Andy Reid: One step closer to unemployment?

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Andy Reid: One step closer to unemployment?

From Comcast SportsNetPHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Now the Cincinnati Bengals can focus on that other Pennsylvania team.Andy Dalton threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score, an opportunistic defense forced five turnovers and Cincinnati beat the Philadelphia Eagles 34-13 on Thursday night.The Bengals (8-6) took a half-game lead over the Pittsburgh Steelers for the last playoff spot in the AFC. But their game at Pittsburgh next week is far more important in the standings than this one."We've got nothing to celebrate here," coach Marvin Lewis said. "But we won and we do have some time to get ready for Pittsburgh."The Bengals would clinch their second straight playoff berth with a win over the Steelers if Pittsburgh loses at Dallas this Sunday. A loss to the Steelers, though, likely would ruin Cincinnati's chances because it would lose the tiebreaker."Our goal is to win games. Period. We did that. Doesn't matter how we got there," cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones said. "We can be better. We can be higher. And that's what we take from this game. Listen, we all know we need to play better as a defense next week. Because we have ourselves a big one next week."The Eagles' season was lost a long time ago. They fell to 4-10, losing double-digit games for the first time since 2005, the year after losing the Super Bowl to New England.There were plenty of empty seats at the Linc, where fans are hoping this is Andy Reid's final season as coach. Reid led the Eagles to nine playoff appearances, six division titles and five NFC championship games in his first 13 years. But the Eagles will miss the playoffs for the second straight year and owner Jeffrey Lurie already said 8-8 would be "unacceptable.""Five turnovers, 31 points. That says it all," Reid said. "Guys played hard, but you can't have those turnovers. You have to take care of the ball. Guys have to do it. I take full responsibility for them."An interception by Leon Hall set up Dalton's go-ahead 11-yard TD run in the third quarter. Then Wallace Gilberry picked up Bryce Brown's fumble and ran it back 25 yards for another score and an 11-point lead.BenJarvus Green-Ellis ran for 106 yards, including a 1-yard TD run in the first quarter for Cincinnati. Dalton tossed a 5-yard TD pass to A.J. Green in the fourth to cap a 24-point outburst in a span of 3:23."We realize what's at stake here, and we know we needed to put some football plays together," Lewis said. "We put ourselves at risk tonight, but we made plays when we needed to. We were able to get some things going with the turnovers and that definitely helped. We redirected some things at halftime and got everyone on the same page."The Eagles committed three turnovers on three straight possessions at one point and then fumbled a kickoff when defensive lineman Cedric Thornton let the ball fall through his hands on a short kick.After beating Tampa Bay on a last-second TD last week to snap an eight-game losing streak, the Eagles tried to make it two in a row. Turnovers got in their way again. They've committed an NFL-high 34 and forced just 12 all season.The Eagles snapped a drought of 22 quarters without a turnover by recovering two fumbles in the second. Both led to field goals by Alex Henery, helping Philadelphia to a 13-10 halftime lead.Rookie Nick Foles made his fifth straight start for Michael Vick, who just returned to practice this week after sustaining a concussion on Nov. 11. Foles threw for 182 yards, one TD and one interception.Down 13-10, the Bengals started their rally with a turnover.Hall intercepted Foles' deep pass and returned it 44 yards to the Eagles 40. Foles underthrew Jeremy Maclin, who was a few steps behind Hall."I feel really good anytime I have one of our receivers vertical on a guy," Foles said. "I just have to get the ball out there and make a better throw."Green made an acrobatic catch for an 11-yard gain on third-and-9 a few plays before Dalton ran for the score to put the Bengals up 17-13.Foles, who threw for 381 yards to lead that comeback against the Bucs, hit Riley Cooper on an 11-yard TD pass to cut it to 10-7. Foles connected with Maclin on a 46-yard pass during the drive.The Eagles then forced their first turnover since Nov. 5 against New Orleans. Brandon Graham sacked Dalton, the ball popped loose and Trent Cole recovered at the Bengals 29."We win as a team, we lose as a team," said Eagles defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, who replaced Juan Castillo after six games. "We lost as a team today."Just two plays in, Maclin fumbled after a 6-yard catch. Carlos Dunlap recovered and the Bengals started at the Eagles 44. Green-Ellis ran 29 yards on first down and scored a few plays later for a 7-0 lead.It got uglier for Philadelphia on the next possession. Mat McBriar punted into his own blocker, Daniel Herron picked it up and ran 3 yards to the Eagles 11. But Graham sacked Dalton and Cincinnati settled for Brown's 24-yard field goal that made it 10-0.The Eagles were again without running back LeSean McCoy and tight end Brent Celek also sat out. Both players also are recovering from concussions. McCoy missed his fourth straight game, but returned to practice this week with Vick.NOTES:Green-Ellis surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for second time in his career. He did it with New England in 2010. ... The Eagles had a season-high six sacks. They have eight in two games since defensive line coach Jim Washburn was fired, and had 20 in first 12 games. ... Bowles confirmed he interviewed for the coaching vacancy at Temple, his alma mater.

