McDermott's 'D' shines in debut

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Donovan McNabb throws the football past Carolina's Julius Peppers in the first quarter.

With 39 seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the Eagles controlling a 38-10 lead, the first-team defense made its way back on to the field.

The Panthers were facing a fourth-and-goal, and the Eagles were determined to not let Carolina add to its total.

Juqua Parker and Broderick Bunkley were among the guys who put their helmets back on, lined up and stopped DeAngelo Williams for a loss.

Now Sean McDermott could relax. He had just directed a defense that came away with seven takeaways, including five interceptions. They were in the backfield all day, finishing with five sacks, and forcing John Fox to pull Jake Delhomme.

This was a defense that lost Jim Johnson and Brian Dawkins in the offseason.

A defense that was without its projected starting middle linebacker. And was starting a rookie at free safety.

A defense that 90 percent of you said was a bigger concern than the offense in an online poll last week.

But they were ready today.

Perhaps the signature play came at the start of the second quarter when McDermott lined Trent Cole up the middle as the Panthers faced a third-and-10. The Eagles' defensive end nailed Delhomme and forced a fumble. Victor Abiamiri, who started opposite Cole, scooped up the ball and ran into the end zone for the Eagles' first touchdown.

Somewhere Jim Johnson was smiling. His pupil was leading the Eagles' defense just the way he would have wanted.

The 'D' got off to a rough start. The Panthers drove 70 yards on a 13-play drive that culminated in an 11-yard touchdown run by Williams. The Birds were sloppy. At least four missed tackles and a big face-mask penalty by Juqua Parker, which kept Carolina's drive alive.

But after that, it was nothing but disaster for Delhomme and company. 169 total yards. 86 on the ground -- for a group that finished third in rushing in 2008.

Throughout the preseason, the Eagles' defensive players had nothing but positive things to say about McDermott.

And when they stopped Williams at the goal line with 39 seconds left in the game, they jumped up and down as if the game had been on the line.

A huge test awaits next week against Drew Brees (358 yards, six TDs today) and the Saints, but on this day, McDermott's group carried the Eagles.