NFC North standings
Detroit Lions: 6-2
Green Bay Packers: 5-3
Chicago Bears: 3-5
Minnesota Vikings: 3-5
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 44-23 loss at the New Orleans Saints
Just go ahead and take another quick look at the standings section above. It is glorious. The Lions have the Saints to thank for their lonely spot atop the NFC North.
This was a somewhat strange game in that neither team punted at all. Therefore, the difference in score came down to the fact that the Saints only turned the ball over once while the Packers suffered three turnovers.
The first half was mainly a field-position and field-goal battle, with each team finding the end zone once and kicking three field goals to enter the break tied at 16. The Saints started the third quarter by stringing together a nice drive before stalling in Packers territory and turning the ball over on downs. However, the Packers could not convert, as the Saints intercepted a tipped Aaron Rodgers pass at the goal line. After that, the game was all Saints, as they scored touchdowns on their next four drives and the Packers turned the ball over (on downs or otherwise) on three of their next four drives.
Eddie Lacy - The Packers force-fed Lacy against the Saints' defense on Sunday. Lacy ran the ball 13 times for 59 yards and hauled in 8-of-9 targets for 123 yards. Lacy had a rough start to the season, but he is starting to look very dangerous.
Randall Cobb - Cobb took advantage of the Saints' attention on Jordy Nelson to continue his end-zone-finding ways. He finished the game with five receptions for 126 yards and a score, with most of his damage coming on a 70-yard touchdown bomb in the first quarter. Cobb already has nine scores on the season.
Run defense - The Packers' defense was completely outmatched on the ground against the Saints. Running back Mark Ingram shed tackles with ease and just physically dominated the Packers' defenders. In particular, Ingram dominated the undersized Packers secondary.
Jordy Nelson - Nelson was a complete non-factor on Sunday. Normally a big-play threat, Nelson managed only three receptions for 25 yards and could not shake his coverage all night.
Next week: Bye
Last week: 51-23 loss at the New England Patriots
I absolutely love that the Lions are entering the halfway point of the season with a 6-2 record and the division lead. Microscopically behind my joy in those facts is my unfettered happiness in the Bears' implosion. They are not playing poorly; rather, they are seemingly trying to carbon copy the Lions' follies of the past decade. Focusing on offensive stats over defensive performance? Check. Lack of discipline both on and off the field? Check. Poor coaching and lack of control in the locker room? Check. Torn ACLs during sack celebrations? Che... too soon?
I'm not going to give a play-by-play summary of this game because the outcome was settled very early on. After a slow first quarter, the Patriots reeled off an impressive 31 points in the second quarter, effectively putting the game out of reach. Incredibly, 21 of those points came after the two-minute warning in the first half courtesy of two Jay Cutler turnovers deep in the Bears' own territory.
Matt Forte - Another game, another 168 yards from scrimmage for Forte. Against a Patriots defense that was effectively in prevent mode for much of the second half, Forte was brilliant. He averaged 6.0 yards per carry and seems to be improving on a weekly basis.
Jay Cutler - Obviously. Cutler finds new and creative ways to lose games each week while keeping up his appearance as a productive quarterback on paper (he had a 108.6 quarterback rating and three touchdowns this week).
Lamarr Houston - While getting slaughtered on the road, Houston recorded his first sack of the season on a backup quarterback and proceeded to tear his ACL while celebrating. He was unblocked on the play, and the sack was his only pressure of the entire game. At least Stephen Tulloch earned his celebration.
Kyle Fuller and Al Louis-Jean - This pair of rookie cornerbacks were picked to the bones by Tom Brady. Combined, they made receiver Brandon LaFell look like a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. Fuller has been great all season, but he was brutally exposed on Sunday before an injury knocked him out. In relief, Louis-Jean fared even worse, leading to a career day for LaFell. According to Pro Football Focus, Louis-Jean allowed receptions on all seven of his targets.
Brandon Marshall - Marshall looked a bit "distracted" on Sunday. He dropped several balls, unofficially, and just looked uninterested. He reeled in only 3-of-10 targets for a mere 35 yards. Maybe he called himself out in the locker room after the game.
Next week: Bye
Last week: 19-13 win at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in overtime
This game was a defensive slugfest where both teams struggled to move the ball and were forced to settle for field goals. Thankfully, I did not actually suffer through watching this game, but I will try to paint a picture of it anyway.
The Bucs are the definition of ineptness right now. They opened the game with an interception on their first drive, followed by punts on their next seven consecutive drives before finally getting on the board with a field goal at the start of the fourth quarter. Not to be outdone, the Vikings missed a field goal on their opening drive and then traded punts for their next four drives. Because four quarters of this was not enough fun for everyone, kicker Blair Walsh connected on a 38-yard field goal with time expiring, which tied the teams at 13 and sent them to overtime. The Bucs promptly fumbled on their first play of overtime, and the Vikings mercifully returned it for a touchdown and the win.
Young playmakers - No, this is not a Teddy Bridgewater reference, as his play was more deserving of a lowlight award (leading the Vikings into field goal range to send the game to overtime saved him). Rather, rookie linebacker Anthony Barr, rookie running back Jerick McKinnon and sophomore receiver Cordarrelle Patterson helped spark the Vikings' win. Barr continued his fantastic rookie campaign by contributing eight tackles, a sack and a pass defense while also returning the fumble in overtime to give the Vikings the win. McKinnon only received 17 touches on the day, but he had 82 yards from scrimmage and flashed brilliance on his longest run (28 yards). Finally, Patterson finally received increased work in the Vikings offense and was targeted 12 times on Sunday. While he only reeled in six of those targets, he stretched the field with an average of 14.3 yards per catch.
Pass rush - The Vikings defense found quarterback Mike Glennon five times on Sunday and hit him another six times. They are currently tied for second in the league with 25 sacks on the year.
Third-down defense - I do not know if the Vikings defense deserves all of the credit here, but they held the Bucs to only one third-down conversion on 12 tries.
Sustaining drives - The Vikings offense was not that bad looking at the gross numbers. They did not turn the ball over and ended the day with 332 yards. But their longest drive was 63 yards, and they did not have any drives longer than nine plays. The biggest problem was their lack of a home-run play. The Vikings only had two plays that went for more than 20 yards and none that went over 30. A lot of the blame for this conservative play and inefficiency on drives lies at the feet of Teddy Bridgewater. The young quarterback was in "game manager" mode, but unfortunately he was woefully inefficient by connecting on only 24 of his 42 attempts. He still has a lot of growing to do, although he did effectively move the Vikings into field goal range with time expiring, which set up overtime and Minnesota's eventual win.
Next week: At home against the Washington Redskins (3-5)