Eagles lead at half

BY GEOFF HOBSON

PHILADELPHIA _ On the other hand, the Bengals wish they weren't in Philadelphia on Christmas Eve.

At least not in the first dozen minutes of Sunday's game, when the Eagles took a 10-0 lead after the Bengals lost a fumble, a replay challenge, and the clock on the way to trailing, 13-0, at halftime.

Cincinnati's road problems continued here at Veterans Stadium in the season finale. They went into the half with just 26 first-half points on the road this season and were trying to prevent getting shut out for the fourth time. In five of their losses, the Bengals failed to score a touchdown.

The passing game, last in the NFL all season, offered no hope for next season,. At least in the first half. Quarterback Scott Mitchell couldn't get the ball down field with his longest of five completions going for 12 yards to wide receiver Ron Dugans.

The problem was magnified with the Eagles hounding running back Corey Dillon into just 31 yards on 12 carries.

Meanwhile, Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb killed the Bengals softly with a series of runs (for 20 yards) and passes (for 91 yards) in throwing a touchdown pass and steering the Eagles to two David Akers' field goals from 45 and 32 yards.

The Bengals' offense went three plays-and-out on their first three possessions and had the ball for just 5:08 in the first quarter.

One drive ended when wide receiver Danny Farmer fumbled a pass over the middle and Eagles cornerback Troy Vincent recovered it at the Cincinnati 39.

After watching the replay at the Bengals' request, the officials ruled Farmer caught the ball before losing it, and McNabb went deep on the next play for a touchdown. Wide receiver Charles Johnson got behind rookie cornerback Mark Roman to give the Eagles a 10-0 lead with about four minutes left in the first quarter.

The Eagles took a 3-0 lead on their longest drive of the season with an 18-play, 8:12 sojourn on their first possession of the game that ended in Akers' 32-yard field goal.

McNabb flashed his ample run-pass abilities with back-to-back scrambles of eight yards, and he found tight end Chad Lewis three times for 24 yards in the drive.

The Bengals drove to the Eagles 32 early in the second quarter, thanks mainly to a 14-yard burst up the middle by fullback Nick Williams. The Bengals passed up a 49-yard field goal try when they went for it on fourth-and-nine. Mitchell, who missed on five of his first eight passes, couldn't hook up with Farmer over the midde.

The Bengals went into Sunday's season finale here at Veterans Stadium with a coach in place for next year, but not much else.

One of the key questions figures to get answered Tuesday after Bengals President Mike Brown meets with head coach Dick LeBeau to decide the fate of the coaching staff.

With LeBeau moving up from defensive coordinator, he's not expected to let go the defensive staff he assembled when he arrived before the 1997 season and includes two of his former players in line coach Tim Krumrie and secondary coach Ray Horton.

It's believed the major change on that side of the ball will be linebackers coach Mark Duffner getting the coordinator title.

There's also the possibility that special teams coach Al Roberts will be retained. But the big question is on offense and what the future holds for offensive coordinator Ken Anderson and if the club will add a quarterbacks coach.

Two of the key assistants in the NFL's second-ranked running game, running backs coach Jim Anderson and offensive line coach Paul Alexander, figure to stay.

Defensive tackle John Copeland, who left last week's game against Jacksonville with a strained calf, was in the starting lineup.

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