 in a season. Houshmandzadeh had 71 yards on six catches, 22 shy of 1,000 yards.
The Bengals missed a great chance to go up 21-0 a few minutes later after Houshmandzadeh's touchdown when the Eagles failed to block Smith at right end and he drilled Detmer in the back for his team-leading eighth sack and forced a fumble that Smith scrambled back to recover at the Philadelphia 20.
But fullback Jeremi Johnson blew up the drive with a holding call, and the Bengals wound up with no points out of the turnover when Graham produced one of those rarities in sliding a 37-yard field goal try to the right.
It was just his fourth miss out of 30 tries this season, and just his second out of 19 tries under 40 yards.
The Bengals defense, except for allowing a 30-yard pass to running back Reno Mahe in the last minute of the half, played well and Detmer was awful in throwing for just 51 yards on 6-of-16 passing. The Eagles only had 16 yards rushing and James picked off his team-leading eighth interception, but the Bengals couldn't put them away.
On a day the Bengals hoped to set a batch of individual club records for the season, Akers became the first kicker in NFL history to get 17 field goals of at least 40 yards.
An interesting inactive list unfolded before the game with the Bengals' Carson Palmer holding down the No. 3 emergency quarterback spot and the Eagles keeping all three of their quarterbacks active.
The Eagles, who came in at 13-2 after clinching home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, indicated they would play this regular-season finale like a preseason finale by putting six starters on the inactive list that included Pro Bowl safety Brian Dawkins and tight end Chad Lewis.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis had said that Palmer's left knee might be healthy enough to make him the No. 2 quarterback in a game the Bengals needed to finish their second straight season at 8-8 and post the most victories in back-to-back seasons since 1989-90. But the club erred on the side of caution when Palmer's mobility didn't improve during the week and with rain expected Sunday on a grass field. So they kept rookie Casey Bramlet the No. 2.
Shaun Smith, picked up on waivers from New Orleans on Dec. 1, got his first Bengals start at defensive tackle in place of the injured Langston Moore. Cornerback Deltha O'Neal started on the left side for the first time since injuring his ankle against Cleveland Nov. 28.
Detmer and former Bengal Jeff Blake were supposed to get the majority of snaps at quarterback for the Eagles with Blake looking to improve his 104.4 passer rating in three games against his old team that included five touchdowns and no interceptions.
Running back Brian Westbrook, who leads all NFL running backs with 73 catches, wasn't supposed to play. Neither was Philly sack leader Jevon Kearse, even though they weren't on the inactive list. Starters joining Dawkins and Lewis on the inactive list were cornerback Lito Sheppard, defensive end Derrick Burgess, right guard Jermane Mayberry, and wide receiver Terrell Owens.
But Owens, the Pro Bowl receiver sidelined by an injured ankle, apparently was well enough to host Bengals wide receiver Chad Johnson for dinner Saturday night. Johnson needed catches for 101 on the season and the Bengals' season record, and he tried to hold on to his 10-yard edge over Tennessee's Drew Bennett to claim his second straight AFC receiving title.
Johnson also chased Bennett's teammate, Derrick Mason, in trying to become the first Bengal to ever win the NFL receiving title. Mason came into Sunday's game against Detroit with two more catches than Johnson and New Orleans' Joe Horn with 92.
Running back Rudi Johnson also needed 100 yards for his record-breaking sixth 100-yard game of the season.
Graham needed eight points to break Doug Pelfrey's 1995 record of 121 points.
The inactive list for Cincinnati: Defensive lineman Greg Scott, running back Quincy Wilson, wide receiver Matt Cherry, safety Rogers Beckett, and offensive linemen Stacy Andrews, Pete Lougheed, and Alex Sulfsted.
The Bengals captains were right tackle Willie Anderson, linebackers Kevin Hardy and Marcus Wilkins, defensive tackle John Thornton, a Philly native, and right guard Bobbie Williams, a former Eagle.