Extra! Extra! The Bears are in first place!
|AP Photo/Paul Sancya|
|Kyle Orton torched the Lions with a career-high 334 yards passing.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
DETROIT -- I did a quick count Sunday afternoon as I left the locker room. I've covered 20 Lions games since 1999, a representative sample that I think gives me the authority to say they're as bad now as they have been at any point in the past 10 years.
We'll get into the status of Jon Kitna -- the team said back spasms, not performance, forced him out of the game at halftime -- and fill you in on a colorful postgame interview with receiver Roy Williams.
First, however, it's only sporting to admit -- yes -- the Bears are the class of the NFC North. While the Lions weren't competitive after the first quarter, the Bears deserve credit for producing the most complete performance of a division team this season.
Five weeks into 2008, Chicago is the only NFC North team with a winning record. Sunday, its defense forced two turnovers -- not bad considering it was on the field for only 56 plays -- while limiting the Lions to 12 first downs and 185 total yards. And the offense rolled up 425 yards even though their most productive skill position player, tailback Matt Forte, managed only 36 yards on 15 carries.
The Bears are 3-2 and have yet to play a division game at Soldier Field. It's still very early, but in essence the division title now goes through Chicago.
"Our goal is about getting on top of the division and staying there," coach Lovie Smith said.
The Bears seemed to be reeling two weeks ago after an overtime loss to Tampa Bay, a defeat that dropped them to 1-2. Since then, they have followed a newly aggressive offense to an early lead Sept. 28 over Philadelphia and Sunday in Detroit.
"We feel if we execute, that's the kind of offense we can be on a consistent basis," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We feel like we're in a good spot."
Orton, of course, has plenty to do with that position. He threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter to give the Bears a 17-0 halftime lead; he also finished with a career-high 334 yards on passing, having completed 24 of 34 passes while No. 1 receiver Brandon Lloyd sat out because of a knee injury. Orton's passer rating of 121.4 also was the best of his career.
Orton is leading a take-what-they-give-us offense. With Forte established as a legitimate threat, the Bears are seeing more run-oriented defensive looks. Orton has responded by throwing for 801 yards and seven touchdowns over their last three games.
"I think I played well [Sunday]," Orton said. "I saw the field well, but I didn't play perfect."
Suffice it to say, his performance was more than enough to throttle the Lions -- whose own quarterback was dressing gingerly in front of his locker late Sunday afternoon. It was not announced during the game, but Kitna said his back began tightening up in the first quarter and that by halftime he was too stiff to play.
That condition necessitated the entrance of backup Dan Orlovsky, Kitna and coach Rod Marinelli said. Marinelli said he expected Kitna to start next Sunday at Minnesota "as I'm sitting here right now," but the situation will no doubt generate another round of calls for No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton.
Asked about Kitna's performance, Marinelli said: "I'd like to see the tape. Nothing's good. ... The protection wasn't good enough. Ball security wasn't good enough. Getting takeaways wasn't good enough. ... None of it was good enough."
Kitna completed eight of 16 passes for 97 yards and took three sacks in the first half. At least three times, the Lions' quarterbacks and receivers busted a route that resulted in a ball thrown into 20 yards of empty space. Detroit's coaches spent their bye week tweaking their offensive approach, ostensibly to emphasize Williams and fellow receiver Calvin Johnson. Ultimately, however, they didn't manage a first down until their fourth possession.
"The frustration keeps mounting," Kitna said. "We made some changes during the bye week and it didn't make any difference. ... We're not doing anything very good. To pinpoint anything would be a disservice. We're not doing anything good."
Williams would agree with that. His frustration was evident to everyone watching Sunday. He threw his gloves up in the air after one incompletion, motioned how high one of Orlovsky's passes were on another and tried to kick one pass that landed at his feet.
Williams noted he has not worked much with Orlovsky during practice and said he thinks Kitna should remain the starter.
"It's just frustrating to me to be an 0-4 team with all this talent that we have on this football team," Williams said. "I believe that the defense came out to play in his game. We didn't help them on the offensive side of the ball. If we would have helped them early, this game would have went a lot different. It didn't and it got out of hand and the rest is history."
Some 30 minutes after the game ended, Williams was still sitting in his locker, staring at his phone and picking at his socks. It's well-known he is in the final year of his contract, but Williams took exception to suggestions that his on-field flamboyance Sunday indicated he wants to leave.
"If I didn't want to be here -- let me clarify this for everybody -- I wouldn't go in [the game]," Williams said. "Fine me. I've got the money to sit down on the sideline. So if I didn't want to be here, I wouldn't play. When the ball is thrown my way, I'm trying to go to the end zone."
That didn't work out too well Sunday -- for Williams or the Lions.