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When The Third Quarter Shifted Desolation To Optimism

Bengals third quarter against the Eagles turned an awful second quarter into a game-winner.

Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

It was anger and depression so powerful that some may have turned the game off, out of sheer disappointment with Nostradamus-like predictions that the Bengals have already lost to the Eagles. And the rest of us holding onto the idea that the game could suddenly change in Cincinnati's favor are complete fools, Kool-Aid drinkers that bought into some idiotic idea.

Don't be shocked. The amount of people that frustratingly claim that the Bengals lost after a bad play or quarter, is far more prominent than those that actually exhibit enough patience and understanding that the Bengals don't play complete games. Few teams actually do. They have bad quarters, bad halves. These are NFL teams with the best players in the world. Not everything will go according to plan, always in your favor, how you believe it should be.

Despite all of that, the fans with premature in-game predictions are surprised that their 0-14 Bengals are actually sporting a winning record with a prominent role in the postseason picture. Yet with a 13-10 half time deficit against a 4-9 team was extremely hard to preach and convince a calm patience. Quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked four times in the first half; some on his own, according to offensive coordinator Jay Gruden. Two of which generated turnovers that led to field goals -- and not touchdowns because some fail to recognize that the defense being the heart of this team at this point in the season.

After BenJarvus Green-Ellis opened the second half with a two-yard run to the Bengals 25-yard line, Dalton was forced out of the pocket after Trent Cole's inside move knocked Andrew Whitworth off-balance. Dalton picked up two yards on the scramble setting up a third and six below the 14-minute mark in the third quarter. Jermaine Gresham dropped the third down pass and the Bengals punted.

Three and out.

The Bengals opened their next possession from their own 15-yard line with a Green-Ellis three-yard run up the gut. The issues generated by an impressively motivated Eagles defensive line continued.

On second down Fletcher Cox dominated Clint Boling with a quick inside move, dropping Andy Dalton for a quarterback sack. On third and 14 from the Bengals 11-yard line with 6:39 in the third quarter, Dalton's initial read (A.J. Green) wasn't available so the quarterback's alarm sounded, forcing him to feel pressure and ironically running directly into Cox for another quarterback sack.

Three and out.

Since the Bengals field goal to take a 10-point first quarter lead, the offense has gone punt, punt, fumble, punt, fumble, punt and punt. It was beyond horrifying and Bengals fans were surely feeling desolate, despite a deficit of only three points with over 20 minutes remaining in the game.

And that's when everything changed. The moment in the game that favors the Bengals, generates that momentum to claim victory from the jaws of widespread predicted defeat.

On Philadelphia's first play following Cincinnati's second punt in the third quarter with 5:58 remaining, Nick Foles ruined great field position for the Eagles by launching a severely underthrown football down the left sidelines, targeting Jeremy Maclin. Leon Hall paced underneath it like an Adam Dunn fly ball and caught the football, recording his first interception of the season at Cincinnati's 16-yard line. That's not all. The veteran cornerback tip-toed around tackles and offenders turned defenders down the right boundary, picking up 44 yards on the return to Philadelphia's 40-yard line.

Green-Ellis opened the possession with a 16-yard sprint, neutralizing Dennis Roland's offensive hold on the previous play that put Cincinnati in a first and 20 situation with 5:44 remaining in the quarter. Later during the possession, A.J. Green bailed out Andy Dalton's high throw on third and nine, converting with an impressive 11-yard reception, reaching the Eagles 18-yard line with over three minutes remaining.

Eventually Dalton scored the go-ahead touchdown on a scramble, taking a 17-13 lead. Two plays later Wallace Gilberry returned a Pat Sims forced fumble 25 yards, scoring a touchdown and giving Cincinnati a 24-13 lead. During the Eagles ensuing possession, tight end Clay Harbor lost the football on a forced fumble by Reggie Nelson, recovered and returned by Chris Crocker to the Eagles 13-yard line.

A quarter that began with a three-point deficit turned into an 11-point advantage, capitalizing on two Eagles turnovers, when the third quarter ended.