Tied up in knots

So much for going 8-8.

7-8-1 just doesn't roll off the tongue after the longest game in Bengals history.

Forget your sister. In the NFL, a tie is like kissing your grandmother because of all the history involved. The Bengals' Shayne Graham sliced a 47-yard field goal attempt barely wide right with seven seconds left in overtime and the Bengals and Eagles settled for the first tie in the NFL since 2002 at 13-13 Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium and just the second in Bengals history.

"A tie doesn't feel great," said head coach Marvin Lewis.

"If you don't win, it's a loss," said linebacker Brandon Johnson.

"I don't know if you pat yourself on the back or be mad," said right end Frostee Rucker. "We came out here, played our hearts out and we didn't lose, so we'll just take it at that and strive to do better this Thursday night."

The Bengals have no time to dwell on their first tie since the year man landed on the moon and Greg Cook landed in Cincinnati back in 1969. They go to Pittsburgh Thursday night. The Steelers were involved in the last tie, a 34-34 affair on Nov. 10, 2002 against the Falcons. And it's only the 17th since the NFL went to sudden death OT for the 1974 season.

How downright surreal was it? Two of the game's marquee players, Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco and Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, were waiting for another overtime and didn't know these things do end in a tie during the regular season after one 15-minute quarter.

Not only that, the Bengals lost even though they had the ball eight-and-a-half minutes longer than the Eagles, had a plus-3 edge in turnovers, McNabb had his first three-pick game since 2006 and their defense held Philadelphia to 3-for-18 on third down.

A big reason? The eight sacks are the most the Bengals have allowed in 11 years and 364 days. Buffalo had eight in a 31-17 win on Nov. 17, 1996.

Still, it came down to Graham, the third-most accurate kicker in history riding a skein of 12 straight that included a 20-yarder and 41-yarder on Sunday.

And why does it always keep going back to the Steelers? Graham had a chance to beat Pittsburgh in regulation with eight seconds left in the 2006 finale. But his miss forced the last overtime at PBS before Sunday, a Steelers victory that knocked the Bengals out of the playoffs.

Running back Cedric Benson got no yards on third-and-five from the Eagles 29 on the play prior to the kick, but Graham wasn't worried.

"We were prepared to go deeper," he said. "I was disappointed because I know my numbers and percentages. My confidence level is a lot higher than that to feel I would miss that kick.

Asked if the 15-mile-per-hour wind had anything to do with the miss, Graham said, "No, I don't think so. No one feels worse than I do."

On the final drive quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick hung in the pocket and unloaded a 10-yard pass to wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh (a career-high-tying 12 catches for 149 yards) and when cornerback Sheldon Brown was called for unnecessary roughness, the Bengals had the ball at the Eagles 35 with 1:14 left.

The Bengals lost their last timeout when running back Chris Perry got hurt with 52 seconds left on his five-yard catch on second down and on third-and-five from the 29 the Bengals opted to play it safe on the give to Benson.

Missed opportunities
Staring at their first tie since 1969 (against the Oilers in Houston in a 31-31 game on Nov. 9), the Bengals survived a replay of Fitzpatrick's quarterback sneak on third-and-one at the Eagles 45 with 2:18 left in the overtime.

Fitzpatrick managed the game well and had a heady 89.3 passer rating (29-for-44, 261 yards, one TD and no picks).

But on second-and-10, he couldn't get the ball to Ocho Cinco on a slant in front of cornerback Asante Samuel and threw it behind him for an incompletion. Then, the Bengals allowed the season-high eighth sack and the most ever allowed in Lewis' 91 games as coach (linemen Darren Howard up the middle) and that yielded Kyle Larson's team-tying 11th punt.

He pinned the Eagles on the 13, and the Bengals forced another bad punt and got the ball one last time with 1:19 left at their own 41.

The Bengals had a golden chance to win it with five minutes left in the overtime when cornerback Johnathan Joseph dropped a gift interception at the Eagles 40.

