Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb was benched Sunday for the first time in his NFL career.
(James Lang/US Presswire)
Only two days removed from his 32nd birthday, and one week after admitting he didn't know NFL games could end in a tie, McNabb suffered the first benching of his NFL career. After struggling to complete only eight passes in the first half against the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, he was pulled in favor of Kevin Kolb. McNabb also turned the ball over three times, giving him six turnovers in his last seven quarters of football. Those numbers help make McNabb this weekend's biggest loser.
While head coach Andy Reid said he made the change in hopes of providing a "spark" for the offense, the move likely foreshadows the end of McNabb's career with the Eagles. Philadelphia is 5-5-1 and has only the faintest of playoff hopes. And with last week's admission about ties, the fan base is likely to be more fervent than ever about making the move to Kolb permanent.
This is about more than just what happened Sunday. The writing has been on the wall for McNabb over the last few years. Some fans wanted to throw him overboard after the 2006 season when Jeff Garcia led the Eagles on an impressive run to the playoffs. In hindsight, that may have been the best time to move McNabb. He still had some value, and Garcia was clearly a good fit.
But the Eagles held on, and since then, McNabb has turned in a 25-game tenure that has been good but not great. Now he's got one year remaining on his contract and a young quarterback behind him in Kolb that the franchise likes and believes is the future. Never mind that Kolb went 10-for-23 in subbing for McNabb and threw two interceptions. The coaching staff will give the kid a mulligan with his trial by fire coming against Baltimore. McNabb won't get that same benefit of the doubt in the long run.
Instead, you can bet the Eagles will work the phones hard after the season ends, hoping to find a team that has seen the success of so many other 30-something quarterbacks and thinks McNabb can put them over the top (Hello, Minnesota Vikings). And if they can't deal him, they'll likely release him – which is what McNabb would want, anyway.
Mark it down. Five games are left in Philadelphia's season and McNabb's time in an Eagles uniform.
Here are some of the weekend's other winners and losers …
Jets quarterback Brett Favre (4) threw two touchdown passes in New York's 34-13 victory over the Titans.
(AP photo/John Russell)
• The New York Jets
All of those offseason moves by the Jets are paying immense dividends. With Sunday's road win over the previously undefeated Tennessee Titans, you've got to look at the Jets as a Super Bowl contender. Jumping to a 10-0 lead Sunday changed the tempo of the game, getting the ball out of the hands of Chris Johnson and forcing the Titans to throw the football.
• Jets quarterback Brett Favre
He was very patient facing a dangerous defense, and even his lone interception was a fantastic play by Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan. And if you want to see a great play, find the film of Favre's 2-yard touchdown pass to Laveranues Coles. He pump-faked to the left, moved to his right and delivered a dart between three Tennessee defenders. It was one of Sunday's most impressive plays.
• The Titans
I know it sounds weird, but it was good for the Titans to lose Sunday. They got it out of the way before all the talk of going undefeated really got started and before the media could perpetuate the "lack of respect" garbage that causes teams to lose focus. Now it's all about getting the No. 1 seed in the AFC and getting healthy.
• New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel
All of a sudden, he's not just looking solid – he's looking like one of the better quarterbacks in the league. First there was last week's amazing touchdown to force overtime against the Jets. This week, he put four total touchdowns and 415 passing yards in a win over the Miami Dolphins. Cassel's last two games have been sick: 815 passing yards, six touchdown throws.
• Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss
This is the Moss that we knew with Tom Brady. Moss's 125 receiving yards and three touchdowns catches make this by far his best outing this season. You can see him starting to come alive and do some of the little things for Cassel that he did for Brady – like dropping his head and fighting into the end zone at one point Sunday.
• The Buffalo Bills' offense
It's hard to win when you give up 462 yards on defense, but Trent Edwards finally snapped out of his funk and Buffalo scored 54 points. His four total touchdowns and 273 passing yards – 110 to Lee Evans – were impressive. But at 6-5 in a brutal AFC playoff picture, it might be too late.
• Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin
The first-round pick out of Troy flashed his speed and coverage skill with his first and second NFL interceptions, including a pivotal 64-yard return for a touchdown in the second quarter that swung momentum in Buffalo's favor.
• Fox analyst Brian Billick
He delivers excellent real-time insight. At one point during Sunday's Atlanta-Carolina broadcast, Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan began a demonstrative audible and Billick immediately pointed out Ryan was reading pressure and changing into a quick-hitting pass. One second later, Ryan took a fast drop and hit Michael Jenkins for a short gain and first down.
• Sprint's NFL Mobile Live application
It's a great time to be an NFL fan given all the technology. And I realized it when I got stuck in a taxi and ended up watching the first two quarters of Thursday's Pittsburgh-Cincinnati game on my cell phone. The video was surprisingly good and mostly glitch-free. Sprint's Sunday feature allowing you to listen to the flagship radio broadcast of any NFL team is great, too.
