NFC North: 2011 NFL preseason Week 1

Reviewing Saturday's action at LP Field:

Tennessee Titans 14, Minnesota Vikings 3

Preseason record: 0-1

Of interest: The Vikings' offense proved very much to be a work in progress, going scoreless until Ryan Longwell's 37-yard field goal in the third quarter. Quarterback Donovan McNabb's two series featured 11 mostly short-range passes and both ended in punts. Backup Joe Webb proved once again to be an effective open-field runner, scrambling five times for 33 yards, but at some point you would like to see him stay in the pocket. In his debut, rookie Christian Ponder completed eight of 13 passes for 84 yards. He made a nice play to escape the pocket and convert a third-and-16, but it was called back by penalty. It's likely Ponder will see work with the second team next week. ... Receiver Jaymar Johnson put in a stake at the punt returner job with a 40-yard return... Cornerbacks Antoine Winfield and Cedric Griffin, along with defensive linemen Kevin Williams and Jared Allen, did not play. ... Cornerback Chris Cook was beat on a 45-yard touchdown pass to Yamon Figurs, whom he lost sight of after quarterback Jake Locker dropped the snap.

Local coverage: Offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave, via Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune: "I thought their effort was good, and the execution was good up to a point. We always want points. We'll have to make bigger strides next time with that first unit." ... Cook on the touchdown, via Zulgad: "Definitely saw the ball on the ground and just came up thinking that we were going to get the ball, pursuing the ball and they got a lucky play on it." ... The Vikings don't appear to have done much to address their shaky depth at cornerback, writes Tom Pelissero of ... Receiver Percy Harvin isn't worried about the Vikings' offense because it will rely on tailback Adrian Peterson, not the passing game. Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press explains.

Next: Saturday at Seattle Seahawks

Preseason: Packers' Cobb impresses

August, 14, 2011
Reviewing Saturday's action at Cleveland Browns Stadium:

Cleveland Browns 27, Green Bay Packers 17

Preseason record: 0-1

Of interest: The first-team offense played two series. The first ended in a punt and the second a 21-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Greg Jennings. It's worth noting that tailback Ryan Grant and left guard Derek Sherrod both started but gave way to James Starks and T.J. Lang, respectively, on the second series. Starks later suffered an ankle injury. ... Defensive end Mike Neal started and made a nice back-side tackle of Browns tailback Peyton Hillis. ... It was hard not to be impressed by receiver/kick returner Randall Cobb, who finished with three receptions for 60 yards and returned two kickoffs for a 29-yard average. I thought his diving catch on third-and-5 was particularly noteworthy. That's the type of tough catch you don't always see a rookie make. ... Backup quarterback Matt Flynn once again showed he is capable of running the offense in Rodgers' absence, completing 11 of 18 passes for 126 yards. ... Cornerbacks Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams didn't start, pushing Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee into higher-profile roles. The Browns beat Lee on their first touchdown, a 27-yard pass from Colt McCoy to Josh Cribbs.

Local coverage: Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "Cobb looks as if he has a chance to make the weakest part of the defending Super Bowl champions' game considerably better." ... The Packers "didn't look any worse or more ragged than preseason openers of the past," writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. ... Tight end Jermichael Finley, who didn't play, said there was no reason to rush back onto the field but indicated he will probably play in Week 2, according to Tyler Dunne of the Journal Sentinel. ... The Packers' no-huddle offense looked good, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. ... Coach Mike McCarthy considered personnel evaluation the top priority Saturday night, according to Jason Wilde of

Next: Friday vs. Arizona Cardinals

Reviewing Saturday's preseason action at Soldier Field:

Chicago Bears 10, Buffalo Bills 3

Preseason record: 1-0

Of interest: None of the anticipated drama for this game played out. Tailback Matt Forte played despite the lack of a contract extension, although it's worth noting he played one series and didn't get a carry. (He did make one catch.) Marion Barber ended up rushing for 45 yards on seven carries, and Chester Taylor had three yards on three carries. ... And by all accounts, the playing surface at Soldier Field held up despite some visible seams between the sod. The only issue: Longtime Chicago-area sportscaster Peggy Kusinski said she was told by security officials that no cell phone photos of the field were allowed. ... The first-team offensive line played the entire first half but gave up four sacks, including three to Bills linebacker Shawne Merriman, who gave left tackle J'Marcus Webb fits. I thought two of Merriman's sacks, against backup quarterback Caleb Hanie, came in part because Hanie held the ball. ... Defensive tackle Henry Melton flashed in the first quarter, getting into the backfield on three early plays. That's an encouraging sign. ... The Bears kicked off twice from the 30-yard line before, saying the NFL's new rule for kickoffs at the 35-yard line was optional. NFL officiating czar Carl Johnson was forced to call Soldier Field to tell them otherwise. Interesting but ultimately a meaningless attempt by the Bears. ... Finally, demoted receiver Johnny Knox made an a strong impression on special teams, reminding everyone how fast he is during a 70-yard kickoff return. He also returned two punts, but that job will go to Devin Hester in the regular season.

Local coverage: No one criticized the field, reports Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune. But quarterback Jay Cutler did say: "I don't know. It is what it is. I don't think it is going to change, so we just have to play on it." ... Knox, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times: "I know what I need to do -- just handle my business on the field and that's what I came to do. I'm just trying to make the best of it and make plays when I can." ... The Bears' offensive line needs more time together, writes Dan Pompei of the Tribune. ... New defensive lineman Amobi Okoye had two sacks, notes Jeff Dickerson of

Next: Aug. 22 at New York Giants (ESPN)

Reviewing the NFC North’s first game of the 2011 preseason:

Detroit Lions 34, Cincinnati Bengals 3

Preseason record: 1-0

Of interest: The Lions’ first-team offense was done for the night before the first-team defense saw the field. Matthew Stafford's back-shoulder touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Johnson illustrated the connection they now have. Newcomer Rashied Davis made an immediate impact, recovering a fumble on the ensuing kickoff. I loved coach Jim Schwartz’s guilty expression for challenging a play that ultimately got receiver Nate Burleson credit for a 7-yard touchdown pass. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh helped force Chris Houston's interception by slamming into quarterback Andy Dalton on the Bengals' first offensive play. Suh’s personal foul on the subsequent hit wasn’t as bad as the helmet-ripping stunt he pulled against Cleveland’s Jake Delhomme last year, but it will be hard to avoid a penalty when the quarterback’s helmet comes off. The Bengals’ only scoring drive included 30 yards of Lions penalties. Anyone else get a lump in his throat when quarterback Shaun Hill pointed to the sky after his flip over the goal line? Hill’s father died this offseason after falling off a roof he and Hill were repairing. Overall, a strong first-week performance for the Lions. No turnovers. No pressure on Stafford, whose only incompletion in seven attempts was a dropped pass. Johnson’s bruised left shoulder, suffered on the touchdown catch, is believed to be mild.

Local coverage: All but one of Stafford’s passes came from the shotgun, ensuring his protection, notes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. Suh didn’t speak to reporters, but of his penalty, Schwartz said, "He's trying his very best. But that's one of those situations where you have to know that the ball is gone. We kept a couple of drives alive with penalties and we have to do a better job of that, but we don't want to slow the guy down." (Via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News.) Schwartz didn’t seem too upset about the penalty, writes Tom Kowalski of Receiver Derrick Williams, fighting for a roster spot, dropped the first two passes thrown his way but rebounded later for a 32-yard reception, notes Tim Twentyman of the News. The only thing Stafford didn’t do was take a hit, writes Bob Wojnowski of the News. The Lions’ only downer was their running game, notes Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. Jerome Harrison was first off the bench to replace starter Jahvid Best but managed eight yards on eight carries.

Next: Friday at the Cleveland Browns