But a 34-yard punt put the Bengals in business at their own 45 with 4:12 left in the OT.

Like it did all day, it came down to the Bengals defense and they got the ball back for the Bengals offense in the overtime. Brandon Johnson smelled out a reverse with Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson playing quarterback and dropped running back Brian Westbrook for a three-yard loss on second down.

The Bengals should have got the ensuing punt at their own 43, but they picked up their third penalty on a punt return Sunday and the second one on fullback Daniel Coats (this one for holding) put the ball, instead, on the 23.

The Bengals did drive it and it featured Houshmandzadeh's 10th catch (naturally on third down) and wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco's first catch since the first half and 600th of his career. But would end up with only four catches for 34 yards.

Bengals can't cash in
It came down to a yard.

The Bengals needed one to get a touchdown early in the game. The Eagles needed one to get a first down on fourth down with 5:22 left in a game they trailed, 13-10.

While the Eagles didn't let the Bengals get the yard, Philadelphia settled for David Akers' 27-yard field that tied the game at 13 and that's the way it went into overtime. It was the Bengals' second OT game of the season (a loss to the Giants) and first at PBS since that 2006 season finale against Pittsburgh. The Eagles won the toss and took the ball.

When the Bengals pass protection imploded again on a sixth sack that came against a three-man rush and what looked to be a fake punt on fourth-and-one was erased on a delay of game penalty, the Eagles were in position to win the game with the ball on their 49 at the two-minute warning of regulation.

But Geathers, playing his best game of the season, knocked down a third-and-one pass and suddenly the Eagles' 15-yard punt put the Bengals on their 34 with 1:48 left.

Yet what transpired was the worst series of the season as three incomplete passes took just 16 seconds off the clock and gave Philly the ball at its 29 with 1:25 left.

Ocho Cinco, with just three catches and none in the second half, dropped a seven-yard pass that was low but catchable. Then wide receiver Chris Henry couldn't get separation on 1-on-1 coverage on second- and third-down incompletions.

But the Eagles returned the favor as Bengals middle linebacker Dhani Jones knocked away a third-down pass headed to deep down the middle to Westbrook and the Bengals got the ball back at their own 40 with 56 seconds left.

Yet all the Bengals could do was allow their seventh sack of the day, tying the season high against Pittsburgh.

Bengals hold on to lead
The Bengals parlayed two interceptions to take a 13-10 lead over the Eagles heading into the fourth quarter.

Safety Chris Crocker, picked up off the street Oct. 30 and playing his first snaps from scrimmage in place of injured Chinedum Ndukwe, protected the lead with three minutes left in the third quarter when he made a leaping interception in front of tight end L.J. Smith. It was the Bengals' third interception of McNabb and their fourth forced turnover.

But the Bengals' ragged left protection prevented them from putting the Eagles away. Houshmandzadeh converted a third-and-three for 22 yarrds over the middle to put the Bengals in field-goal range. But cornerback Sheldon Brown blitzed off the edge for the Eagles' fifth sack of the day, taking the Bengals out of field-goal range and forcing them to unsuccessfully go for it on fourth-and-16 from the 36.

Also on the drive late in the third quarter, Andrew Whitworth, moved from left guard to left tackle earlier in place of struggling Levi Jones, had to leave with an ankle injury that made his return questionable.

But Jones, with what appeared to be an excruciatingly painful leg injury, went back into the game to the admiration of his teammates.

"I told him that he should get the game ball," said right guard Bobbie Williams. "That was really something on his part."

Crocker decided to finish off his raid of the stat sheet when he responded with a blitz that wrapped up McNabb for another punt on the third snap of the fourth quarter.

But the Bengals could do nothing with it early in the fourth quarter with both teams combining 5-for-23 on third down with eight minutes left. The two teams would end an improbable combined 7-of-38.

