Donovan McNabb swung out of the locker room into a Veterans Stadium corridor, navigating gingerly on a pair of metal crutches, and in an instant, a heartwarming story turned as foreboding as the weather.
Minutes before, the angles had looked like this:
McNabb, blasted for inaccuracy, leads an offensive explosion with pinpoint passing while limping on a sprained ankle in guiding the Philadelphia Eagles to a 38-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. The Eagles' hobbled leader points the way back into the race for a first-round NFC playoff bye.
In the wake of news that McNabb had suffered not a sprain but a broken right fibula on the game's third play, everything changed.
Suddenly, the fact that the Packers (8-2), 49ers (7-3) and Saints (7-3) lost, pushing the 7-3 Eagles closer to the top of their conference, seems less crucial.
"I'm looking at it like we don't have Donovan this season and we move on," Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid said today.
That changed from whether the Eagles can gain home-field advantage throughout the postseason to whether they can make the playoffs.
There are six weeks left in the schedule. Reid says it's too early to set a timetable for McNabb's return, saying "It's somewhere in the six-to-eight week area, but that has to be determined," and that surgery's an option.
Philadelphia will head into that stretch drive with Koy Detmer as their quarterback. Detmer has all of six starts in his six-year NFL career, all of it spent with the Eagles.
McNabb was injured on the third play of the game. That kept him from attempting a rush for the first time in 53 career starts including playoffs, but he tied a career high with four touchdown passes.
"It's not something he can play with right now," said trainer Rick Burkholder. "We'll know more in the next 24 to 48 hours."
Unable to scramble because of his injury -- diagnosed as a sprain during the game -- McNabb stayed in the pocket and threw TD passes of 2 yards to James Thrash, 3 to Dorsey Levens, 27 to Todd Pinkston and 9 to Duce Staley in the first half.
Though he limped noticeably the entire game, McNabb didn't miss a play until resting with 4:49 left. He finished 20 of 25 for 255 yards and one interception.
"He wasn't coming out," Philadelphia coach Andy Reid said. "I tried. I knew he was hurt. We didn't know this, though."
Jake Plummer threw two TD passes for Arizona (4-6).
The Eagles (7-3) played nothing like the team that was dismantled by Indianapolis, 35-13, last week. They got TDs on all three second-quarter possessions, scored the last 24 points and racked up 463 yards.
Staley had 136 yards rushing and 82 on three receptions.
McNabb went down after he was sacked by Adrian Wilson and LeVar Woods on a third-and-3. He clutched his right leg and stayed on the turf but didn't miss a series.
Asked why he didn't get X-rays at halftime, McNabb said: "I wouldn't let anybody touch it."
Chargers show spunk
SAN DIEGO -- It turns out the San Diego Chargers do have heart.
A week after LaDainian Tomlinson questioned his team's desire following a fourth-quarter collapse in St. Louis, the Chargers rallied to beat the San Francisco 49ers, 20-17, in overtime.
Drew Brees drove the Chargers to 10 points in the final 5:05 of regulation -- tying it with a 1-yard pass to Fred McCrary with 31 seconds left -- and former Buffalo Bill Steve Christie, one of the NFL's best clutch kickers, ended it with a 40-yard field goal with 4:11 left in the extra period. It was Christie's eighth OT field goal, second most in NFL history to Jim Breech's nine.
Christie got his chance because San Francisco's Jose Cortez was wide right on a 41-yard attempt. It was Cortez's fourth miss in three weeks, including two in regulation at Oakland on Nov. 3 before he won that game in overtime with a 23-yarder.
"If there was any question about their heart, I think that was dispelled," Chargers coach Marty Schottenheimer said. "This team has great heart. Just look at the games we've been in and how we've managed to hang on and win."
"We're usually better at the end of a game than we were today," said coach Steve Mariucci of the 7-3 49ers. Cortez "has done some good things for us this season, but he's also missed a few."
Pack sacked in Minnesota
MINNEAPOLIS -- Playing in Minnesota never seems to work out well for the Green Bay Packers.
Not even with the league's best record. Not even against the worst Vikings team in nearly two decades.
Daunte Culpepper threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and the Vikings intercepted Brett Favre three times in a 31-21 victory.
"At some point before I retire," Favre said, "I'd like to get another win in here."
The Packers (8-2) have lost nine of 11 in the Metrodome and missed a chance to become the earliest team to clinch a division title in a 16-game season.
"I feel like I can make a lot of plays in this league for a long time," Culpepper said. "I just have to play like myself."
Around the league
Jeremy Shockey caught 11 passes for 111 yards and Matt Bryant kicked four field goals, leading the Giants (6-4) to a 19-17 victory over the Redskins (4-6) in a game made ugly by steady rain and turnovers. Washington had a chance to win with 3:11 to go, but James Tuthill slipped on a 42-yard field-goal attempt and Lance Legree blocked the low line drive, sealing the Giants' win.
Steve Beuerlein threw two fourth-quarter touchdown passes on his only attempts after Brian Griese left with a sprained knee, leading the Broncos (7-3) to a 31-9 victory over the Seahawks (3-7). Clinton Portis ran for 136 yards on 23 carries and Deltha O'Neal returned a late interception 22 yards for a TD.
Peyton Manning threw two late touchdown passes to Marvin Harrison -- who finished with 14 passes for 138 yards, passing the 1,000-yard mark for the fourth consecutive season -- Mike Vanderjagt made two field goals and the Colts (6-4) forced two late turnovers to seal a 20-3 victory over the Cowboys (3-7). Edgerrin James rushed for 106 yards on 24 carries, his second 100-yard game of the season. He missed the previous two games with injuries and left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury. Former Colts and Bills coach Ted Marchibroda became the fourth inductee in the Colts' Ring of Honor at halftime.
Michael Vick passed for two touchdowns and ran for another, while the Falcons slowed the Saints' offense to win, 24-17. Atlanta (6-3-1) extended its unbeaten streak to six and crept within a half-game of New Orleans (7-3) for second in the NFC South, beating the Saints for the second time in four weeks.
Brad Johnson threw for 253 yards and two touchdowns, and the NFL's top-ranked defense forced four turnovers as the Buccaneers (8-2) beat the Panthers (3-7), 23-10. Tampa Bay is off to its best start after 10 games.
Mark Brunell passed for 224 yards and two touchdowns as the Jaguars (5-5) held off the Texans, 24-21, atoning for a loss to the first-year team three weeks ago. Houston (2-8) rallied from a 24-7 deficit when David Carr threw a 52-yard touchdown pass to Corey Bradford in the second quarter. The Texans then scored on runs of 2 and 14 yards by Carr, the latter coming with 2:04 left.
Tim Couch matched his career high with three TD passes and Cleveland's defense stopped Corey Dillon twice from from the 1-yard line after a Cincinnati kickoff return to the 7 as the Browns (5-5) held on for a 27-20 victory over the Bengals (1-9). A crowd of 64,060 was the second-largest ever in Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium.