NFC North standings
Detroit Lions: 7-5
Chicago Bears: 6-6
Green Bay Packers: 5-6-1
Minnesota Vikings: 3-8-1
Last week: 23-20 OT loss at the Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings came a mere 1:43 away from tying a division foe two weeks in a row on Sunday. This game was much more of an offensive affair than the score suggests. The Vikings put up 498 yards compared to the Bears' 480 as each team moved the ball with ease. The problems began in the red zone, and the teams combined to score 1 touchdown on 6 attempts.
What the game lacked in efficiency, it made up for in big plays. The electric Cordarrelle Patterson was the first to reach the end zone in the second quarter with a beautiful 33-yard touchdown run that reminded me of Calvin Johnson's touchdown run against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in his rookie season. I've admired Patterson all season, but he isn't getting the highlight treatment this week because of several key drops later in the game. Most of the big plays in the game came courtesy of Alshon Jeffery, but more on him in a moment.
On the ground, both Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte had big days, with 211 and 120 yards, respectively. Vikings "starting" quarterback Christian Ponder left the game at halftime after a terrible first half (Ponder had as many sacks as completions -- 3) due to a concussion and was replaced by Matt Cassel. This led to a battle of the backup quarterbacks and both Cassel and Chicago quarterback Josh McCown rose to the occasion.
Cassel in particular efficiently picked apart a Bears defense desperately focused on slowing down Peterson, and he put up 243 yards and a touchdown. Receiver Greg Jennings was the main beneficiary of Cassel's insertion into the lineup, as he brought in 7 catches for 78 yards and a score in the second half.
The Bears took a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter, but a Jennings touchdown reception and 30-yard field goal by Blair Walsh sent the game into overtime. In overtime, the Vikings seemingly struck first after Walsh connected on a 39-yard field goal on the team's first drive. However, the kick was nullified by a very strange and very obvious face mask penalty and Walsh could not connect on the ensuing 57-yard kick.
On the Bears' ensuing drive, they seemed poised to win via a field goal of their own. Given that kicker Robbie Gould is one of the most accurate kickers of all time, coach Marc Trestman opted to send out Gould on second down to attempt a 47-yard kick. Gould could not connect, handing the Vikings a short field of their own. Six plays later, Walsh booted a 34-yard kick to hand the Vikings the win.
Alshon Jeffery - Jeffery's performance on Sunday was the best game by a wide receiver not named Calvin Johnson that I have seen in a while. Aside from the ridiculous stat line -- 12 catches for 249 yards and 2 touchdowns -- Jeffery was everywhere and nearly uncoverable. If you have not seen the highlight of his third quarter 46-yard touchdown reception, do yourself a favor and watch it immediately.
Craig Steltz and Chris Conte - I know several Bears fans who loathe Chris Conte and his inability to tackle. Therefore, after seeing Conte make a few nice plays in the open field against Adrian Peterson, I texted those friends to get their thoughts. The consensus was that it wouldn't last and that Craig Steltz is terrible. They were right. Conte proceeded to fall apart in the second half and Steltz was incredibly ineffective filling in for the injured Major Wright. By the end of the game, the pair contributed 5 missed tackles on Peterson.
Kicking on second down - I get that Trestman trusts Gould, and he certainly should. But a 47-yard field goal is not a chip shot. Matt Forte was averaging 5.2 yards per carry on the day and has only lost 2 fumbles on the year. Why not give him at least one shot to make Gould's life a little easier? Trestman got caught being a little too cute by attempting the field goal on second down.
Run defense - This is starting to become a weekly tradition. On Sunday, Peterson averaged 3.2 yards per carry before contact. That is incredible and goes a long way toward explaining why Conte and Steltz were so ineffective. I wouldn't want to tackle Peterson at full speed, either.
Next week: At home against the Dallas Cowboys (7-5) on Monday Night Football
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 40-10 loss at the Detroit Lions on Thanksgiving
Next week: At home against the Atlanta Falcons (3-9)
Last week: 23-20 OT win at home against the Chicago Bears
Adrian Peterson - Peterson ran for 211 yards and passed the 10,000 milestone. The Bears' run defense is terrible, but Peterson made it look easy when he nearly single-handedly put the Vikings in field goal range to win the game in overtime.
Matt Cassel - I guess the Vikings have a lot of things to Ponder. Cassel played well on Sunday, and the difference in the offense with Cassel at the helm versus Ponder was palpable. Cassel likely is not the future quarterback in Minnesota, but the fact that he can step in for Ponder and turn the offense around shows Ponder's ineffectiveness.
Pass protection - Cassel and Ponder were sacked a combined 5 times and hit 8 total times.
Red zone efficiency - As mentioned above, the Vikings went 1 for 5 in the red zone on Sunday. They were luckily able to score from farther out on Patterson's 33-yard scamper and connect on 3 Blair Walsh field goals, but that ratio is not going to win very many games.
Chris Cook - Cook got burned on several plays early in the game and did not react well. After Jeffery's amazing 46-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter, Cook immediately got up and shoved an official. I'm not really sure what he was upset about other than getting toasted, but he was immediately ejected, putting the Vikings in a tough coverage situation for the rest of the game.
Next week: At the Baltimore Ravens (6-6)