NFC North: 2011 Week 14 coverage
DENVER -- The Chicago Bears couldn’t ward off the magic of Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos in dropping a 13-10 heartbreaker in overtime Sunday that will dramatically impact their standing in the NFC wildcard race.
A Marion Barber fumble sealed the team’s fate in overtime, and a questionable decision by the running back to step out of bounds -- which stopped the clock -- played a significant role in Denver tying the game at the end of regulation to send it into OT.
Marion, Marion, Marion…
Let’s take a closer look:
What it means: The Bears put themselves in a difficult spot for earning the postseason berth they seek, and they certainly didn’t get any help from the other NFC teams in the wildcard hunt.
Interestingly, last week all the teams in contention for the wildcard spots -- the Bears, Atlanta Falcons and Detroit Lions -- lost their respective games, leaving the standings unchanged. But the opposite transpired on Sunday, with every team in the NFC hunt except for the Bears winning their games.
So Chicago’s loss drops it out of the wildcard picture. The club will likely have to win each of its remaining four games to sneak back into the race.
Golden Goose: Robbie Gould kicked a 57-yard field goal to start the fourth quarter, which appeared long enough to be good from a distance of approximately 65 yards.
Gould’s field goal was the longest in team history, and broke his own personal best of 54 yards last season against the Detroit Lions.
Prior to Gould’s bomb on Sunday, Kevin Butler and Bob Thomas were tied for the longest field goals in franchise history (55 yards). Butler connected on 55 yarders twice: on Dec. 12, 1993 at Tampa Bay, and on Oct. 25, 1993 against the Minnesota Vikings.
Thomas kicked a 55-yard field goal game in 1975 against the Los Angeles Rams.
What’s next: The Bears have ended their run of AFC West foes. Next week they host Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks.
What it means: The Detroit Lions improved to 8-5, giving them their first non-losing season since 2000 and keeping them in the mix in the NFC playoff race. Although they were one play away from a dramatic comeback victory, the Vikings fell to 2-11 and are 0-5 in the NFC North this season.
Final play chaos: The Lions have gotten their fair share of questionable calls against them this season, but they certainly seemed to benefit from an uncalled face mask penalty on the final play of the game. As he moved in to sack and force a fumble on Vikings quarterback Joe Webb, linebacker DeAndre Levy got a piece of Webb's face mask. No call was made, preventing the Lions the embarrassment of losing a game they led 21-0 and 31-14.
What I thought was interesting: The Lions got nice contributions from all three of the players who drew fire for personal-foul penalties in Week 13 at the New Orleans Saints. Receiver Titus Young had a 57-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter. Tight end Brandon Pettigrew caught a team-high six passes, including a 12-yard touchdown. And returner Stefan Logan had a 42-yard kickoff return and a 28-yard punt return. None of the three received substantial playing time cuts Sunday after a week of speculation that they could be benched.
PonderWatch: Did the Vikings make a mistake by playing rookie quarterback Christian Ponder after a hip injury limited his practice time this week? Or did Ponder just have a horrendous game? How about both? Ponder committed four turnovers -- three interceptions and a fumble -- in 2.5 quarters before the Vikings replaced him with Webb. Two of the turnovers led to Lions defensive touchdowns, and the Vikings trailed 31-14 when he departed. It wasn't immediately clear if Ponder was benched or if the Vikings made a health-related decision. Regardless, he now has 13 turnovers in seven starts this season.
WebbWatch: Webb had the perfect skill set to come into a game fresh in the second half. The Lions' defense couldn't keep up with him, and he finished with 109 yards rushing -- including a 65-yard touchdown run. He also threw a 3-yard touchdown pass, the first of his career, to running back Toby Gerhart and later had the Vikings at the Lions' 1-yard line with less than 20 seconds remaining. Let the quarterback controversy begin!
AllenWatch: Defensive end Jared Allen had three sacks in the first half, giving him six against the Lions this season and bringing his season total to 17.5 through 13 games. He'll need 5.5 sacks over the Vikings' final three games to break Michael Strahan's single-season record of 22.5.
Injury report: The Lions finished the game without cornerback Aaron Berry (shoulder), linebacker Justin Durant (hamstring) and cornerback Eric Wright (hamstring). Cornerback Alphonso Smith helped mitigate the injuries with two interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.
What's next: The Lions will travel to take on the Oakland Raiders next Sunday. The Vikings will host the New Orleans Saints.