On this third down, Fitzpatrick spun out of the pocket and tried to run to the left but was chased down by defensive end Chris Clemon.

Eagles strike back quickly
The Bengals had just gone up 13-3 to open the second half when the Eagles stunned them with a 57-yard pass to wide receiver Hank Baskett that highlighted a two-play drive that got it right back in the matter of a minute with 9:29 left in the third quarter.

McNabb sidestepped a blitz by cornerback Leon Hall and sidearmed a short pass to Baskett over the middle, but strong safety Marvin White couldn't bring down Baskett and he broke his tackle for an extra 30 yards down to the 4, where McNabb hit wide-open L.J. Smith for the touchdown that made it 13-10.

Before that the Bengals defense was pouring it on the Eagles. It opened the second half by shutting them down for the eighth time out of 10 third-down snaps when defensive tackle Domata Peko knocked down a McNabb pass.

A 15-yard punt return by Houshmandzadeh (his first since 2004) and Benson's longest run of the day (a 13-yarder behind right tackle Stacy Andrews) set up Graham's 41-yard field goal to make it 13-3 five minutes into the second half.

After the first half's two-minute warning and the Eagles on the doorstep of the red zone, Brandon Johnson made a leaping pick on McNabb's pass over the middle at the Cincinnati 14 and returned it 35 yards on his first career interception.

Fitzpatrick then hit Ocho Cinco for three straight catches for 23 yards on the first three plays (one was a sideline bullet in front of cornerback Asante Samuel), before he lined up Houshmanzadeh in the slot.

Fitzpatrick, finishing the half with a 101.5 passer rating in outplaying his Hall of Fame candidate counterpart, unleashed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Houshmandzadeh running past cornerback Joselio Hanson to the post with 33 seconds left.

It tied for the longest pass of the season to a Bengals wide receiver and marked the eighth straight game Houshmandzadeh has caught at least six balls.

(With wide receiver Antonio Chatman undergoing normal X-rays with a cervical injury and done for the day, Houshmandzadeh returned two punts for 27 yards.)

But the first half of this unending game wasn't done. Eagles rookie DeSean Jackson got loose for a 25-yard catch on the sideline on the Bengals 34. On the next play McNabb threw behind wide receiver Kevin Curtis and the ball bounced off Curtis' shoulder pads into the hands of Joseph with nine seconds left.

It was the first interception this season by one of the Bengals starting cornerbacks and it finished off the half's huge defensive effort. McNabb threw up a 31.4 rating on 11-of-23 passing for 142 yards, and the Eagles had only five yards rushing on five carries. McNabb finished at just 50.9, hitting only 28 of 58 passes for 339 yards.

Bengals score first
After holding the Eagles to minus-three yards in the first quarter, the Bengals took a 3-0 lead 48 seconds into the second quarter on Graham's 20-yard field goal.

The Eagles responded on their next drive when White whiffed tackling running back Correll Buckhalter during his 44-yard run after a screen pass and David Akers hit a 42-yard field goal to tie it at three with 11:12 left in the first half.

But the Bengals really needed the six instead of the three because they had the ball on the half-yard line after right end Frostee Rucker picked up McNabb's fumble off a Geathers sack.

Benson (just 42 yards on 22 carries) got nothing up the middle on first down, Fitzpatrick's scramble lost a yard and Henry suffered his second drop of the game, and this one would have been a touchdown off a quick slant.

The Bengals took another injury early when Ndukwe limped to the locker room with a foot problem that ended his day. But his replacement, Crocker, on his first play from scrimmage as a Bengal, supplied tight coverage on wide receiver Jason Avant on third down to force an incompletion.

The Bengals got a big play on the game's first play, a 21-yard screen pass to Benson following the block of center Eric Ghiaciuc on WILL linebacker Omar Gaither that put the ball immediately on the Eagles 49.

But Benson could only grind out two yards on a run to the right, and the Eagles brought enough pressure from the ends on third-and-six to get a piece of Fitzpatrick's pass at the line of scrimmage.

