We had been waiting for the moment since Easter Sunday, the day the shocking trade of Donovan McNabb to the Washington Redskins put in motion the Kevin Kolb era in Philadelphia. On Sunday, Eagles fans got to see what might have been had Michael Vick not taken the football world by storm -- Kolb the backup looking very much like a backup, and a Philly offense that looked pedestrian under his direction.
Subbing for the injured Vick against McNabb's Redskins, Kolb had a propensity to throw the check-down (his longest completion was 18 yards), his eyes rarely looking downfield to make big plays that had become the signature of the Eagles' offense under Vick (Vick had 12 throws of more than 20 yards in fewer than three games).
No wonder after the game DeSean Jackson (three catches for 19 yards) was quick to proclaim that Vick's injury "was not that bad" and said he had warned Vick that "we don't need to be taking hits like that." Jackson is lost in the offense when Kolb is the starter, because Kolb is not comfortable in the pocket and is quick to dump off the ball.
What we learned on Sunday at the Linc for both teams was fairly clear:
For the Eagles, they avoided disaster because they had the foresight to sign Vick. Had they paddled out into the Kolb ocean without a Vick life jacket, they would not be ready to compete at the highest playoff level and might have to start over by drafting a quarterback next year. Can you imagine Eagles fans having the patience to rebuild after being so close to the Super Bowl? Trading McNabb to a rival was risky (when I worked for the Raiders, we were never allowed to trade within the division, and often times never allowed to trade with teams that were on the schedule), but the larger risk was with the quarterback who would fill the huge void McNabb left behind. Clearly, Vick is the answer for the Eagles; Kolb is not.
For the Redskins, McNabb gives them a legitimate player at quarterback and someone who can make plays for an offense that is lacking in playmakers.
As Eagles fans left the stadium Sunday night I am sure they were disappointed in the loss, but relieved in the fact that McNabb did not have the great game to beat them. Trust me, having grown up in Philadelphia, the fans could deal with losing, but they would have had a difficult time with McNabb having a career game in a Redskins victory.
And after watching the subpar play of McNabb and Kolb, those same Eagles fans drew even more comfort in knowing that Vick is their quarterback of the future.
» I was in Nashville for the [Titans-Broncos game]( and watched Kyle Orton throw the ball all over the field to receivers that can make play after play. The Broncos receivers are really good, especially Brandon Lloyd. When they figure out how to work rookie Demaryius Thomas in, they will be even more impressive. Thomas was used mostly as a kick returner, and looked like a tight end with rare speed and was impressive with the ball in his hands. His 65-yard return in the third quarter set up one of Denver's scores. Orton is on pace to throw for more than 5,600 yards, but he's also on pace to throw out his arm by midseason. The Broncos need to rely more on their running game, and that should happen this week with Knowshon Moreno's return.
» Playing his best game of the season, Ravens QB Joe Flacco led a come-from-behind victory at Pittsburgh. He was able to throw the ball up the field, averaging almost 7 yards per attempt and did not let any mistakes shatter his confidence. I was waiting for him to take that next step by playing well in a huge road win. In Week 1, he played poorly in the Ravens' road victory against the Jets. This time, he accomplished both.
» One of the many things I love about the NFL is when a team that is left for dead, like Jacksonville was on Sunday, rallies and beats a quality team like the Colts. The Jaguars have looked bad all season, but this was their finest moment. I am not sold that they can continue this level of performance, especially quarterback David Garrard, who had just five incompletions in the game. But for one day it was really fun to watch -- if you're not a Colts fan.
» Slow down the Rams! I know the NFC West is bad, and I mean really bad, but for the Rams to win two in a row, topping their win total for all of last year has to feel good. Rookie Sam Bradford gives the Rams faithful hope that he is the quarterback of today and, without doubt, the future. Bradford has been great in all phases of the game, especially being the leader of the team.
» The Jets did what great teams do -- they dominated a bad opponent on the road. Beating Buffalo is not a significant achievement, but the Jets controlled every phase of the game. LaDainian Tomlinson looked five years younger, as he ran the ball with burst and explosion. And quarterback Mark Sanchez continued his hot hand, connecting with his favorite target Dustin Keller (why don't teams double him in the red zone?) for two scores.
