The Cincinnati Bengals almost pulled out their first win of the season but couldn’t hold on in regulation. The Philadelphia Eagles almost did the same in overtime.
Instead, both teams remain winless after they played to a 23-23 tie Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field.
Cincinnati had a seven-point lead with three minutes left and gave up a touchdown with 21 seconds remaining. After both teams traded punts in overtime, the Eagles were lining up for a potential game-winning field goal – a 59-yard attempt for Jake Elliott – when a false start forced them to punt with 19 seconds left the extra period.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Missed chances in the red zone
It was almost unbelievable neither team came away with a win, as both had chances to do so. The Bengals scored on four consecutive drives between the end of the second quarter and the last full drive of regulation, but two of those trips to the red zone resulted in field goals.
Rookie quarterback Joe Burrow said those eight points left on the field would have been the difference in the game.
On Cincinnati’s last field goal drive, Gio Bernard received a short pass and burst through for a 42-yard gain, and then an unnecessary roughness call moved the Bengals to the 4-yard line. A false start by Billy Price and a sack forced the Bengals to settle for Randy Bullock’s 25-yard field goal with 3:08 left.
Cincinnati got to the 13 on the other field goal on a possession that started at the 44, thanks to LeShaun Sims' interception of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
“That’s probably where we got a lot of the protection issues,” Bengals coach Zac Taylor said when asked about the offense stalling out. “There were also a ton of close calls in the pass game. I can think of probably four of them off the top of my head where we just have to make a play. We’re right there. Someone just has to step up and make that play. It puts us in a scoring position and helps us win the game.”
2. Two big letdowns
The Bengals defense did well in limiting the Eagles to field goals on three scoring drives, except in the two-minute drill at the end of each half.
On a third-and-8 with 21 seconds left in the first half, Wentz found Greg Ward open down the sideline for a 29-yard touchdown pass, which gave the Eagles a 13-10 lead going into halftime. The Bengals had even just called a timeout, which Taylor said was because they didn’t like what they saw on the field and wanted time to adjust.
The final blow came when Wentz escaped pressure from Carlos Dunlap and scrambled seven yards for the game-tying touchdown with Elliott’s PAT, to send it to overtime.
“I put pressure on the quarterback and tried to reach for him, and there was some restriction while I was reaching for him, and he made a better play than we did for his team,” Dunlap said. “I’ve got to make that regardless.”
3. Offensive line woes continue
The offensive line continues to struggle protecting Burrow. He was sacked eight times and hit 18 times.
The right guard spot continues to be an issue, and Taylor said that’s something the Bengals have “to figure out.” Fred Johnson got the start there for a second straight week in place of injured Xavier Su’a-Filo, but was replaced by Billy Price.
Burrow said he needs to get the ball out of his hands quicker if he feels pressure coming, but Taylor doesn’t put blame on Burrow.
“We can’t just have a free runner, a three-technique come clean every single time,” Taylor said. “That’s something we’ve got to fix right away. I don’t care what play you call; you’re going to have problems when you can’t block a guy for a second. That part is frustrating, so we just have to continue to prove it and give ourselves a better chance to win.”
It also doesn’t help that the running game remains stale. Joe Mixon rushed for 49 yards on 17 carries.
4. Defensive success
Aside from the breakdowns in the final minutes of both halves, the Bengals defense showed a lot of positives, including interceptions by Logan Wilson and Sims to win the turnover battle for the first time this season.
The Bengals also finally got some pressure on the quarterback. They sacked Wentz three times and registered five other hits. Dunlap felt like the Eagles were trying to avoid their pass rush by making quick, short throws.
Sam Hubbard recorded his first sack of the season in a big stop on third-and-goal on the last play of the first quarter. The 6-yard loss forced the Eagles to settle for a field goal.
Carl Lawson got a sack on third down to force a punt in the second quarter and forced a fumble later in the period on his second sack, which center Jason Kelce recovered. Dunlap led the team with nine tackles and also had a quarterback hit, a pass defensed and a tackle for loss.
“That is disappointing,” Taylor said. “We finally stepped up and got some turnovers. The defense had some really good moments. Obviously, there were some times at the end of the half, but they put us in positions where we could finish those drives on offense and we’d be in much better shape.”
5. Lack of a killer instinct?
The Bengals have now failed to record a win in 11 straight one-score games, including the three games this season, and both Burrow and Taylor said the tie feels like a loss.
Asked if the team lacks the belief it needs to pull out wins in close games, Taylor said he doesn’t think that is missing.
“We just need to see it done and create that momentum for ourselves,” Taylor said. “We got guys in here that have won a ton over the course of their life. We just haven’t done it with this group together. As you see, we’ve had plenty of close calls, but none of them feel better than the other one, I can promise you that. We just have to get it done and create that momentum for ourselves, and let it steamroll from there.”
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