Know the NFC North: Week 5

Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports

A roundup of how the old "Black and Blue Division" fared in Week 5 of the 2013 season.

NFC North Standings

Detroit Lions: 3-2

Chicago Bears: 3-2

Green Bay Packers: 2-2

Minnesota Vikings: 1-3

Chicago Bears

Last week: 26-18 loss against the New Orleans Saints

I saw the movie Gravity this weekend (and it was awesome) and it reminded me of the Bears game in one respect. An ongoing joke in the movie is that George Clooney's character keeps saying "I've got a bad feeling about this mission" and then follows it up with a story everyone has already heard.

That is how I felt watching the Bears game as they took the opening kickoff and then proceeded to lose 10 yards on their first play after Matt Forte couldn't hang on to a pitch from Jay Cutler. I immediately had a bad feeling about the game and thought of all the other times the Bears' offense decided to take a Sunday off.

Things did not improve for the Bears. The Saints jumped out to a 23-7 halftime lead based mainly on production from running back Pierre Thomas and tight end Jimmy Graham. The Saints have an explosive offense, but quarterback Drew Brees was extremely comfortable nickel-and-diming a Bears defense that was afraid to come out of a shell zone. Brees was lethal in his execution and completed 82.9 percent of his attempts for 288 yards and 2 touchdowns. After a tough Lions loss to the Packers, listening to the Bears talking heads on the radio whine about the Bears' ultra-conservative defense was therapeutic.

Brees' consistent production combined with a feisty Saints defense enabled them to carry a 26-10 lead into the final 3 minutes of the game. However, Cutler and Alshon Jeffery drove the entire length of the field in an impressive 50 seconds to set up a 2-yard Brandon Marshall touchdown and Matt Forte 2-point conversion. The Bears forced a Saints punt and had a last shot with 21 seconds left but achieved no more than a 21-yard reception by Jeffery to end the game.


Alshon Jeffery - The second-year wide receiver is starting to emerge from his shell. A second-round draft pick a year ago, Jeffery already has more yards and catches than during 10 games his rookie year. Through 5 games, Jeffery has hauled in 28 catches for 429 yards and 2 touchdowns. A good chunk of that production came Sunday against the Saints, as Jeffery easily had the best game of his career with 10 catches for 218 yards and a score. It is worth noting that a lot of that production came in the final couple of minutes as the team was desperately heaving the ball, and that Jeffery was wide open on his touchdown thanks to a "legal" pick play that would make Bobby Knight blush, but still.

Lance Briggs - Briggs, the Bears' resident consummate veteran and defensive anchor after the Brian Urlacher retirement this summer, is having an outstanding year. The 11-year veteran has been considered one of the best linebackers in the league since being drafted in 2003, but he is having a career year in his first season living outside of the Urlacher shadow. When I say career year, that is not hyperbole. Briggs' 51 tackles, 2 sacks, 2 fumbles and 5 pass defenses through 5 games means he is on pace to obliterate his career bests in every stat category. The 32-year-old is playing the best football of his career and is still versatile enough to fill every category on the stat sheet.


Pass protection - After praising the Bears' offensive line for keeping Cutler clean for the first few weeks of the season, Cutler is once again finding himself on the ground at an alarming rate as of late. Right guard Jordan Mills had another rough day, and Pro Football Focus has him up to a -11.7 on the season. On Sunday, the Saints got to Cutler 3 times, hit him 6 more times and forced a fumble. Although I originally thought that "QB mastermind" coach Marc Trestman was helping Cutler speed his decision-making process to get the ball out of his hands faster, that is evidently not the case. Cutler is again holding on to the ball way too long to the exasperation of the Bears' post-game announcers. When a porous offensive line is combined with a QB who holds the ball too long, bad things happen.

Turnovers - Where are the turnovers? I have beat this horse to the point of death, but the Bears need turnovers. Games in which the Bears had a positive turnover ratio? 2-0. Games they did not? 1-2 (the one win there is the Vikings game in which the Bears squeaked out a last-second win).

Next week: At home against New York Giants (0-5)

Green Bay Packers

Last week: 22-9 win against Detroit Lions (see the rest of POD for all the coverage you could ask for)

Next week: At Baltimore Ravens (3-2)

Minnesota Vikings

Last week: Bye

Next week: At home against Carolina Panthers (1-3)

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