The Eagles got no yards on their first series when McNabb overthrew Westbrook in the flat and Joseph and Ndukwe came up on second down to stuff a wide receiver screen to Reggie Brown and on third down McNabb overthrew wide open wide receiver Kevin Curtis.

The Bengals offense's first two series were shaky despite the first play. Benson could get no room, gaining just four yards on his first four carries, including a two-yard loss in which he got hemmed in on a sweep to the right.

The Bengals did have a first down at midfield on third down on their second series, but Henry dropped a quick slant.

The Bengals special teams also got off to a sluggish start. Cornerback David Jones set that second series back when he was called for a hold, and Larson ended the second series with a shanked 25-yard punt.

The Bengals couldn't stop Philly defensive end Trent Cole. After he beat left tackle Levi Jones inside to get another hit on Fitzpatrick on the third series, Jones was pulled from the game and Whitworth was moved to left tackle from left guard and Scott Kooistra came off the bench to play left guard. Jones was clearly struggling physically and with the Bengals looking at a first down at the Eagles 33, Cole roared past Whitworth for a sack. Two snaps later cornerback Joselio Hanson was unblocked off the edge for another sack to blow up that drive.

But the Bengals offense did begin to rustle. Facing imminent field position disaster on a third-and-13 from his own 8, Fitzpatrick got a great 21-yard leaping catch from Houshmandzadeh.

PREGAME NOTES: After injuring his left shoulder in practice Wednesday, Bengals right end Antwan Odom went on the inactive list for Sunday's game against the Eagles at Paul Brown Stadium.

Frostee Rucker drew his third NFL start after starting the first two games of the season because of Odom's foot injury suffered on the first day of training camp. Also down was pass rusher Eric Henderson (neck) after he showed well in his first NFL action the past two weeks.

Other than that, the usual suspects were on the Bengals inacitve list. Rookie defensive tackle Jason Shirley, who hasn't been active this year, still isn't despite the injuries to Odom and Henderson and his return from Fresno, Calif., after his DUI conviction.

Rookie receivers Jerome Simpson (ankle) and Andre Caldwell (foot) were also out inactive for the third straight game, sixth time this season for Simpson and eighth time for Caldwell. Rookie tackle Anthony Collins was also down after getting some snaps two weeks ago against the Jags, as was tight end Nate Lawrie.

Eagles tight end Matt Schobel was inactive on his return to PBS, where he played for four seasons and had 90 catches for 938 yards and nine touchdowns.

Bengals wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco tried to get the sideline heater started during warmups in the 35-degree weather (14 mile-per-hour wind) and then went off to rekindle his friendship with Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

After hugging McNabb, The Ocho got in the Eagles receiving line and caught a few balls. Back during his trade rant in the offseason, he thought Philly would have been a nice destination, but it was McNabb that told him, "Be quiet. You can't win."

"I talked to Ray (Lewis), Donovan, and, of course, Prime," said Ocho Cinco last week, referring to Deion Sanders. "They've been in the fire. They understand where I'm coming from and they have the same passion I have. I listened to them and tried to turn this season into a positive and it worked."

Ocho Cinco says he admires the way McNabb has responded against internal and external criticism and is probably the only one on earth that talks to both McNabb and Terrell Owens. It will be recalled that Ocho began to bristle last year when he felt he was being criticized from the inside.

"He's a good guy. He's always won no matter what the odds were or what the critics said," Ocho Cinco said. "He always stays level-headed. He's got to be focused."

When The Ocho came back on the field to start the game, he and his mates were in all black, an outfit in which they are 6-5. His offense was introduced as a unit with game program coverboy Ryan Fitzpatrick making his sixth start of the season in place of Carson Palmer.

Fitzpatrick didn't have to wait long. Linebacker Corey Mays, the designated special teams captain, was in on the winning toss and the Bengals decided to receive.

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