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In 2004, Eagles closed with a meaningless loss

The Birds had already wrapped up homefield advantage in the playoffs and rested key players in season finale against Bengals.

TEN YEARS ago, the Eagles were closing out their most successful regular season ever, a 13-3 campaign that ended with consecutive losses in meaningless games. Each week, the Daily News will look back at the 2004 season.

Game 16 - Bengals 38, Eagles 10

Date: Jan. 2, 2005

Site: Lincoln Financial Field (attendance 67,074)

Vegas Vic's lines: Bengals -3 Over/under: 40 1/2

Weather: : 43 degrees, cloudy.

Game stuff: Having wrapped up homefield advantage 2 weeks prior, this was a meaningless game for the Eagles - and they sure played like it. The Birds committed five turnovers and forced none. They were down 38-3 before Freddie Mitchell caught a TD pass from Jeff Blake in the fourth quarter . . . Koy Detmer started at quarterback, before giving way to Blake in the third quarter . . . Rudi Johnson ran for 99 yards and three touchdowns for Cincinnati, which was wonderful for fantasy leaguers everywhere.

The real losers: The ticket scalpers. "It's like a preseason game," one told the Daily News. "I may lose today. There's lots of fans selling, nobody buying."

Fred Ex-cruciating: Freddie Mitchell had six catches for 76 yards and the Birds' only touchdown. For Mitchell, the numbers represented dismal career highs for a former first-round pick (2001). He was out of football after the 2004 season.

For the Eagles: Most of their key players sat out, including Donovan McNabb, Brian Westbrook and Brian Dawkins. "It was their first team against our second and third teams," Birds coach Andy Reid said afterward. "So I'm not going to make any more of it than that."

For the Bengals: The game definitely had meaning as the victory allowed them to finish at an even .500. This was the second season for coach Marvin Lewis, so consecutive 8-8 campaigns were an improvement for a club that went 2-14 in 2002. Lewis now is in his 12th season as the Bengals coach and he still hasn't won a playoff game.

Going Boom: The win ended a three-game losing streak for Cincinnati in games played in Philadelphia, which dated back to 1988 when second-year quarterback Boomer Esiason threw four touchdown passes in Cincy's win at Veterans Stadium.

Quote to note: "We plead guilty to making the biggest mistake you can make. If you go after a quarterback, and it doesn't work out, you pay a big price," Bengals president Mike Brown told the Cincinnati Enquirer in reference to high draft picks David Klingler (1992) and Akili Smith (1999). "We paid that, not once, but twice. And I think we're over that now. If we are over it, you're going to see this thing blossom."

Still waiting: The Bengals have made the playoffs five times since this game. They are 0-5.

This is Philly, after all: "The Linc crowd booed [Koy] Detmer and cheered for his eventual replacement, former Bengals starter Jeff Blake," Daily News Eagles beat writer Les Bowen noted, "until Blake threw a screen on his first snap that was intercepted by Robert Geathers and run in for a 36-yard touchdown."

Current events: Miami hired LSU coach Nick Saban and essentially handed him the keys to the Dolphins franchise, a move Bears general manager Jerry Angelo called "absurd." Two years later, Saban took the Alabama job . . . Officials estimate that 12,000 of the 30,000 Sri Lankans killed by the tsunami resulting from the recent Indian Ocean earthquake were children . . . Shirley Chisholm (D-NY), who became the first black woman elected to Congress in 1968, died on Jan. 1, 2005 at age 80.