Twelve years ago, the Eagles and Bengals played in Cincinnati. The game ended in a 13-all tie, the first in the NFL in six years. The game is more famous for postgame comments made by Donovan McNabb, who said he didn’t realize games could end in a tie.
“I didn’t know that,” McNabb said postgame. “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.”
That game ended with Ryan Fitzpatrick driving the Bengals to the Eagles’ 29-yard line and Shayne Graham missing a 47-yard field goal with seven seconds left. McNabb’s Hail Mary attempt to Hank Baskett fell incomplete. Watching the final play of that 2008 game, it seems like most of the Eagles did not know the game was over after 15 minutes of OT. According to a Trenton Times report from the day of the game, while ref Tony Corrente explained the rules at the start of OT, several Eagles players told reporters postgame they were confused about the rules. “Nobody knows how to react!” Fox announcer Kenny Albert noted. McNabb didn’t start to take off his helmet until 16 seconds after his final pass fell incomplete.
“I’ll take the responsibility for that,” Reid said a few days later, adding that it was “absurd” to think the team’s ignorance of the rules hurt its play.
Current Eagles coach Doug Pederson, a Reid protege who actually beat his mentor to a Super Bowl win by two years, clearly knows the tie rules. Today, he used them to his advantage. With a chance to go for it, Pederson played for a tie. The Eagles and Bengals tied at 23, in a game of winless NFL teams in front of no fans.
After both offenses traded flat drives for a while, the Eagles got the ball with 1:41 left, and drove to the Cincinnati 44. Philly picked up one yard on a Miles Sanders run, then two yards on a Wentz run. After an incomplete pass—the Eagles, for some reason, threw down the middle of the field with 20 seconds left and no timeouts—they lined up for a 59-yard field goal.
But Matt Pryor false started before the snap, and the Eagles were backed up five yards. Pederson punted the ball to the Bengals, and one meaningless running play later, the game ended in a tie. “We had the wind,” Pederson said. “The false start backed us up. We didn’t want to give them the ball at midfield.” To be fair, Pederson was probably correct to think his defense would give up a play to get the Bengals into field goal range. But, still, it seems pretty bad to settle for a tie against the Bengals.
Pederson’s decision meant we got our first tie of the NFL season, a most fitting outcome: One that leaves fans of both teams disappointed, feeling like they’ve just wasted four hours of their lives for an ultimately unsatisfying result.
After tying the Bengals in 2008, the Eagles won four of their next six to make the playoffs at 9-6-1. Two upsets in the playoffs took the Eagles to the NFC title game, where they lost to the Cardinals. In 2020, the 0-2-1 Eagles could be just a half game out of first place in the NFC East by day’s end.