PHILADELPHIA — The Cincinnati Bengals came into Thursday night’s game ranked 14th in the NFL in turnover ratio. They’d broken even, with 11 giveaways and 11 takeaways.
Well, the Bengals got back on the positive side of that statistic during their 34-13 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field.
Cincinnati came up with four second-half turnovers and turned them into 24 points, converting a close game into a rout.
The Bengals (8-6) are now a half-game ahead of the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC’s second wild-card berth. The Steelers play at Dallas on Sunday.
“Everybody knows that turnovers are the key to any game of football,” said Bengals cornerback Leon Hall, who had one of the biggest Thursday. “We talk about that all the time on defense — take the ball away — and tonight we did it, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Eagles (4-10) led 13-10 at halftime, but the Bengals took a 17-13 lead late in the third quarter after Hall intercepted an underthrown pass by Eagles quarterback Nick Foles and returned it 44 yards to the Philadelphia 40-yard line. That set up an 11-yard touchdown run by quarterback Andy Dalton that put the Bengals back on top.
“That’s all on me,” Foles said. “I just made a horrible throw.”
The Bengals increased the lead moments later. Eagles rookie running back Bryce Brown lost his fourth fumble in as many weeks, and defensive end Walter Gilberry scooped up the loose ball and rumbled 25 yards for a touchdown. Just like that, the Bengals led 24-13.
“That was a gift,” Gilberry said. “I’m not sure what happened — it looked like they had trouble with the exchange — but I knew I had a chance to make a big play. I didn’t expect (to score a touchdown), but then I saw all of that open field and knew I had a chance.”
The ensuing possession resulted in another Philadelphia fumble, this one by tight end Clay Harbor. The Bengals recovered the ball on the Eagles’ 25, and Cincinnati’s Josh Brown soon kicked a 32-yard field goal.
“Their guy made a good play on the ball, but I can’t give it away like that,” Harbor said. “We worked so hard to take that lead at halftime, and then to give it back to them like we did, man, that hurts.”
On the subsequent short kickoff, Eagles defensive tackle Cedric Thornton muffed the ball, and Cincinnati recovered on the Philadelphia 33. That led to Dalton’s 5-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green, and the Bengals cruised from there.
The Bengals can now look ahead a little bit. They will have a nice, long break before their Dec. 23 showdown with the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the second-to-last week of the regular season.
“I like our situation because we control us, and that’s all you can ask for in December,” Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said. “We want to win December, and then we want to win January.”
Dalton finished 13-for-27 for 127 yards and one touchdown. Foles completed 16 of 33 passes for 182 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
The Bengals limited the Eagles to 42 yards on 19 carries, while Philadelphia piled up 157 rushing yards on 41 attempts.
NOTES: The Eagles played without three offensive starters who have concussions — quarterback Mike Vick, running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek. Vick has been cleared by an independent neurologist, so he will be able to suit up next week. … Also sitting out for the Eagles was free safety Kurt Coleman (bruised sternum), who was replaced by Colt Anderson. … The Bengals came into the game having lost their previous 10 prime-time games. Their last night victory came on a Monday in the 2007 season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. … Eagles rookie tight end Emil Igwenagu was signed off the practice squad this week, and he became the 16th Philadelphia player to make his NFL debut this season. … Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis rushed for 46 yards in the first quarter and passed his previous season high of 1,009 yards, which he set with New England in 2010. He came into the game needing 35 yards to set his personal mark. He finished with 106 yards on 25 carries. Green-Ellis now has 1,080 yards with two games to play.