IF JORDAN MATTHEWS' ankle doesn't allow him to play, or to play effectively, Sunday at Cincinnati, we could be looking at a low-scoring game.
Say, something like, oh, I don't know, a 13-13 tie.
"I understood it, but when you're in it . . . You just think there has to be an end," with a winner declared, Eagles director of player engagement Quintin Mikell said Friday. "I just remember going, 'Wow. That's crazy.' "
Mikell was the Eagles' strong safety on Nov. 16, 2008, the team's last regular-season visit to Cincinnati, when a raw, wind-blown day ended with each team totaling 13 points. The result launched a meme that lives on to this day. At the time, Mikell told reporters that he'd thought when Cincinnati kicker Shayne Graham missed a 47-yard field goal with seven seconds remaining in OT, "we'd get another overtime." But Mikell wasn't the Eagles quarterback, and wasn't standing in front of a brace of TV cameras when he said that.
Donovan McNabb was. In his postgame news conference, McNabb expressed amazement that there hadn't been a second overtime period.
"I've never been a part of a tie. I never even knew that was in the rule book," said McNabb, who dug himself deeper by puzzling over what would happen if a playoff game or a Super Bowl was tied after overtime.
This fuzzy grasp of the finer points from the 10th-year franchise QB did not go over well with fans, and it has become a familiar part of McNabb's legacy. There have been two ties in the NFL this season, Oct. 23 between the Seahawks and Cardinals, then again the next weekend, between the Redskins and, oddly enough, the Bengals, in London. After both games, Twitter was filled with McNabb references. It might be many more years before this fails to be true.
In defense of McNabb (and Mikell, and several other players who were puzzled that chilly afternoon eight years ago), at the time, there had not been an NFL tie since 2002. They seem more common now - two this season, none in 2015, one in 2014, in 2013 and 2012.
The 2008 Eagles were a veteran team, much more than the Carson Wentz Birds, but their offense was struggling, like today's bunch. Many observers dismissed their postseason chances after they couldn't get past the 1-8 Bengals, and when the Eagles lost again the next week at Baltimore, with McNabb benched in favor of Kevin Kolb at halftime, there was no doubt the season was a disaster, at 5-5-1.
Except, of course, those Eagles ended up going to the NFC Championship Game at Arizona, and came up one defensive stop short of a Super Bowl berth.
Tight end Brent Celek and long snapper Jon Dorenbos are the only current Eagles remaining from 2008.
"It was a terrible way to end a game. I guess it ultimately got us in the playoffs that year," Celek said. The Eagles finished 9-6-1, a half-game better than the Cowboys, whom they demolished, 44-6, on the final day of the season, and the Bears and Bucs, who both had to lose that week for the Eagles to get in.
It would take something just about that miraculous to get these Eagles into the postseason, in a much tougher NFC East.
"Obviously, everyone knows where we're at right now," having dropped to 5-6 with Monday's loss to the Packers, Celek said. "We've got to come out and play real well. Our back's against the wall."
Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Friday that top running back Ryan Mathews (MCL) won't play Sunday.
Pederson listed Matthews as questionable, but speaking in the morning, he also said he wanted to see how his slot receiver looked in Friday's first outdoor practice of the week. Matthews ended up not practicing, after having experienced soreness in the aftermath of limited participation Thursday.
Matthews left the Green Bay game during the first series of the second half, and, not coincidentally, the Eagles ended up scoring three second-half points.
Pederson said that after Matthews went out, "I went with more of the tight ends, with Trey (Burton) and Zach (Ertz) a little bit. That (slot) is a role that Paul Turner obviously could fill, as well."
Pederson answered a series of questions about whether struggling wide receiver Nelson Agholor will play in Cincinnati, after being given the Green Bay game off to clear his head. The gist seemed to be that Agholor is likely to play, especially if Matthews can't go.
"His mind has been really great, his attitude's been really good, he's been working hard," Pederson said of Agholor. "Right now, nothing says not keeping him up, keeping him out. Everything's leaning toward keeping him active."
So, why not just announce that Agholor is playing? Pederson said he wants to keep all his options open until he hands in the inactive list, 90 minutes before game time.
"I feel great" about the practice week, Agholor said. "I felt I left it on the field, had good focus."
Asked whether he had been told whether he will play, Agholor said: "It's still coach's decision, regardless . . . I'm just doing everything he tells me to do."
As expected, right tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai (MCL) will miss the game, giving Allen Barbre another start there, with Stefen Wisniewski again filling in for Barbre at left guard . . . With Ryan Mathews out again, and the Bengals' rush defense ranked 28th, rookie running back Wendell Smallwood could be the Eagles' most important weapon. "Just being comfortable, knowing what's going on, my head being in the game" has helped him boost his productivity, Smallwood said. Thirty-five of his 66 carries (290 yards) have come in the last three games.