Eagles take 10-0 lead

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 quarter of Sunday's game, when the Eagles took a 10- 0 lead after the Bengals lost a fumble, a replay challenge, and the clock.

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 Eagles quarterback Donovan 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 David 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. Quarterback Scott Mitchell, who missed on five of his first eight passes, couldn't hook up with Farmer over the midde.

Bengals running back Corey Dillon had little room early, getting just 23 yards on his first 11 carries. 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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