NFC North: 2011 Week 13 Coverage
December, 4, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
A few thoughts on a closer-than-expected game at the Superdome:
What it means: The Detroit Lions have now lost five of their last seven games, all to teams in the thick of the NFC playoff hunt, to fall to 7-5. Sunday night's loss clinched the NFC North for the Green Bay Packers and left the Lions in the seventh seed of the NFC's six-team playoff field.
Costly penalties: Ndamukong Suh's teammates didn't seem to get the message sent by his two-game suspension. They had at least three inexcusable post-whistle personal fouls. Receiver Titus Young cost his team a goal-line opportunity and forced it to settle for a field goal. Kick returner Stefan Logan threw the ball at the Saints' Will Herring after a return, and tight end Brandon Pettigrew was penalized for trying to kick and trip Saints safety Roman Harper. That was 45 lost yards right there. Scrutiny will increasingly turn to Lions coach Jim Schwartz to get this team under control.
StaffordWatch: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford put together a whale of a game, completing 31 of 44 passes for 408 yards and did not throw an interception until the Lions were in desperation mode late in the fourth quarter. It's probably not a coincidence that Stafford wasn't wearing gloves to protect a fractured right index finger. He had thrown nine interceptions in three previous games while wearing the gloves.
Undermanned: The Lions couldn't have been too upset with the way their defense played without Suh, safety Louis Delmas and cornerback Chris Houston. They actually held the Saints 10 points below their average for home games this season.
What's next: The Lions will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at Ford Field.
December, 4, 2011
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe extent of Matt Forte's injury isn't known yet, but it hurt the Bears on Sunday.CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears quarterback Caleb Hanie struggled significantly in his second start as the replacement for Jay Cutler on Sunday in a 10-3 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Hanie completed 11 of 24 for 133 yards, three interceptions and a passer rating of 29.8, while absorbing seven sacks in a performance that could prompt the Chicago Bears front office to finally put in a call to representatives for former Vikings quarterback Donovan McNabb.
Compounding matters for the Bears in their attempt to stay alive in the playoff race was a first-quarter knee injury to running Matt Forte. The significance of the injury wasn't immediately disclosed, but the fact the team held Forte out for the remainder of the game is concerning.
Let's look into this a little more.
What it means: Considering the Bears are fighting for their playoff lives right now, the loss could mean trouble. Chicago falls to 7-5, and it's situated within a cluster of teams with similar records. Going into the contest, the Bears held the No. 5 seed with Atlanta sitting at sixth, and Detroit and the New York Giants within striking distance.
By virtue of Atlanta's 17-10 loss at Houston on Sunday, the Bears maintain their lead over the Falcons. The schedule of games could also help the Bears. The Lions face the New Orleans Saints on the road Sunday night and the Giants host the undefeated Green Bay Packers.
Freak play 1: Former Bears quarterback Kyle Orton made his debut for the Chiefs, throwing only one pass on a flea-flicker attempt before leaving with a dislocated index finger on his throwing hand.
The Chiefs claimed the remainder of Orton's nearly $2.6 million salary recently, which means he was making a weekly salary of approximately $433,000. That's quite a bit of coin for only one pass.
Freak play 2: Chiefs quarterback Tyler Palko called upon a Hail Mary for his first career touchdown pass just before halftime on a play the Bears could've squashed.
On the last play of the first half, Palko launched a bomb into the end zone and Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher appeared to try to bat it down, only for his teammate -- safety Chris Conte -- to come over his back, and smack the ball right into the hands of running back Dexter McCluster for a touchdown. The score gave Kansas City a 7-3 lead at intermission.
Interestingly, the TD was the Chiefs' first since in 12 quarters, dating back to Nov. 13.
Injuries: Running back Matt Forte left in the first quarter after suffering a right knee injury on a hit from Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson. After athletic trainers took a look at Forte, he immediately went into the locker room. Minutes later, the team announced he was out for the game.
The Bears also lost safety Major Wright for the remainder of the game with a shoulder injury.
Although the extent of the injuries weren't immediately disclosed, it's safe to say the team could be reaching deep within the roster to fill a couple of spots. The club was already severely limited because of the thumb injury to starting quarterback Jay Cutler that is expected to keep him out of action for the remainder of the regular season.
What's next: The Bears face the Denver Broncos on the road on Sunday.
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