Thursday, September 1, 2011
Let's hear it for the 2011 preseason (or not)
By Kevin Seifert
The best thing we can say about Week 4 of the preseason is that it's over, at least here in the NFC North. The next time one of our teams is on the field, it will be for real. In between, roster cutdowns from 8o to 53 will take place. The deadline is Saturday evening.
A quick rundown of Thursday evening's activity, which featured four fun but meaningless victories:
Chicago Bears 24, Cleveland Browns 14
Final preseason record: 2-2
Of interest: Only a handful of Bears starters played. One of them, defensive tackle Henry Melton, registered an encouraging sack of Browns quarterback Seneca Wallace in the first quarter. ... It was interesting, but probably not newsworthy, that Chris Spencer started at center alongside the rest of the Bears' first-team offensive line. Just a night off for veteran Roberto Garza. ... Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie took a step in the right direction, completing 7 of 10 passes for 83 yards and dropping a perfect pass into the far corner of the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown to receiver Johnny Knox. ... Tailback Chester Taylor started but managed 27 yards on 10 carries in what was presumably a showcase stint. But an injury to tailback Khahlil Bell might change the Bears' plans for Taylor, depending on its severity.
Detroit Lions 16, Buffalo Bills 6
Final preseason record: 4-0
Of interest: Most starters played one series. ... Quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a 39-yard pass to receiver Calvin Johnson on the game's first play, allowing Stafford to finish the preseason with this line: 25 completions, 33 attempts, 395 yards, five touchdowns and a 154.7 passer rating. ... Receiver Maurice Stovall produced a nice final argument for a roster spot, downing a punt at the Bills' 8-yard line and catching a 16-yard touchdown pass from Shaun Hill in the first quarter. ... Running back Jerome Harrison was untouched until the end of his 47-yard run in the first quarter. ... Rookie punter Ryan Donahue got the first punt of the night, for whatever that's worth, and averaged 44.0 yards on four punts. Veteran Nick Harris averaged 51.5 yards on two punts.
Green Bay Packers 20, Kansas City Chiefs 19
Final preseason record: 3-1
Of interest: Some starters, including quarterback Aaron Rodgers, played one series. Rodgers' final pass of the preseason was an 8-yard touchdown to tight end Tom Crabtree. Rodgers finished the preseason with 37 completions in 47 attempts for 395 yards and four touchdowns for a 130.1 passer rating. ... Tailback Ryan Grant's 23-yard run to start the game came after strong blocks from tight end Andrew Quarless and right tackle Bryan Bulaga. ... Linebacker Vic So'Oto has put on a late charge for a roster spot. Thursday night, he had 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and a 33-yard interception return for a touchdown. ... Not that it's a big concern, but quarterback Matt Flynn had one of the ugliest lines you'll see: two completions in 10 attempts for 12 yards and an interception, good for a 0.0 passer rating.
Minnesota Vikings 28, Houston Texans 0
Final preseason record: 2-2
Of interest: Nearly every starter sat out this game. Rookie quarterback Christian Ponder put on an unexpected display of his scrambling ability, running for 61 yards on eight carries, before leaving midway through the third quarter. Some were nice improvisational plays. A few were necessary when blitzers came free. And a few came after the point when he should have thrown the ball. All in all, however, Ponder left the Vikings with a positive impression after completing 10 of 16 passes for 83 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to tight end Kyle Rudolph. ... With their top three running backs sidelined, the Vikings gave a workout to rookie Caleb King, whom they signed last month after no one selected him in the supplemental draft. King finished with 62 yards on 19 carries, including two touchdown runs.