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SAM FARMER / ON THE NFL

Passing comments on Week 1

Jake Delhomme is horrible against the Eagles, who win easily despite a broken rib suffered by Donovan McNabb

September 14, 2009|SAM FARMER | ON THE NFL

There's no place like home?

The victorious Atlanta Falcons, Indianapolis Colts, Seattle Seahawks and others would agree.

There's no plays like Delhomme's?

Don't remind the Carolina Panthers.

Quarterback Jake Delhomme's 2009 season began Sunday the way his 2008 one ended -- horribly. He was pulled from the Panthers' 38-10 home loss to the Philadelphia Eagles after committing five turnovers -- four interceptions and a fumble. That, after he had five interceptions and a fumble in a home playoff loss to Arizona last season, qualifying him as America's most gracious host.

That's taking nothing away from the Eagles, who played the kind of defense that would have made late coordinator Jim Johnson proud. Meanwhile, the offense had a setback when Donovan McNabb suffered a broken rib after he was hit in the back on a short touchdown run. It remains to be seen if he'll be ready to play next Sunday against New Orleans.

"Don is very resilient," teammate Brian Westbrook said. "He heals fast."

Here's some incentive for McNabb: Michael Vick becomes eligible in Week 3 and was watching the opener from the visiting owner's suite.

It was a great all-around game for the Eagles, who also scored on special teams when DeSean Jackson returned a punt 85 yards for a touchdown. Remember Jackson? He's the second-year player who last season caught a long pass for a sure touchdown but started his celebration too early, spiking the ball a yard before he crossed the goal line. That was one of the most bizarre plays of 2008.

A candidate for the strangest play of 2009 is already in the books. It came in the waning moments of Denver's 12-7 victory at Cincinnati, when the Broncos were a blink away from losing. That's when Brandon Stokley -- not the intended receiver -- plucked a deflected pass and scored an 87-yard touchdown with 11 seconds remaining.

So stunned were the Bengals that they gave up on the play, allowing Stokley to burn a few more precious seconds by running parallel to the goal line before scoring, stepping into the end zone only when he absolutely had to.

It was the only catch of the day for Stokley, who found himself in the right place at the right time -- words seldom uttered about any Broncos player during their turbulent Murphy's Law of an off-season.

"You know you need a miracle, and that's basically what we got," Stokley said. "When I scored, I just remember it being quiet, and that was a good feeling."

San Francisco can relate. The visiting 49ers handed Arizona a 20-16 defeat, knocking off the defending conference champions and indicating there's a power shift afoot in the NFC West. It doesn't look as if the Cardinals will break the pattern of Super Bowl losers taking a nose dive the following season. Elsewhere in the division, Seattle looked good in a 28-0 throttling of St. Louis.

No one had a more publicized off-season than Brett Favre, whose spring/early summer was more like an on-off-on-off-season. Regardless, he made his official debut for Minnesota, helping the Vikings to a 34-20 victory at Cleveland by simply handing the ball to Adrian Peterson and watching him run. Peterson ran for 180 yards and three touchdowns.

Favre did throw his first touchdown pass in purple, as strange a sight as seeing the Browns' offense score a touchdown. Until Brady Quinn threw a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, Cleveland's offense had not located the end zone since Week 10 of last season.

Then again, the Detroit Lions haven't won a regular-season game since Dec. 23, 2007. They had their encouraging moments in Sunday's 45-27 defeat at New Orleans (the three interceptions by No. 1 pick Matthew Stafford not among them), but the Lions couldn't hope to keep pace with the six touchdown passes of Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Two of those touchdowns were to tight end Jeremy Shockey, who had not scored since being traded from the New York Giants last season.

"It's good to get that asterisk off my name," Shockey said.

Brees, it might be said, played his asterisk off in becoming the first quarterback to throw six touchdowns since Favre did so for the New York Jets against Arizona last season.

It was a memorable day for the Jets' new quarterback, rookie Mark Sanchez, who threw for 272 yards and a touchdown in a 24-7 victory over Houston, after getting a personal pep talk from "Broadway Joe" Namath.

"To hear from a legend like that, it just kind of gives you the chills," said Sanchez, the No. 5 pick who started only 16 games at USC. "It was something special to be a part of, an emotional start, an emotional little pep talk."

Now, all Sanchez needs is 117 more victories as the Jets' starting quarterback to match the feat the Colts' Peyton Manning achieved Sunday. The three-time most valuable player collected his 118th victory -- unofficial statistic that it is, seeing as these guys aren't pitchers -- to match the club record of Johnny Unitas.

"I've never felt comfortable with comparisons with him," Manning said of the Baltimore Colts legend. "I kind of think he's in his own category. But I am proud of those wins."

At the opposite end of the emotional spectrum is Delhomme, who might have been benched for next Sunday's game at Atlanta had backup Josh McCown not suffered a knee injury Sunday in relief of him.

"He probably won't sleep very much tonight," Panthers receiver Muhsin Muhammad said of Delhomme. "It's a cruel environment and people only love you when you're winning in this league."

Oh, there was plenty of love for Delhomme in the opener. It just came from the wrong team.

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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