NFC North Standings
Detroit Lions: 4-2
Chicago Bears: 4-2
Green Bay Packers: 3-2
Minnesota Vikings: 1-4
Last week: 27-21 home win against the New York Giants
As someone actively rooting against the Bears, this was a frustrating game. Giants quarterback Eli Manning got the game started in true Eli fashion by throwing 2 interceptions in his first 5 attempts. The Bears failed to take advantage of the first interception and turned the ball over on downs at the Giants' goal line. However, Eli responded to this defensive stand by handing Bears cornerback Tim Jennings the easiest pick-six he will see in his career. That interception was actually not entirely Eli's fault, as receiver Rueben Randle apparently ran the wrong route, but Eli has lost the benefit of the doubt this season.
The Bears' offense was quiet, but efficient throughout the game. Jay Cutler didn't stray far beyond his reliable trifecta of Brandon Marshall, Martellus Bennett and Matt Forte, and the offense did not turn the ball over or take a sack. This rather conservative style seems to fit the Bears' game plan, and Cutler looked comfortable methodically sustaining long drives. The Bears did not go three-and-out once in the game and their two touchdown drives were each over 80 yards long.
After building a comfortable lead in the first half, the Bears only managed 3 points in the second half and the Giants were in position for a comeback on their final drive. It was not meant to be, as another Eli pass was slightly off the mark and his intended receiver tipped the ball directly into the hands of Jennings for another easy interception.
Lance Briggs - See my recap last week. Briggs is on another level right now and added 5 tackles, a sack, a pass defense and a tackle for a loss on Thursday night.
Brandon Marshall - There are two Jay Cutlers. One when he is throwing to Marshall and one when he is throwing to anyone else. They have great chemistry and Cutler obviously trusts Marshall in a way he trusts no other receiver. Marshall started the game on a bad note by dropping a would-be touchdown on fourth down, but then responded by grabbing 9 catches on 9 targets for 2 touchdowns and 87 yards. Pro Football Focus pointed out his exterior blocking in awarding him the game ball and a +4.3 grade.
Run defense - The Bears are dealing with serious injury issues on their interior defensive line with tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins out for the season, and they were facing a very big man with a very big chip on his shoulder at running back this week. Regardless, it is unacceptable to allow Brandon Jacobs, who didn't have a job a few weeks ago, to run for over 100 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jacobs was running hard, but the defense allowed him to gain a head of steam. The Giants' offensive line has been terrible this year -- just ask David Wilson's fantasy owners -- but they opened up gaping holes on Thursday and Jacobs' average point of first contact was 2.7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage.
Michael Bush - A Michael Bush touch is a wasted touch. I've pointed this out before, but the Bears still insist on giving Bush a workload, and he received 10 touches on Thursday for an average of 1.4 yards per touch. On the season he is averaging 1.8 yards a carry. Move on Bears, move on.
Next week: At the D.C. Redskins (1-4)
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 19-17 win at the Baltimore Ravens
This was another tough game to watch, partially because it was a defensive slugfest without a touchdown until the end of the third quarter and partially because another NFC North rival eked out a win. From the Packers' perspective, it was an unusual game, as the offense centered around their running game and rookie running back Eddie Lacy racked up 120 yards on 23 carries.
Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically inefficient by completing only 53 percent of his passes and taking 3 sacks while throwing 1 interception and 1 touchdown. However, Rodgers did connect with Jordy Nelson on a 64-yard strike for the Packers' only touchdown of the game.
The most important sequence of events in the game occurred in the second quarter when the Ravens attempted to punt from their own 36. The Packers partially blocked the punt, but it still traveled beyond the line of scrimmage, where running back John Kuhn touched it. It then became a live ball and the Ravens recovered it and proceeded to drive down to the Packers' 4-yard-line. The Ravens then ran four straight running plays but were repulsed and turned the ball over on downs on the goal line. By the time the Ravens finally found the end zone in the fourth quarter, it was too late.
The entire Packers defense played very well on Sunday, but I will highlight three performances in particular
Davon House - If you just look at the stat sheet, House had a quiet game with only 1 tackle. If you watched the game, you know he stymied the Ravens' passing attack the whole game. Especially in the first half, House was all over the field and his name was called on seemingly every incomplete pass.
Johnny Jolly - Jolly continues to play at an extremely high level upon his return to the NFL. He is a big, strong and athletic player who occupies a ton of space on the defensive interior. He was a big part of why the Ravens only managed 2.1 yards a carry last week.
A.J. Hawk - Without his partner in crime Clay Matthews, Hawk did not miss a beat. He collected 3 sacks, 5 tackles for a loss, 10 total tackles and excelled in pass coverage by sniffing out screens and playing sideline to sideline.
Team health - The Packers' injury list gets longer each week. On top of previous injuries, the Packers lost linebacker Nick Perry and receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones on Sunday. Their status for next week's game against the Cleveland Browns is in doubt.
Pass protection - The Ravens only got to Rodgers for 3 sacks and 3 hits on Sunday, but that does not tell the whole story. Rodgers was under pressure all game and the pass rush was a big part of his lack of rhythm with his receivers.
Next week: At home against the Cleveland Browns (3-3)
Last week: 35-10 home loss against the Carolina Panthers
This was an ugly game that I mercifully did not watch. Therefore, I am going to break ranks and just give a few thoughts I have gleaned from other sources:
- It is apparent that Matt Cassel is not the quarterback of the future, and it appears as though the Josh Freeman era could begin sooner rather than later. Cassel essentially just threw a bunch of dump-off passes all game, averaging a measly 5.5 yards per attempt, but still managed to throw 2 interceptions. Christian Ponder was a healthy scratch on Sunday, so it appears as though his reign may already be over. Sports news outlets are already reporting that Freeman's first start is imminent.
- Adrian Peterson, playing after the death of his young son, had a pretty good day, but only received 10 carries as the Vikings played from behind all game.
- The Carolina offense was not dominant, but was efficient. Quarterback Cam Newton led the offense to convert 7 of 12 third downs and both of 2 fourth-down conversions, and they averaged 5.6 yards per snap.
- Pro Football Focus points out that Jared Allen has had two of the worst grades of his career in the last two weeks.
Next week: At the New York Giants (0-6) in the "Someone has to win" Bowl