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Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Bears DL Akiem Hicks making the most of a chance the Saints never gave him

Living well is indeed the best revenge, and sometimes nothing feels sweeter than proving doubters wrong. Akiem Hicks is savoring that exact feeling.

When the New Orleans Saints made Hicks their third-round pick in the 2013 draft, they typecast their big (6-5, 318 pounds) young defensive lineman as a one-trick pony.

“There were people in New Orleans that said, ‘You can’t rush the passer,’” Hicks recalled after the Bears’ win Sunday over the San Francisco 49ers. “They told me from my rookie year, ‘You’re going to be a run-stopper.’”

This despite Hicks collecting 6.5 sacks and 3 pass breakups as a senior at Regina in Canada. The Saints forced Hicks into the slot they’d decided he fit – nose tackle – then eventually grew disenchanted with him and traded him to New England last year – where he collect 3 sacks in spot duty.

Interestingly, Bears GM Ryan Pace was part of the Saints’ personnel operation. Whether Pace agreed with coaches’ handling of Hicks then isn’t known, but when Pace had the chance to bring Hicks to Chicago for a role different than the one the Saints forced Hicks into, Pace made it happen.

Pace likely saw those New England sacks as a foreshadowing or a sign that the New Orleans staff had miscast Hicks. The Bears defensive end now is under consideration for NFC defensive player of the week after his 10-tackle performance against San Francisco. Signing with the Bears last March 13 as a free agent was the career break Hicks has craved. For him it was a career lifeline.

“They have given me the ability to go rush the passer,” Hicks said. “So I love this organization – [GM] Ryan Pace, coach Fox, Vic [Fangio, defensive coordinator] – for just giving a guy the capability to put it out there and do what you feel like you can do.”

[MORE BEARS: Back from scary concussion, Leonard Floyd playing like franchise pass rusher Bears craved]

Hicks has been showing what he can do, to quarterbacks. For him the best part of win over the 49ers was the two third-quarter sacks of 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Those sacks gave the massive lineman, who the Saints said couldn’t rush the passer, 6 sacks for the season – more than any member of the Saints defense this season. It has been a classic instance of putting a player in position to maximize his skills, not jam someone into a bad fit.

“Akiem has been in a couple of different types of packages before with New Orleans and New England,” said coach John Fox. The Patriots switched from a long-time 3-4 scheme to a 4-3 but “we’re more of a New England-type style. But we’re playing him more at end; he played mostly a nose tackle [in New Orleans]. He’s fit really well for us as far as his physical stature.

"But he does have pass rush ability. It shows a little about his athleticism. So he’s got a combination of both.”

That “combination” has been allowed to flourish at a new level, and the Bears’ plan for Hicks was the foundation of why he wanted to sign in Chicago as a free agent. The Bears do not play their defensive linemen in a clear one-gap, get-upfield-fast scheme tailored to speed players. Nor do they play a classic two-gap, linemen-control-blockers scheme typically built on three massive space-eaters on the defensive line.

They play what one player has called a “gap and a half” system, which requires being stout as well as nimble.

One Hicks rush on Kaepernick featured a deft spin move out of a block, not the norm for 336-pound linemen. He got one sack with a quick slide out of a double-team.

“I’m not freelancing,” Hicks said. “But I’m rushing ‘fast.’ There’s a portion of the defense where you have the [run] responsibility and don’t have the freedom or liberty [to rush]. It’s a great system for me and I love what they’ve let me do.”