Just when it looked like this Iggles team had turned the corner for the better in 2012, we dropped the ball...literally.
Turnovers cost the Eagles a chance for a second straight victory on Thursday night. They committed five turnovers, including four in the second half, during a 34-13 loss to Cincinnati at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Eagles led 13-10 at halftime, but gave the game away via an interception and three fumbles in a span of 3 minutes, 23 seconds in the second half.
The Bengals took advantage of the miscues - an interception from rookie quarterback Nick Foles and fumbles from rookie running back Bryce Brown, tight end Clay Harbor and defensive tackle Cedric Thornton (on a kickoff return) - to score 24 straight points.
The Bengals took the lead for good with 1:10 left in the third quarter on quarterback Andy Dalton's 11-yard touchdown scramble. Foles set up the TD with an interception - his first in four games - to Bengals cornerback Leon Hall. It was Foles' first turnover since he threw two interceptions at Washington on Nov. 18.
Brown committed the most costly mistake. Brown, who has had trouble holding onto the football since replacing injured LeSean McCoy, lost his fourth fumble in the last four games when he was hit by Bengals defensive tackle Pat Sims. Defensive end Wallace Gilberry scooped it up and rumbled 25 yards into the end zone to give the Bengals a 24-13 lead with 21 seconds left in the third quarter.
Bengals place-kicker Josh Brown followed Harbor's fumble with a 32-yard field goal that pushed the Bengals' edge to 27-13 with 14:17 remaining. After Thornton's miscue, Dalton fired a 5-yard touchdown pass to Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green for another touchdown with 12:47 remaining.
The Eagles wasted a terrific performance from the defensive line. The front four collected a season-high six sacks and forced two fumbles in their second game since Tommy Brasher replaced Jim Washburn as the Eagles' defensive line coach. Brasher, who was an Eagles' assistant in 1999-2005, was rehired two weeks ago after coach Andy Reid fired Washburn.
Defensive end Brandon Graham and defensive tackle Fletcher Cox each had two and a half sacks apiece.
The Bengals (8-6) took a half-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last playoff spot in the AFC. But their game at Pittsburgh next week is far more important in the standings than this one.
"We've got nothing to celebrate here," coach Marvin Lewis said. "But we won and we do have some time to get ready for Pittsburgh."
The Bengals will clinch their second straight playoff berth with a win over the Steelers if Pittsburgh loses at Dallas this Sunday. A loss to the Steelers, though, likely would ruin Cincinnati's chances because it would lose the tiebreaker.
"Our goal is to win games. Period. We did that. Doesn't matter how we got there," cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones said. "We can be better. We can be higher. And that's what we take from this game. Listen, we all know we need to play better as a defense next week. Because we have ourselves a big one next week."
The Eagles' season was lost a long time ago. They fell to 4-10, losing double-digit games for the first time since 2005, the season after losing the Super Bowl to New England.
There were plenty of empty seats at the Linc, where fans are hoping this is Andy Reid's final season as coach. Reid led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles and five NFC championship games in his first 13 years. But the Eagles will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, and owner Jeffrey Lurie already said 8-8 would be "unacceptable."
"Five turnovers, 31 points. That says it all," Reid said. "Guys played hard, but you can't have those turnovers. You have to take care of the ball. Guys have to do it. I take full responsibility for them."
An interception by Leon Hall set up Dalton's go-ahead 11-yard TD run in the third quarter. Then Wallace Gilberry picked up Bryce Brown's fumble and ran it back 25 yards for another score and an 11-point lead.
BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 106 yards, including a 1-yard TD run in the first quarter for Cincinnati. Dalton tossed a 5-yard TD pass to A.J. Green in the fourth to cap a 24-point outburst in a span of 3 minutes, 23 seconds.
"We realize what's at stake here, and we know we needed to put some football plays together," Marvin Lewis said. "We put ourselves at risk tonight, but we made plays when we needed to. We were able to get some things going with the turnovers, and that definitely helped. We redirected some things at halftime and got everyone on the same page."
The Eagles committed three turnovers on three straight possessions at one point and then fumbled a short "pooch" kickoff when defensive lineman Cedric Thornton let the ball fall through his hands.
After beating Tampa Bay on a last-second TD last week to snap an eight-game losing streak, the Eagles tried to make it two in a row. Turnovers got in their way again. They have committed an NFL-high 34 and forced just 12 all season.
The Eagles snapped a drought of 22 quarters without a takeaway by recovering two fumbles in the second period. Both led to field goals by Alex Henery, helping Philadelphia to a 13-10 halftime lead.
Rookie QB Nick Foles made his fifth straight start in place of Michael Vick, who just returned to practice this week after sustaining a concussion Nov. 11. Foles threw for 182 yards, one TD and one interception.
Down 13-10, the Bengals started their rally with a turnover. Hall intercepted Foles' deep pass and returned it 44 yards to the Eagles' 40. Foles underthrew Jeremy Maclin, who was a few steps behind Hall.
"I feel really good anytime I have one of our receivers vertical on a guy," Foles said. "I just have to get the ball out there and make a better throw."
Green made an acrobatic catch for an 11-yard gain on third-and-9 a few plays before Dalton ran for the score to put the Bengals up 17-13.
Foles, who threw for 381 yards to lead that comeback against the Bucs, hit Riley Cooper on an 11-yard TD pass to cut it to 10-7. Foles connected with Maclin on a 46-yard pass during the drive.
The Eagles then forced their first turnover since Nov. 5 against New Orleans. Brandon Graham sacked Dalton, the ball popped loose and Trent Cole recovered at the Bengals' 29.
"We win as a team; we lose as a team," said Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who replaced Juan Castillo after six games. "We lost as a team today."
Just two plays into the game, Maclin fumbled after a 6-yard catch. Carlos Dunlap recovered, and the Bengals started at the Eagles' 44. Green-Ellis ran 29 yards on first down and scored a few plays later for a 7-0 lead.
It got uglier for Philadelphia on the next possession. Mat McBriar punted into his own blocker (Marvin McNutt), and Daniel Herron picked it up and ran 3 yards to the Eagles' 11. But Graham sacked Dalton, and Cincinnati settled for Brown's 24-yard field goal that made it 10-0.
Green-Ellis surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the second time in his career. He did it with New England in 2010. ... The Eagles had a season-high six sacks. They have eight in two games since defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired. They had 20 sacks in the first 12 games.
Team Stat Comparison
Passing 1st downs
Rushing 1st downs
1st downs from Penalties
3rd down efficiency
4th down efficiency
Yards per play
Comp - Att
Yards per pass
Sacks - Yards Lost
Yards per rush
Red Zone (Made-Att)
Defensive / Special Teams TDs