CINCINNATI —Donovan McNabb expected to keep playing until someone scored, no matter how long it took. Mercifully, the NFL’s rules set a time limit on terrible play.
Eagles 13, Bengals 13. It couldn’t have ended any other way.
McNabb fumbled and threw three interceptions in regulation Sunday, and the Bengals botched the only scoring chance in overtime, leaving the equally inept teams with the NFL’s first tied game in six years.
Cincinnati’s Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field goal with 7 seconds left in overtime, falling to the ground as the ball sailed a few inches wide to the right. It was a fitting finish to a game played like the very definition of a tie. Despite all the shanked punts and trick plays, this one went nowhere.
“Terrible,” Bengals quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick said.
No one was more surprised than McNabb that it ended so soon—3 hours, 46 minutes after the opening kickoff. The 10th-year quarterback thought it would keep going until someone scored, just like a playoff game.
“I didn’t know that,” said McNabb, who played a leading role in keeping it tied. “I’ve never been part of a tie. I never even knew it was in the rule book. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game. But unfortunately with the rules, we settled with a tie.”
It was the first tied game in the NFL since Nov. 10, 2002, when the Falcons and Steelers finished 34-34 with Michael Vick and Tommy Maddox matching each other pass for pass. In this one, the teams matched each other gaffe for gaffe.
The Eagles (5-4-1) have yet to win a close game this season, going 0-4 with a tie in games decided by less than a touchdown. McNabb had a big hand in this one, matching his career high with three interceptions and setting up 10 of Cincinnati’s points.
He nearly had another pass picked off in overtime, but Johnathan Joseph dropped a potential interception near midfield. Each team had three chances in the extra 15-minute quarter, but only the Bengals (1-8-1) got close enough to try a field goal.
They missed it, leaving them with only their second tied game in franchise history. They played Houston to a 31-31 tie in 1969, their second season.
“We didn’t win. We didn’t lose, either,” said Graham, who had been 6-for-6 from 40-49 yards. “But sometimes, tying stings a little more.”
Philadelphia hadn’t finished with a tie since a 10-10 game against Baltimore in 1997. The Eagles’ defense had eight sacks and compensated for McNabb’s fumble by pulling off a goal-line stand from the 1 in the first half. The game soon settled in that pattern—a blitzing defense trying to erase the offense’s mishaps.
It ended in a draw.
McNabb, who had only five interceptions coming in, went 28-of-58 for 339 yards. He repeatedly missed open receivers in an offense that has come to rely on him almost entirely because it can’t run.
Stunning stat: Philadelphia tried to pass on all of its 18 of its third-down plays, including three third-and-1 plays. The Eagles converted only three of their third-down plays as they got away from their ineffective running game.
“It makes you look at different options,” said Brian Westbrook, who ran for only 60 yards. “Today we tried a couple of different things, and we weren’t successful.”
They tried a flea-flicker that fell incomplete in regulation, and a direct snap to rookie receiver DeSean Jackson in a shotgun formation during the overtime. Jackson ran and flipped the ball to Westbrook, who lost 3 yards.
“I’ve never been in a tie, so I don’t know how this works in the standings,” coach Andy Reid said. “I know it’s not good enough. We need wins, and this is not a win.”
Fitzpatrick went 29-of-44 for 261 yards with a touchdown set up by McNabb’s interception. He was under heavy pressure all game, forcing the Bengals to punt 11 times, tying their team record.
After Philadelphia’s David Akers tied it at 13 with 5:18 to go in regulation, both offenses went into a shell. The 64,633 fans knew that the Bengals, after managing only one field goal without McNabb’s assistance, would need a lot of breaks to pull it out.
Amazingly, they got them. Not surprisingly, they blew them.
Sav Rocca’s third shanked punt of the game set Cincinnati up at its 41. Sheldon Brown’s roughing-the-passer penalty gave the Bengals another huge break and set up Graham’s final kick, which sailed a few inches to the right of the upright.
Then, after McNabb’s long pass fell incomplete, reality set in.
Yes, this was a tie.
“I guess we’re aware if it now,” McNabb said.