Few things could have made Week 1 a bigger success for the Detroit Lions. The Lions dismantled the New York Giants in impressive fashion, and the Minnesota Vikings were the only divisional opponent to walk away with a win. Alas, the season is longer than one week, so let's recap the good, bad and ugly for each of the Lions' divisional foes.
NFC North standings
Detroit Lions: 1-0
Minnesota Vikings: 1-0
Chicago Bears: 0-1
Green Bay Packers: 0-1
Last week: 34-6 win at the St. Louis Rams
This game was not the blowout it appears from the final score. Both teams finished the game with a roughly equivalent yardage total, time of possession and third down conversion rate. However, the Vikings played much tighter while capitalizing on the Rams' mistakes. The Rams tallied 13 penalties for 121 yards and threw two interceptions, one of which was returned for an 81-yard touchdown by safety Harrison Smith.
The Rams seemingly entered the game prepared to focus all of their efforts on star running back Adrian Peterson and did a decent job limiting him to 75 yards on 21 carries. However, focusing on Peterson opened up holes for other players. Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson, who is well-documented in these recaps, ripped the Rams every time he touched the ball and contributed 102 yards on three carries and an additional 26 yards through the air.
The Vikings defense was also effective against the luckless Rams. After losing starting quarterback Sam Bradford in the preseason, backup and former Lion Shaun Hill only lasted a half before exiting the game with a quad injury. That forced second-year player Austin Davis behind center, where he dinked his way to 192 yards, an interception and a 10.3 QBR rating. This, and an early lead, allowed the Vikings to focus on shutting down the Rams' running game. The outcome of this game was not really in question by halftime, as the Vikings outclassed the Rams.
Cordarrelle Patterson - Patterson is pure electricity. If you somehow managed to miss seeing his 67-yard touchdown run on highlights this weekend, just watch this. Get this man the ball (unless the Vikings are playing the Lions)!
Greg Jennings - Jennings looked like his old self this week after a disappointing 2013 season. He roped in six of his seven targets for 58 yards and a touchdown. His touchdown grab in particular was beautiful, as he went up high to make the catch while staying inbounds in the back of the end zone.
Pass rush - The Vikings defense contributed five sacks on the day and generally kept the hapless St. Louis quarterbacks from establishing a rhythm. Working with a lead, the Vikings pinned back their ears and owned the line of scrimmage, both in the passing and rushing games.
Penalties - It's hard to pick out things to work on when a team wins by 28 points, but here we go. Although the Rams killed themselves with penalties, the Vikings were by no means innocent in that regard. The team committed seven penalties for 60 yards. Several of those penalties killed drives, especially in the first half.
Next week: At home against the New England Patriots (0-1)
Last week: 23-20 home loss in overtime against the Buffalo Bills
The Bears started their 2014 season with a bang and ended with a hilarious (for Lions fans) whimper. After forcing a three-and-out on the Bills' first drive, the Bears scored on their first drive of the season, marching 66 yards in just under two minutes and capping it off with a 12-yard touchdown reception by tight end Martellus Bennett. The rest of the first half was all Buffalo. The Bills capitalized on two Bears turnovers and strung together a nice 71-yard touchdown drive en route to a 17-point first half run. The teams entered the break with the Bills up 17-7.
The Bears rallied in the third quarter, scoring on both of their drives while forcing two punts, to tie the game at 17-17. After each team added a field goal in the fourth quarter, the game went to overtime. The Bears received the ball first and, after a nice 13-yard run by Matt Forte, were forced to punt after three consecutive Jay Cutler incompletions. The Bills took over at their own 35-yard line and marched down the field with two big plays. The game-clinching play occurred when running back Fred Jackson broke a 38-yard run while pushing Bears safety Chris Conte down the field. After Conte finally brought Jackson down at the goal line, Bills kicker Dan Carpenter finished the game with a 27-yard field goal.
Willie Young and Lamarr Houston - These two defensive ends, both signed as free agents this offseason, were the lone bright spots on the Bears defensive line. Willie was the only Bear to find the quarterback on Sunday, and Pro Football Focus credited Houston with 44 percent of the Bears' pass rush.
Matt Forte - Forte is a dynamic player. He touched the ball 25 times on Sunday and contributed 169 yards from scrimmage as the Bears' top rusher and receiver. His only blemish was his failure to find the end zone.
Jay Cutler - Week 1 was classic Cutler. He put up big numbers by going 34-for-49 for 349 yards and two touchdowns. However, he also threw two interceptions and choked when it came to putting together a game-winning drive. The first of his two interceptions was arguably not his fault, as Bennett was not on the same page as Cutler. The second pick, however, was mind-boggling, as Cutler tried to throw the ball through defensive tackle Kyle Williams' midsection. Williams is not an easy man to not see.
Chris Conte - I know that Conte had an early interception, but please, just watch this. Conte knows his reputation (for being horrible) and promised Bears fans more this season. He proceeded to allow Fred Jackson to set up the Bills' game-winning field goal by taking a horrible angle to the ball and then allowing Jackson to shove him out of the way not once but twice. The only thing that kept Jackson out of the end zone was tripping over Conte's broken body on the goal line.
Next week: At the San Francisco 49ers (1-0)
Green Bay Packers
Last week: 36-16 loss at the Seattle Seahawks
The Packers opened the 2014 NFL season on national television against the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Overall, the Packers played decently, but were just outmatched by the Seahawks. Things started well for the Packers, as they jumped to an early 7-3 lead after working with a short field courtesy of a muffed punt by Seahawks safety and returner Earl Thomas. However, the Packers' normally potent offense was held in check for most of the game and did not put together another touchdown drive until the start of the fourth quarter. The Seahawks prevented quarterback Aaron Rodgers from stringing together successful drives and the Packers had only two drives that went more than 40 yards and only one that used over 10 plays. By contrast, the Seahawks' efficient offense coughed up only one turnover and punted only two times en route to a comfortable 20-point victory.
James Starks - Backup James Starks found himself as the primary back in Week 1 after starter Eddie Lacy went down with a concussion in the fourth quarter. While the potent Seahawks defense stymied Lacy all night, Starks efficiently moved the sticks with his limited touches. He averaged 5.3 yards per carry on seven touches and looked much more effective than Lacy.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - The rookie safety justified his first-round selection by finishing the game with five tackles, a sack, a pass defense and a fumble recovery. He flashed his athleticism and looked comfortable in his new environment.
Derek Sherrod - Sherrod substituted into the right tackle position after a second quarter injury to starter Bryan Bulaga. Sherrod was entirely overmatched by Seahawks left end Cliff Avril and was credited with giving up sacks on consecutive plays to Avril and Michael Bennett (the second of which resulted in a safety). Pro Football Focus slapped a nasty -6.4 grade on Sherrod's game, and he earned every inch of it.
Run defense - I hesitate to call the Packers out for their run defense this week considering they faced one of the most feared rushers in the league, but they were stung by more than the great Marshawn Lynch in Week 1. While Lynch gashed the Packers for 110 yards and two scores on only 20 carries, the Packers gave up an additional 93 yards to three other rushers. Receiver Percy Harvin, quarterback Russell Wilson and backup Robert Turbin formed a rushing trio every bit as effective as Lynch. The Packers had trouble bringing down any of the Seahawks' ball carriers and gave up the second most yards per carry, 5.6, and the most rushes for a first down, 13, in the league in Week 1.
Next week: At home against the New York Jets (1-0)