• The Baltimore Ravens' defense
With all due respect to quarterback Joe Flacco and running back Le'Ron McClain, the defense deserves more of the credit for Sunday's win over Philadelphia. The consistent pressure in the backfield and five forced turnovers led to Philadelphia's 206-yard offensive implosion. I'd love to see how many quarterbacks Baltimore's defense has gotten benched over the last 10 years.
• The Dallas Cowboys/ offense
It sure looks different with Tony Romo under center, doesn't it? Terrell Owens had 213 receiving yards and a touchdown. That's more yardage than Owens' previous five games combined. More importantly, the whole demeanor of the offense looked different. The Cowboys were attacking, rather than waiting for something bad to happen.
• The Minnesota Vikings
With a brutal schedule ahead, they had to have Sunday's road win over Jacksonville. The defense is getting better. It mauled the Jaguars, forcing five turnovers and piling up four sacks. Ultimately, this team's playoff fate might hang on the potential substance suspensions of defensive linemen Pat and Kevin Williams.
• Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte
His 132-yard, two touchdown effort against the St. Louis Rams on Sunday bumps Forte to 909 rushing yards and nine total touchdowns through 11 games. That tally pushes him ahead of Tennessee's Chris Johnson and the Atlanta Falcons' Matt Ryan in the race for offensive rookie of the year honors. Kyle Orton is vital to this offense's success, but Forte might be the unit's MVP this season.
• The Bears defense
I'm not going to get carried away with the praise, since the effort came against a horrific St. Louis offense, but the Bears dismantled the Rams with five sacks and four interceptions. If Chicago can repeat the performance next week against Minnesota, it will go a long way toward making me a believer in its pursuit of winning the NFC North.
• The Oakland Raiders
You name it – the offense, the defense, the running game – it all came together for the Raiders. Winning in Denver is a quality victory, no matter how you slice it. But to see JaMarcus Russell complete 10-of-11 passes and have the defense hold Denver to 10 measly points was shocking. I'm not sure Oakland can play any better than it did Sunday.
• The Falcons' offense
With Sunday's performance, Matt Ryan has now had a yards-per-attempt average of 9.6 or better in six of his 11 games. No other quarterback in the NFL comes close – including guys like Kurt Warner and Drew Brees. And was there a better offseason signing than running back Michael Turner? His numbers through 11 games (1,088 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) are staggering.
• The New York Giants
They look like the best team in the NFL, period. They can solve running teams and passing teams. They can crack the best defenses. And now they look mentally tough with their injury management, too. The offense didn't seem to miss a beat without Brandon Jacobs or wideout Plaxico Burress, who left Sunday with a hamstring issue. Most important of all, Eli Manning isn't the withering flower in the second half of seasons anymore. He has nine touchdowns and three interceptions in his last four games and is only getting better.
• The Washington Redskins
The Seattle Seahawks are better than people realize now that Matt Hasselbeck is back and the offense has regained some health. And a cross-country trip to Seattle and Qwest Field is no picnic. This was a game the Redskins had to have to keep pace with Dallas, Carolina and Atlanta in the battle for NFC wild-card spots. Now the Giants game this week becomes a make or break point in the season.
Browns wide receiver Braylon Edwards (bottom) has dropped 16 passes this season.
(AP photo/Mark Duncan)
• Former New England Patriots coordinators
Remember when Romeo Crennel and Charlie Weis were the toast of the football world as the coordinators of a Patriots dynasty? My how times have changed. Weis and Notre Dame lost to lowly Syracuse on Saturday and Crennel suffered a home defeat to a struggling Houston team on Sunday. This might be the lowest each coach's stock has been and you've got to wonder whether either will have a job come late January.
• The Browns' offense
The more I look at it, the less I like the pieces that looked so good only one season ago. Braylon Edwards has dropped a ridiculous 16 passes, Jamal Lewis looks like he's fading, and the jury is still out on the quarterbacks. Other than left tackle Joe Thomas, who do you build around?
• The Kansas City Chiefs
It's almost impossible to figure this team. In one moment, the spread offense looks great and Kansas City looks like a dangerous team. In the next, the Chiefs are turning the ball over five times and the defense can't even get into the same zip code as the opposing quarterback. Sitting at 1-10 and now suffering an embarrassment at home, Herm Edwards had better have some magic up his sleeve down the stretch if he wants to keep his job.
• The Miami Dolphins
Yes, Chad Pennington had a solid day, but this was Miami's week to get a foothold in the AFC East and show it was a legitimate playoff contender. Instead, it got steamrolled on defense, giving up an absurd 530 yards. With four of their last five on the road, the Dolphins just made their postseason trek exponentially more difficult. And insult was added to injury when linebacker Channing Crowder smiled and laughed his way to the locker room after fighting with Patriots tackle Matt Light. Bill Parcells must have an ulcer.
• The Detroit Lions
They jumped out to a 17-0 lead and then give it all back in a span of 8:19 in the second quarter. You almost had to feel bad for the fans who were amped up after the fast start. If the Lions go 0-16 this season, it's worth pondering whether this might be one of the worst teams in the history of professional sports.
• Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback David Garrard
His turnovers were brutal in the loss to Minnesota. With his nine passing touchdowns and eight interceptions this season, critics are going to start questioning whether it was premature to give Garrard that massive contract last offseason. Clearly he needs another impact wideout (no, Jerry Porter doesn't count).
• The St. Louis Rams
They've lost their last four games by a combined 108 points. That's an average of 27 points per game. At this point, they might be worse than Detroit.
• The Denver Broncos
Talk about a monumental letdown. After all the talk this week about not overlooking Oakland, it was hard to know if the Broncos were even breathing in the second half of Sunday's blowout loss. This one was just as bad as the choke job the Broncos pulled against Kansas City in Week 4. Jay Cutler was erratic and had two costly turnovers, and the defense couldn't get a stop to save its life in the fourth quarter. This was ugly.
• The Carolina Panthers' defense
So much for this team surfacing as a dominant rival to the New York Giants. Removing the brutally awful win over Oakland on Nov. 9, the Panthers have allowed opponents to score a total 90 points in three of the last four games. The defense has surrendered a 100-yard rusher in the last two games and looks soft up front all of the sudden. Someone call me when Julius Peppers manages a multi-sack game against a playoff contending team.
• The Cardinals
They couldn't have asked for a better shot at establishing their NFC supremacy, with the Giants missing Jacobs and with a hobbled Burress. But instead of seizing the moment, the Cardinals got pummeled at the line of scrimmage. Arizona couldn't run the ball or get anywhere near Eli Manning on a consistent basis. In the end, the Giants made the Cardinals look like a finesse passing team that would need a lot of breaks to win a January playoff game in the Meadowlands.
“ We've played so bad that we actually have something to play for now.”
– Detroit Lions kicker Jason Hanson on the prospect of the team going 0-16 this season.
The final tally of Oakland's streak of plays without an offensive touchdown, which ended in the third quarter of Sunday's win over Denver. The streak began in Week 8 against Baltimore.
(FIVE THINGS I LOVED AND FIVE THINGS I LOATHED)
The Titans' Cortland Finnegan intercepts a pass intended for the Jets' Laveranues Coles on Sunday.
(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Loved: Watching Fox's NFL Sunday feature on the Arizona Cardinals offense. Sitting down with the big three of Kurt Warner, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald was obvious, but the inclusion of soft-spoken Steve Breaston was an unexpected plus. Boldin's perspective on his broken jaw was particularly interesting.
Loathed: Seeing Fox analyst Terry Bradshaw allow Warner to interrupt his question to Boldin about his contract situation. It was clear Warner jumped in to diffuse a tough question, and it killed a key moment. I would have loved to hear Boldin answer the "money vs. situation" quandary on camera. Bradshaw should have controlled the moment and gotten his answer.
Loved: Watching Tennessee's Cortland Finnegan against the New York Jets. First he gave Brett Favre a little pop when Favre split out wide in a direct snap play, then he had a spectacular one-handed interception. He's the cornerback version of Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu – tough as nails on the field, laid back off it.
Loathed: Seeing DeMarcus Ware get overshadowed in Dallas. Watch his first half against San Francisco and you can appreciate how good he is. Whether it's against the run, dropping into passing lanes or rushing the passer, he's as complete as any linebacker in the NFL. If he played in Tennessee, he'd be a defensive player of the year favorite.
Loved: The breakdown of the New York Giants offensive line on the NFL Network's "NFC Playbook." One particular piece of tape was astonishing, showing three Giants linemen holding their blocks 10-20 yards away from the snap against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 11. It makes you appreciate why this might be the best single unit in the NFL right now.
Loathed: The humungous, distracting Ford pickup truck logo on the front of Fox's NFL Sunday set. I actually loathe what it represents: a striking illustration of why the Detroit Lions won't lose the Thanksgiving Day game anytime soon. As long as the Ford family owns the team and pumps millions in advertising dollars into the pockets of the networks and the NFL, Detroit keeps a Thanksgiving Day game. Sometimes money means more than putting out a good product.
Loved: Seeing San Francisco still fighting in the fourth quarter against Dallas. The 49ers still suffered an ugly loss, but they aren't falling apart under Mike Singletary. I think this team looks a lot tougher now than it did under Mike Nolan.
Loathed: Watching Calvin Johnson in the first quarter against Tampa Bay and having the feeling he's going to be wasted playing in Detroit just like Herman Moore and Barry Sanders were. If Johnson was playing in even a serviceable offense, he'd finish with 1,500 receiving yards and a dozen touchdowns this year.
Loved: Watching Ravens safety Ed Reed with the ball in his hands. Is there anyone more exciting after an interception? Having 106- and 108-yard interception returns for touchdowns, the latter coming against the Eagles, is jaw-dropping.
Loathed: Looking at the physique of Detroit's Daunte Culpepper and thinking about all those people wondering why he wasn't getting a shot as a starting quarterback. Take a look at pictures of Culpepper in 2006 with Miami and then look at him now. He looks like he's gained 50 pounds over the last two seasons.