CINCINNATI (AP) -They were still playing at circular, antiseptic Riverfront Stadium the last time the Philadelphia Eagles came to town, facing a Bengals team that started the season 0-8 but got a little bit better as it went along.
The Christmas Eve game became a classic moment in both teams' histories.
Doug Pelfrey kicked a pair of field goals in the final 3 seconds - yes, the Eagles botched the in-between kickoff - for a 33-30 victory in the last game of the 1994 season, sending the Eagles home with a losing record and a lesson that still applies today.
No matter how bad the Bengals (1-8) look, you don't dare smirk.
``This is not a new thing,'' safety Brian Dawkins said. ``We have been on winning teams in the past and have faced teams that are so-called not-winning teams, if people want to say that. We are saying that we need to go out and win this game. This is a huge game for us.''
He's not exaggerating.
The Eagles (5-4) are in trouble heading into a game they are expected to win. Philadelphia is tied with Dallas at the bottom of the NFC East, three games behind the Giants. The Eagles are 0-3 against division opponents, and will have to make up much ground just to get a wild-card berth.
A loss to the Bengals would be devastating.
``This is my 13th year, so you understand the significance of winning in this month,'' Dawkins said. ``It's key to solidify your place and where you want to be, by winning games at this time of the year.''
Just like the '94 team, these Bengals lost their first eight before turning respectable. A 21-19 win over Jacksonville sent them into their bye with a better feeling about themselves.
``We are looking for a chance to really give our fans their money's worth, which they really haven't had the chance to get all year long,'' receiver Chad Ocho Cinco said. ``I know it's kind of late to even really be saying something of that nature, but we want to finish this off strong.''
For the first time since quarterback Carson Palmer went down with an elbow injury, the Bengals showed some spark on offense behind Ryan Fitzpatrick, who threw a pair of touchdown passes to Ocho Cinco. The Bengals actually scored on their opening drive - they hadn't even managed a first down on their eight previous opening possessions.
aningful in a lot of ways.
``I think it kind of verified some of the stuff we've been doing in practice and some of the hard work we've been putting in, to finally get that win,'' Fitzpatrick said. ``It was nice to have a bye week, and win before it to have some momentum going into the bye.''
Every win counts as momentum around these parts. The Bengals won back-to-back games only one time last season, in the final two weeks. A victory over the Eagles would match their longest winning streak in the last two years.
Also, it would leave the Eagles in a very bad spot.
``It's going to be a big game for them,'' receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh said. ``They're in the playoff hunt. I'm sure they're thinking they're going to come in here and win. Why wouldn't they?''
Until the Eagles get their running game going, they're in no position to count on anything.
Their running game ranks in the bottom third of the league, forcing Donovan McNabb to throw a lot. Brian Westbrook ran for 1,333 yards last season, but has only 448 yards to go with his six touchdowns this year. He ran for a career-high 167 yards in a win over Atlanta on Oct. 26, but has managed only 61 and 26 in the last two games.
Ankle and rib injuries have forced Westbrook to miss two full games and parts of others. In three games, he carried the ball 13 or fewer times, raising questions whether the Eagles have a commitment to running the ball.
``We don't always have it, no,'' Westbrook said. ``At some points in some games, we have it. At some points in other games, we don't. I think that there are situations at times when we probably should have more commitment to the run.''
An inability to run the ball on short-yardage plays has been a major factor in their poor showing during close games. The Eagles have played four games decided by a touchdown or less, and lost all four.
The Bengals' defense has been vulnerable to the run most of the season, so this represents the Eagles' chance to get their offense up-and-running - provided they take the home team seriously, that is.
``We understand that their record means nothing,'' coach Andy Reid said.
They learned that 14 years ago.

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