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Know the NFC North: Week 2

A roundup of how the NFC North fared in Week 2 of the 2014 season.

Ezra Shaw

NFC North standings

Chicago Bears: 1-1

Minnesota Vikings: 1-1

Detroit Lions: 1-1

Green Bay Packers: 1-1

Chicago Bears

Last week: 28-20 win at the San Francisco 49ers

If you went to bed early on Sunday night, wrapped up nice and comfy knowing that Bears fans were just as demoralized as Lions fans, then you awoke to a sad realization on Monday morning. After being dominated for the first half on Sunday Night Football against the 49ers, the Bears staged a 21-point fourth quarter comeback to pull even with the rest of the NFC North at 1-1.

The 49ers jumped out to an early lead in this game by forcing a three-and-out and blocking the subsequent punt. They capitalized on their short field and were able to jump out to an early 17-0 lead after their first three drives, while the Bears could only manage six consecutive punts. However, the Bears were able to score on their last drive of the first half and never looked back. Each of their three second half drives ended in the promised land. After losing several starters on both sides of the ball to injuries, the Bears took advantage of excellent field position courtesy of two Colin Kaepernick turnovers while holding the 49ers to only a field goal in the second half.


Turnovers - I do not know what is in the water in Chicago, but it breeds opportunism. While that trait has landed many Chicago politicians in jail, it also serves the Bears defense well. The Bears compiled four takeaways, plus a forced turnover on downs and another almost-interception by Charles Tillman that was overturned on replay. The depleted Bears defense consistently put the offense in position to come back when it mattered most in the fourth quarter.

Willie Young - I am obviously disposed toward noticing Willie Young more than the average person given his previous tenure with the Lions, but Willie put himself in the prime-time spotlight on Sunday night. The first time his name came up in the game was for encroachment. I just chuckled and thought, "That's ol' Willie." However, his true moment to shine came on the 49ers' final drive, when he sacked Kaepernick twice and contributed to the 49ers' eventual turnover on downs.

Chris Conte - I feel honor-bound to give safety Chris Conte kudos this week after railing him for his Week 1 performance. He had one of the coolest interceptions I have seen in a while when he laid out to pick off Kaepernick in the second quarter. He also did not get shoved to the ground by a ball carrier, so we can call this progress.


Injuries - Five key defensive players for the Bears left the game with injuries in Week 2. No long-term updates are available yet, but several of the injuries appeared to be serious. In particular, longtime star cornerback Charles "Peanut" Tillman suffered a triceps injury that may end his career.

Running game - After facing an early deficit, the Bears never established their running game against the 49ers. Running back Matt Forte managed only 21 yards on 12 carries, and the only truly positive Bears rushing play was a 25-yard scramble by quarterback Jay Cutler.

Next week: At the New York Jets (1-1)

Minnesota Vikings

Last week: 30-7 loss at home against the New England Patriots

As the sports media was happy to inform everyone this week ad nauseam, Vikings running back Adrian Peterson did not play due to some off-the-field issues. How did the Vikings fair without their future Hall of Fame running back? Not well. After an impressive Week 1 thrashing of the St. Louis Rams, the Vikings were completely overmatched by the Patriots.

After jumping out to an early 7-0 lead courtesy of a 25-yard touchdown reception by spot-starting running back Matt Asiata, things deteriorated quickly for the Vikings as the Patriots reeled off 30 consecutive points. While the Vikings actually outgained the Patriots on the day 292-217, they could not overcome four Matt Cassel interceptions and a blocked field goal. If those yardage numbers look low, they are. The Vikings' turnovers gave the Patriots a consistently short field -- the Patriots started more drives in Vikings territory than at their own 20 -- and allowed the Patriots offense to efficiently putter around the field. For their own part, the Vikings were completely unable to sustain any drives and had only one drive with more than seven plays.


