Eagles remember last visit to Cincy

Published 12:08 am Sunday, November 16, 2008

They were still playing at circular, antiseptic Riverfront Stadium the last time the Philadelphia Eagles came to town, facing a Bengals team that started the season 0-8 but got a little bit better as it went along.

The Christmas Eve game became a classic moment in both teams’ histories.

Doug Pelfrey kicked a pair of field goals in the final 3 seconds — yes, the Eagles botched the in-between kickoff — for a 33-30 victory in the last game of the 1994 season, sending the Eagles home with a losing record and a lesson that still applies today.

Email newsletter signup

No matter how bad the Bengals (1-8) look, you don’t dare smirk.

‘‘This is not a new thing,’’ safety Brian Dawkins said. ‘‘We have been on winning teams in the past and have faced teams that are so-called not-winning teams, if people want to say that. We are saying that we need to go out and win this game. This is a huge game for us.’’

He’s not exaggerating.

The Eagles (5-4) are in trouble heading into a game they are expected to win. Philadelphia is tied with Dallas at the bottom of the NFC East, three games behind the Giants. The Eagles are 0-3 against division opponents, and will have to make up much ground just to get a wild-card berth.

A loss to the Bengals would be devastating.

‘‘This is my 13th year, so you understand the significance of winning in this month,’’ Dawkins said. ‘‘It’s key to solidify your place and where you want to be, by winning games at this time of the year.’’

Just like the ’94 team, these Bengals lost their first eight before turning respectable. A 21-19 win over Jacksonville sent them into their bye with a better feeling about themselves.

‘‘We are looking for a chance to really give our fans their money’s worth, which they really haven’t had the chance to get all year long,’’ receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said. ‘‘I know it’s kind of late to even really be saying something of that nature, but we want to finish this off strong.’’

For the first time since quarterback Carson Palmer went down with an elbow injury, the Bengals showed some spark on offense behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw a pair of touchdown passes to Ocho Cinco. The Bengals actually scored on their opening drive — they hadn’t even managed a first down on their eight previous opening possessions.

The Bengals seem to be getting more comfortable with Fitzpatrick, who can scramble for yards and throw on the run. His first NFL win as a starting quarterback was meaningful in a lot of ways.

‘‘I think it kind of verified some of the stuff we’ve been doing in practice and some of the hard work we’ve been putting in, to finally get that win,’’ Fitzpatrick said. ‘‘It was nice to have a bye week, and win before it to have some momentum going into the bye.’’

Every win counts as momentum around these parts. The Bengals won back-to-back games only one time last season, in the final two weeks. A victory over the Eagles would match their longest winning streak in the last two years.

Also, it would leave the Eagles in a very bad spot.

‘‘It’s going to be a big game for them,’’ receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. ‘‘They’re in the playoff hunt. I’m sure they’re thinking they’re going to come in here and win. Why wouldn’t they?’’