PHILADELPHIA -- Tie? What tie?
Thanks to Donovan McNabb, players around the league now must know there doesn't have to be a winner or loser in every regular-season game. Yes, there are ties in the NFL. They just don't happen too often.
A day after the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals played to a 13-13 tie -- the league's first since 2002 -- the focus wasn't on how poorly the teams performed on the field. Instead, everyone wanted to know how it's possible some professional football players, especially a 10-year veteran such as McNabb, don't know simple rules about overtimes games.
"I'm sure there are plenty of rules that guys don't understand, but I don't think that has any factor whatsoever to do with the outcome of this game and how they played in the overtime," Eagles coach Andy Reid said Monday. "I think that's absurd. You play to win in that time, whether you think you have another overtime period or you don't. And you play your heart out to win it in that time, and that's how we approached it and that's how the players approached it."
Reid ignored the point. Whether the players' ignorance about the overtime rule affected the outcome is debatable. It's inconceivable and embarrassing that some of them didn't know a game can end in a tie.
"I'll take the responsibility for that," Reid said.
Reid deserves plenty of blame for the Eagles' struggles this season and their inability to beat the lowly Bengals (1-8-1), but coaches shouldn't have to walk up and down the sideline telling players that overtime is do-or-die.
The Eagles (5-4-1) now have played 12 OT games, including one in the playoffs, since McNabb joined the team in 1999. Yet, the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback didn't know ties were possible until his desperation pass fell incomplete at the end of the fifth quarter.
"I've never been a part of a tie. I never even knew that was in the rule book," McNabb said after the game. "It's part of the rules, and we have to go with it. I was looking forward to getting the opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game. But unfortunately, with the rules, we settled with a tie."
The overtime rule isn't an obscure one. It was adopted fully by the NFL in 1974 and 17 games have since ended tied. The Eagles have been involved in four of those games.
"I guess we're aware of it now," McNabb said. "In college, there are multiple overtimes, and in high school and Pop Warner. I never knew in the professional ranks it would end that way. I hate to see what would happen in the Super Bowl and in the playoffs."
Uh, they keep playing if it's tied in the playoffs or Super Bowl. But McNabb apparently didn't know that, either.
In his defense, McNabb wasn't the only one oblivious to the rules. Several of his teammates were just as clueless.
"I found out while we were in OT," rookie wideout DeSean Jackson said.
"I thought we kept playing," linebacker Omar Gaither said.
McNabb was unavailable to reporters on Monday. A spokesman for the QB said McNabb told him he wished he knew the rule and wasn't going to make any excuses for not knowing it.
McNabb's comments took some of the heat off a miserable performance. He tied a career high with three interceptions, lost a fumble and completed fewer than half his passes (28-for-58).
Still, the Eagles remain in the NFC's playoff picture, though they hardly look like a team worthy of playing in January. Philadelphia is a half-game behind Washington, Dallas and Atlanta for the final wild-card spot with games against the Redskins and Cowboys the last two weeks.
The schedule doesn't help. Five of the last six opponents have winning records, with a trip to Baltimore (6-4) up next.
"We're going to get it straight is what we are going to do," Reid said. "We're going to work a little harder, up the concentration level, and make sure we do the right thing. I've seen our offense play well, I've seen our defense play well, and I've seen our special teams play well, and I just want to see them do it all together in one game. And when we do, we've got one heck of a football team."