The Eagles won big today, but could potentially have come out the losers in the end. There's a ton to talk about with this game, but we have to start with the injury to Donovan McNabb. He took a pretty tough hit as he plowed his way into the end zone for a TD. He spent a few minutes on the ground before walking off under his own power and eventually heading to the locker room. He did return to the sidelines, but was still in obvious pain. Trainers were working on his lower back and the Eagles called it a rib injury. The best case scenario seems to be a bad contusion, the worst is probably a broken or cracked rib. Obviously his health will be the big story this coming week.
The other big story is going to be the absolute domination by the Eagles defense. The D forced seven turnovers including five picks and two forced fumbles, while also sacking 3 different Panther QBs a total of five times. New defensive coordinator Sean McDermott certainly earned an A+ in his first game as Eagles defensive coordinator. He seemed to bring pressure at the perfect times to the perfect places & pretty much everything he called worked. His attacking mindset and love of the blitz certainly showed that he was paying attention to Jim Johnson all those years and gives many hope that he will follow in the footsteps of former Jim Johnson proteges like Steve Spagnuolo and become great himself.
The play that will define Sean McDermott to me was the second to last of the game. With just seconds left, the Panthers had a 4 and goal from the one yard line down 38-10. Unwilling to give up even a meaningless TD, McDermott re-inserted his starters into the game and the Eagles' D stuffed the Panthers 4th down attempt and took the ball back. That was an attitude play. He was sending a message to this team and every other team that they won't willingly surrender an inch no matter what the situation.
Headlines after the jump.
[Note by JasonB, 09/13/09 4:39 PM EDT ] Comcast sportsnets' Derrick Gunn is reporting that McNabb sustained a cracked rib and will likely miss at least two weeks. Certainly puts a damper on an otherwise fabulous win. Andy Reid confirmed the injury in his post game press conference and indicated that McNabb might be able to play next week.. but that certainly seems unlikely.
Delhomme in postseason form
Jake Delhomme was in postseason form today throwing 4 picks before Panther's coach Jon Fox mercifully pulled him, which was probably the only reason Delhomme didn't equal the 5 picks he threw in the playoffs last year. Jake did manage to turn it over 5 times when you include the fumble that was recovered in the end zone for a TD. The Panther signed Delhomme to a 5 year, $42 million extension this offseason which includes $20 in guarantees. Ouch.
Who gets singled out?
It's hard to even pick out which members of the Eagles defense to praise. The unit as whole was dominant. Sheldon Brown certainly stands out with his two picks. Asante Samuel absolutely shut down one of the great WRs in the game, Steve Smith. Smith and Asante lined up against one another 20 times. Smith had one catch for 8 yards and Asante had an INT. Shut. Down.
Trent Cole played like a madman today. He forced the fumble that
Omar Gaither Victor Abiamiri picked up in the end zone for a TD and although he tallied just one official sack, he was in the face of whoever the Panthers trotted out to play QB play after play.
I said this when Stewart Bradley got hurt, Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders said this in our interview... The reason the Eagles were so good against the run last year was primarily because Broderick Bunkley and Mike Patterson were so good. Stewart Bradley did a very good job last year, but he was not the main reason this Eagles D was so strong up the middle. Those two DTs were dominant today holding one of the best rushing attacks in the NFL to 86 total yards rushing... now you could say that the low rushing totals were because the Panthers were forced to throw to make up the big deficit, but the 2.9 yards per carry shows that their run game was never effective.
The Eagles much maligned offensive line certainly did it's job today. Other than two lack sacks on Kevin Kolb, they pass blocked well and paved the way for a 185 yard rushing performance. Can you believe an Eagles offense had more than twice as many yards rushing as it did passing? Hopefully Andy Reid pays attention to that...
There were some miscues. Two offsides from Peters and one from Nick Cole are things that need to be fixed, but overall that unit did it's job. Peters almost blocked the entire left side of the Panthers' D himself on a 17 yard Westbrook run. I still don't think he's fully in the flow yet, but you can see the raw talent there is great. Winston Justice was arguably the most impressive of the bunch. Not only did he do a good job in pass protection, he was sealing off the edge effectively on run plays. Julius Peppers did beat him on a strip sack of Kolb late, but overall Justice looks more like the second round he was than he ever has an Eagle.