If you can be euphoric while holding your breath, that is what the Eagles are here in Charlotte. They arrived for the 2009 season as if shot out of a cannon, and then they were forced to endure the sight of their quarterback, Donovan McNabb, being knocked out of the game with a broken rib. His status for next week is uncertain.
The final score -- Eagles 38, Panthers 10 -- told a lot of the story, the story of a carnivorous defense that forced seven turnovers overall (five interceptions and two fumble recoveries). In his first game calling the plays, defensive coordinator Sean McDermott dialed up an impressive array of blitzes and coverages that totally flummoxed the eminently-flumoxable Jake Delhomme. The heat on Delhomme and his successors, Josh McCown and later Matt Moore, was constant.
Meanwhile, on offense, right tackle Winston Justice more than passed his first test at right tackle, and the line as a whole -- which we fretted about all summer because of injuries and lack of practice time together -- did a great job. It looked as if they had been playing together forever.
But then came the McNabb injury, with 6:59 left in the third quarter. He bulled his way into the endzone backward for a touchdown, got hit late in the end zone after he had fallen, and then writhed around on the turf in agony. We do not know when the injury occurred -- on the initial hit when he was upright, or later. All we know is that he walked off of the field, went inside for evaluation, came back out to sit on the bench and then went inside again. He looked terribly uncomfortable when he returned, as if it hurt to breathe, but we do not know anything yet about the severity of the injury or the prospects for next week and beyond. All we know for sure is that it's broken, and that Kevin Kolb finished up the game.