- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 15, 2009

STORY OF THE WEEK

BEARS LOSE URLACHER

“Season is over.”

With Brian Urlacher’s three-word text message Monday to the Chicago Tribune, the entire complexion of the NFC North changed after just one game.

Urlacher, the veteran Bears middle linebacker, dislocated his right wrist in the first quarter of Sunday night’s 21-15 loss at Green Bay while making a tackle on running back Ryan Grant.

Urlacher played the second quarter before leaving the game.

Hopes were sky high in Chicago during the preseason because of the Jay Cutler trade and the decision by coach Lovie Smith to take over the defensive playcalling duties.

But Cutler was horrid (four interceptions) in his debut, and now the Bears are without their defensive heart and soul.

Now the Bears have to shift strongside linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer inside. A candidate to join the defense is veteran Derrick Brooks, who has ties to Smith and defensive line coach Rod Marinelli from their days in Tampa Bay.

Urlacher had played in all 16 games in eight of his nine years. He missed seven games in 2004 with various injuries.

So who’s the NFC North favorite? The Vikings thumped Cleveland, but that’s not saying much. The Packers had four takeaways and still needed a late Aaron Rodgers touchdown to beat Chicago.

It will come down to Minnesota and Green Bay. Both play essentially the same schedule and meet in Weeks 4 and 8.

TEAM OF THE WEEK

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

Only the Titans and Redskins had tougher opening-day road assignments than the Eagles’ trip to Carolina, which had the NFC’s second-best record last year. But Philadelphia dominated the Panthers, scoring four second-quarter touchdowns en route to a 38-10 win. The Eagles held Carolina to 169 yards and forced seven turnovers. Carolina was 3-for-16 on third down. The Eagles might not have done a lot yardagewise (267), but they showed they can still play defense. “If you look at Carolina, they got off their running game,” cornerback Sheldon Brown said. “Once we were able to get at [Jake Delhomme] and they couldn’t run the ball effectively, then we were able to make some plays.”

FIVE TRENDS FROM WEEK 1

DOWN: In his regular-season debut for Chicago, Jay Cutler set a career high with four interceptions in Green Bay’s 21-15 victory. The Packers dropped at least three other potential picks. Cutler’s passer rating was 43.2, and he was a woeful 17-for-36.

UP: Rookie Jets coach Rex Ryan’s decision to start rookie Mark Sanchez over Kellen Clemens looked good when Sanchez led the Jets to a 24-7 win over Houston. The Jets were 10-for-18 on third down, and Sanchez threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Chansi Stuckey.

DOWN: Less than a minute away from a victory over the Broncos, the Bengals lost 12-7 when Kyle Orton’s pass was deflected and caught by Brandon Stokley, who ran for an 87-yard score with 11 seconds remaining. These kinds of plays only happen to teams like the Bengals.

UP: New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees picked up where he left off last year, throwing for 358 yards and six touchdowns in the Saints’ win over Detroit. Brees tied the franchise record set by Billy Kilmer 40 years ago. “There was probably one or two more that we left out there,” Brees said.

DOWN: The 49ers gained 203 yards… and won. Carolina (169), Kansas City (188) and Houston (183) couldn’t get going in their losses. It just shows how it takes a few weeks for teams to get started offensively because they don’t treat the preseason with any seriousness.

NEXT MAN UP

List of big injuries from Week 1:

MLB Brian Urlacher, Chicago (wrist): He was injured in the Bears’ loss to Green Bay, underwent surgery Monday and is lost for the season. Hunter Hillenmeyer will move from the strong side to the middle.

QB Donovan McNabb, Philadelphia (rib): In the Eagles’ rout of Carolina, McNabb cracked a rib while scoring on a 3-yard touchdown run. McNabb has not been ruled out, but if he can’t play against New Orleans, Kevin Kolb gets the start.

WR Anthony Gonzalez, Indianapolis (knee): The Colts No. 2 receiver sprained a right knee ligament and could miss up to six weeks. Pierre Garcon or Austin Collie would start in Gonzalez’s place.

WR Hakeem Nicks, NY Giants (ankle): While being tackled by the Redskins’ London Fletcher, the rookie’s ankle was rolled on. X-rays were negative, but he’s expected to miss two to three weeks. Derek Hagan or Sinorice Moss would move into his spot.

QB Tony Romo, Dallas (ankle): Although he didn’t miss a play, Romo injured an ankle during the third quarter and underwent tests Monday. Jon Kitna is the Cowboys’ backup.

NUMBERS GAME

Interesting stat about the Week 1 games:

8.9 Yards a play for Dallas’ offense against Tampa Bay on Sunday — 462 yards on 52 snaps in a 34-21 win over Tampa Bay. By contrast, the Redskins averaged 5.4 yards a play.

HOT SEAT

Whose performance in Week 1 puts them in the spotlight next week:

JAKE DELHOMME

Fresh off his five-interception performance in Carolina’s playoff loss to Arizona, Delhomme was 7-for-17 for 73 yards and four interceptions in the Panthers’ 38-10 loss to Philadelphia. The Panthers’ seven turnovers tied a franchise record. They’re at Atlanta and at Dallas the next two weeks.

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