» After firing offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye last week, the 49ers scored seven points and gained just 262 yards against Atlanta. From my viewpoint, nothing changed with the 49ers on offense; they still can't run the ball effectively (81 rushing yards) and can't make big plays in the passing game (only one play longer than 15 yards, and none longer than 20).
QBs under fire
» When you make a critical mistake in offseason planning, it destroys your season. The Cardinals believed that Matt Leinart was the answer to replace Kurt Warner, but that evaluation was wrong and, unlike the Eagles, the Cardinals did not have the right player on the roster if Leinart failed. Now, you wonder why they did not get involved in the Donavan McNabb sweepstakes. This is going to be a long year in Arizona and I believe we are about to enter the Max Hall era at quarterback.
» The Raiders had playoff aspirations this year, but after four games they have problems on both sides on the ball. Playing at home, they allowed the Andre Johnson-less Texans to run for 249 yards. Playoff teams do not get gashed in the run game, especially at home, but Texans coach Gary Kubiak clearly understands how to run the ball on the Raiders from his Broncos days.
» I have come to love Buffalo Bills fans. They support their team with passion but unfortunately they do not have a team that can compete from a talent standpoint. This is going to be a long year in Buffalo and I expect it to get worse before it gets better.
» Bad offensive lines do not travel well, and the Bears offensive line is bad, really bad. No matter how much coordinator Mike Martz and line coach Mike Tice try to hide talent deficiencies on the roster. The Giants' defensive line came to life as they knew they could dominate the Bears' line. But the biggest mistake Chicago might have made with its offseason planning, besides not addressing the line, is not finding a reliable backup quarterback.
On the lookout
The Packers do not have the look of a Super Bowl team right now. The Lions were allowed to move the ball up and down Lambeau Field, converting 10 of the 17 third-down opportunities. The Packers were fortunate to come away with a victory, but their issues were further exposed. They can't create pressure, they can't cover well enough, and they play too much man-to-man -- something that will cost them when they face the best passing teams in the league.
It is early and things can turn around, but probably the best thing that happened on Sunday for the Packers, besides the win, was their reduction in penalties (from 17 in Week 3 to just three against Detroit).
On the fantasy lookout
I never understood why the Redskins cut running back Ryan Torain on the final cut in early September to keep Larry Johnson and guarantee Johnson's full salary. On the flip side, I really did not understand why some teams in need of a running back did not claim Torain, who slid through waivers and now appears to be the featured back in Washington as Clinton Portis tries to recover from a concussion. Torain should continue to gain carries and be productive.
Off the beaten track
Cleveland is mega-slow on defense (and on offense for that matter), so Bengals fans should temper the Palmer-is-back notion. Nonetheless, he played well, and showed he can still make throws down the field.
» I loved how Matt Ryan rebounded from his awful interception to march the Falcons down the field to beat San Francisco. A huge game ball should be presented to Roddy White, however, for his effort to chase down and strip the ball from 49ers cornerback Nate Clements, which then allowed Ryan the chance at redemption. ...
» Ravens cornerback Lardarius Webb made the play of the day by breaking up a pass in the end zone that appeared for an instant to be a Mike Wallace touchdown. But Webb's hand came at the right time to knock the ball away. It was a great play and great overall defense by the Ravens, who only allowed the Steelers 210 total yards of offense. ...
» All the talk about the Denver offense and its ability to throw the ball might have taken away from the defensive effort in holding Chris Johnson to just 53 yards on 19 carries. The Broncos are tough up front on defense, can play the run, and cover on the outside. All that is missing is Elvis Dumervil, the outside linebacker on IR and the pass rusher Denver so badly needs. ...
» The Seahawks are a bit schizophrenic. This season, they are a team that plays well at home and benefits from the crowd noise, and on the road they show their personnel deficiencies. ...
If the Eagles' offensive line continues to play badly, they soon might not have a healthy quarterback on the roster. For all the money Philadelphia has placed into building its line, the investments have not paid dividends. ...
» Ahmad Bradshaw needs to hold onto the football better, but his foot quickness to get in and out of the hole is spectacular. His burst and acceleration make him one of the top backs in the league, especially in the passing game. ...
» Bengals wide receiver Terrell Owens looked like the T.O. of old, catching 10 balls for 222 yards and a touchdown. It was the second-most yards he had gained in a single game since Week 16 of the 2000 season (20 catches for 283 yards vs. Chicago) and only the third time in his career he had surpassed 200 yards. ...