John Clayton's Last Call: Early QB concerns for Eagles, Panthers
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Week 1 observations: Five things I learned
By John Clayton, ESPN.com1. McNabb's injury could have been avoided: Eagles coach Andy Reid wouldn't lift his foot off the accelerator with a 21-point, third-quarter lead, and as a result, he might not have QB Donovan McNabb for next Sunday's potential shootout against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.
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Eagles QB Donovan McNabb padded a commanding lead, but he paid a price.
With 6:59 left in the third quarter of a 38-10 win over the Panthers, McNabb suffered a fractured rib in the left side of his back as he scrambled into the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown. That touchdown gave the Eagles a 38-10 lead in a game that was over in the middle of the second quarter. X-rays revealed one fracture. McNabb's a competitor, but there was no need for him to risk injury with that big of a lead. It's too early to determine McNabb's status, but he's more doubtful than questionable. The Eagles might have to outbid the Patriots to re-sign A.J. Feeley in order to have him back up Kevin Kolb, who might get the start against the Saints. Michael Vick, who's serving a two-week suspension, won't be eligible until Week 3.Reid said there is a chance McNabb could play. Halfback Brian Westbrook, who's played with rib fractures, said, "I think Donovan will be able to play next week; it's just how much will he be able to handle the pain.'' Without McNabb, the Eagles are hurting. Kolb was sacked twice and completed seven passes for 23 yards during the final quarter and a half. He hasn't been able to convert his exhibition-game successes into the regular season yet. 2. Delhomme on the ropes: One game into his five-year, $30.4 million extension, Panthers QB Jake Delhomme is in a career crisis. Delhomme was benched in the third quarter after throwing four interceptions and losing a fumble in Sunday's loss. Including last season's playoff loss to the Cardinals, Delhomme has 11 turnovers in less than seven quarters. Panthers fans booed him as the mistakes continued. His quarterback rating is 24.2 over his past two games. He has completed 24 of 51 passes for 244 yards with nine interceptions and two fumbles in that span.
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Jake Delhomme passed for only 73 yards and turned the ball over five times against the Eagles.
Asked whether he would start next Sunday, Delhomme said: "I hope so. It's the easy way out to sit on the sidelines and lick my wounds. I hope to be out there.''Players and coaches started the process of distancing themselves from Delhomme after the game. Wide receiver Steve Smith didn't give him an endorsement when asked whether he was concerned about his quarterback. "I don't have to have that responsibility. I don't want to comment on something that's outside my pay grade,'' he said. Head coach John Fox didn't sound solid on going back to Delhomme. "I think we start back with Jake,'' he said. "We've got to go back and evaluate what happened to us.'' The Panthers don't have much of a choice. Backup Josh McCown suffered what might be a serious knee and foot injury in the second half after replacing Delhomme. The Panthers can't trade for Derek Anderson of the Browns because they have only $1.5 million in cap room. Anderson's base salary is $1.45 million, but teams generally don't like to use up all their cap space this early in the season. They could sign Jeff Garcia. Delhomme's 34. The Panthers put their faith in him, but two bad games have clearly shaken that faith. 3. Problems already in Houston: The Jets are better than we thought, and the Texans are in trouble after a 24-7 loss to New York. Jobs may be on the line if the Texans can't break their two-year rut of being 8-8. It had to scare Houston fans and management to see Jets rookie quarterback Mark Sanchez outperform veteran Texans starter Matt Schaub. Sanchez became only the fourth rookie quarterback since the AFL-NFL merger to win his first start on opening day. To make matters worse for the Texans, Sanchez is the first rookie quarterback to win an opening-day start on the road. Sanchez threw for 272 yards. Schaub threw for 166. Schaub has 25 career starts and looked like the second-best quarterback on the field. It's pretty clear the Texans aren't as good as the Titans and Colts, so they have to get six or seven wins in their 10 non-division games to get over .500. The Jets stuffed the Texans' running attack, limiting Steve Slaton to 17 yards and Houston to 38 total. Give Jets coach Rex Ryan credit. He talked big about his defense during the offseason, and the Jets backed up his words by holding Houston to 183 yards, seven points and only 48 plays. 