Harrison Smith - The Vikings' hard-hitting safety had eight tackles in the losing effort in Week 2. To be honest, I wouldn't normally highlight this kind of effort, but the Vikings played horribly and I felt like I should highlight something. Smith at least did his job as the last line of defense and prevented several Patriots plays from breaking loose -- four of his eight tackles were more than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage. Without Smith sweeping up plays on the back end, the final score could have been even uglier.


Pass protection - The Vikings gave up six sacks against the Patriots in addition to a blocked field goal. This played a big role in Matt Cassel's horrible day, as he was under pressure all game. Left tackle Matt Kalil in particular had a tough outing, as he gave up two sacks and was responsible for the blocked kick. A large part of the offensive line's struggles were likely due to Peterson's absence and the Patriots' focus on pass rushing.

Turnovers - You cannot win games with four turnovers and a blocked field goal.

Matt Cassel - In addition to his four interceptions, Cassel was also inaccurate and ineffective. He connected on only 19 of his 36 attempts and averaged only 5.6 yards per attempt. Putting the Vikings offense on Cassel's arm rather than Peterson's legs is not a good trade.

Next week: At the New Orleans Saints (0-2)

Green Bay Packers

Last week: 31-24 win at home against the New York Jets

After a Week 1 loss to the defending champion Seattle Seahawks, the Packers were thought to have an easier matchup in Week 2 against the Jets. However, the Packers found themselves down 21-3 midway through the second quarter. The Packers started the game in a daze after a fumbled snap on their first play of the game gave the Jets a short field. The Jets capitalized on the turnover and followed it up by forcing a quick Packers punt and driving 84 yards for a second touchdown.

After three consecutive drives ending with Mason Crosby field goals, the tide turned for the Pack when they took over on their own 3-yard line with a little under 2 minutes left in the first half. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers guided the Packers on a 10-play, 97-yard drive capped with 6-yard touchdown reception by receiver Randall Cobb. The Packers completed their comeback in the third quarter with touchdown receptions by Cobb and Jordy Nelson, while limiting the Jets to a single field goal. The game was effectively over when the Jets, evidently wary of the Packers' hot offense, turned the ball over on downs after going for it on fourth-and-8 at the Packers' 28-yard line with nearly 4 minutes left in the game while down only one score.


Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb - Jordy Nelson is the rare combination of a receiver who has the incredible hands and body control of a possession receiver and the speed of a deep threat. Nelson showed off this skill set against the Jets by bringing in nine receptions for 209 yards, which amounts to an amazing 23.2 yards per reception average. For his part, Cobb is also developing into a multi-tool player, as he caught his third red-zone touchdown of the year, as well as a 2-point conversion. Rodgers is looking increasingly comfortable looking toward Cobb's quick-hitting slant routes near the goal line.

Tramon Williams - The Jets targeted Williams six times on Sunday. The result? One reception for no yards, an interception and a pass deflection. You cannot ask for much more from a cornerback.


Aaron Rodgers' pocket presence - The Packers have a questionable line and a history of poor pass protection. Indeed, they gave up four sacks against the Jets and kept Rodgers on his toes early in the game. However, part of this blame must lay at Rodgers' feet, as he was guilty of holding on to the ball on several of those plays. Rodgers seemed unwilling to settle for his checkdowns and danced in the pocket way too long, resulting in sacks and throws under pressure.

Marty Mornhinweg - This actually isn't a lowlight for the Packers, but for Marty Mornhinweg as a football coach. I included it because I thought it was hilarious. Five plays before the Jets turned the ball over on downs on their last drive, the Jets had seemingly pulled off a miracle when quarterback Geno Smith threw a 36-yard bomb to receiver Jeremy Kerley on a fourth-and-4. Kerley made an amazing catch in the end zone and the Jets' bench erupted in celebration. Alas, the officials disallowed the play because the former Lions head coach and current Jets offensive coordinator had -- illegally -- called timeout before the play. At least he didn't take the wind.

Next week: At the Detroit Lions (1-1)

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