4. Ryan outshines Long: Falcons QB Matt Ryan didn't have his best game in Atlanta's 19-7 victory over the Dolphins, but he showed that the Dolphins might have made a mistake by bypassing him in favor of left tackle Jake Long in the 2008 draft. Ryan is the difference-maker who should take the Falcons to the Super Bowl sometime in the next two or three years. Long made the Pro Bowl on an 11-win team as a rookie, but his impact wasn't as apparent Sunday as Ryan's. Ryan completed 22 of 36 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns. Long is good, but he alone isn't going to keep the Dolphins at the 11-win level. Against a Falcons defense that chased away five starters, the Dolphins rushed for only 96 yards, gave up four sacks and didn't score until the 3:22 mark of the fourth quarter. Plus, the future of the quarterback position in Miami is uncertain. Chad Pennington, 33, completed 21 passes for only 176 yards Sunday. His contract is up at the end of the year, and Chad Henne, believed to be the future starter, was third-string Sunday. 5. Bengals let one slip away: The Broncos' 12-7 victory over the Bengals was hard to figure. The Bengals were at home. They had a reasonably healthy Carson Palmer. Cedric Benson was the best back on the field in the first half, rushing for 55 yards on 15 carries. Broncos quarterback Kyle Orton clearly couldn't throw deep because of his dislocated right index finger, which was protected by a glove. I think the departure of WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh was bigger than the team imagined. His replacement, Laveranues Coles, was almost invisible against the Broncos. He was targeted five times. He caught one pass for 11 yards and had a couple of drops on third down. Houshmandzadeh had 204 catches over the past two seasons, and would have been good for six receptions a game with Palmer. He had six catches in Seattle's 28-0 victory over the Rams. By letting the Broncos hang around in a close game, the Bengals made themselves vulnerable to a game-changing play, which happened when Brandon Stokley caught a deflected pass and raced for the game-winning touchdown. That was a bad loss for the Bengals. They miss Houshmandzadeh.
Clayton's short takes
John Clayton's game balls
Sunday Countdown | ESPN.com • Coach Ratings: Week 1 • NFL Blog Network
Week 1 rundown
Big Ben was huge when it mattered most, but what's the deal with Pittsburgh's running game (only 36 yards on 23 carries)?
• Denver 12, Cincinnati 7
Probably the dullest game of Week 1 -- until the Broncos' improbable game-winning touchdown pass. Maybe the Bengals are cursed.
• Atlanta 19, Miami 7
It didn't take long for Tony Gonzalez to make an impact with the Falcons. The veteran tight end caught a 20-yard TD pass and already appears to have a nice rapport with QB Matt Ryan.
Indianapolis 14, Jacksonville 12
The Colts' defense didn't have Bob Sanders, but it had enough muscle to turn back the Jags in the fourth quarter.
Are the Seahawks back? We won't know for sure until they play a better team. Three Seattle turnovers aren't a good sign. • Green Bay 21, Chicago 15
It wasn't the offensive shootout many expected, but Aaron Rodgers showed Packers fans he's capable of making plays with the game on the line. MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL • Buffalo at New England (ESPN, 7 ET) • San Diego at Oakland (ESPN, 10:15 ET) -- ESPN.com
• New England (0-0) at N.Y. Jets (1-0): What will Bill Belichick cook up for Jets QB Mark Sanchez?• New Orleans (1-0) at Philadelphia (1-0): Both teams enjoyed lopsided Week 1 wins. Week 2 brings bigger challenges. • N.Y. Giants (1-0) at Dallas (1-0): Will the Giants spoil the opening of Jerry Jones' new theme park? • Week 2 schedule