NFC North: 2011 Week 15 Rapid Reaction
December, 18, 2011
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Mounting injuries and the firestorm of Sam Hurd’s arrest on federal drug charges earlier in the week proved too much for the Bears to overcome Sunday in an embarrassing 38-14 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
The Bears remain in contention for a postseason berth, but the team's pulse is fading fast.
Let’s take a look at this team’s ineptitude in depth:
What it means: The loss doesn’t mathematically eliminate the Bears from postseason contention, but it sure put the team right on the verge of disappearing from the hunt. The Bears entered Sunday one game behind the Detroit Lions (8-5) for a wild-card spot. So even if Chicago would have defeated the Seahawks and Detroit lost, the Bears would have still been behind the Lions because of the teams’ division records.
So Chicago’s remaining outings against NFC North foes Green Bay and Minnesota and Detroit’s last game with the Packers are still important. But the Seahawks have moved past the Bears in the NFC standings. Although they have the same record (7-7), the Seahawks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker.
Bears used to win when D scores: The Bears racked up a 3-0 record through the first 13 games when they scored a defensive touchdown. But the trend came to an end Sunday in the loss to the Seahawks.
Chicago put a defensive touchdown on the board with 2:23 left in the first quarter when Julius Peppers sacked and stripped Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and Israel Idonije pounced on the ball for a TD. The score initially seemed like an omen the Bears would pull this one out.
After all, the Bears won a Week 10 game against the Lions when Charles Tillman and Major Wright scored on interception returns of 44 and 24 yards, respectively. The club also captured victories over the Carolina Panthers in Week 4, and the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 thanks to defensive TDs by D.J. Moore and Brian Urlacher.
It all came to an end against the Seahawks.
The Bears are now 14-2 since 2005 when they score a defensive touchdown and 17-5 in such situations since 2004.
Injury bug biting: Injuries continue to decimate Chicago’s roster. The Bears lost starters Johnny Knox (lower back) and safety Chris Conte (foot/ankle) to injuries against the Seahawks.
It’s unclear whether Knox and Conte will miss extended time with their injuries, but the club’s numbers continue to dwindle.
The Bears entered the game without quarterback Jay Cutler, running back Matt Forte, defensive tackle Henry Melton and safety Major Wright.
Importance of scoring first: The Bears typically win when they strike first. Over the past eight years, the Bears had compiled a record of 41-24 when they put points on the board first. Over that same span, the Bears were 29-31 when opponents scored first, including 2-3 in 2011.
Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch scored on a 2-yard run with 8:41 left in the first quarter for the first points of the game. Apparently, that set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.
The Bears are now 29-32 when the opponent scores first and 2-4 in 2011.
More fun with numbers: The Bears are now 12-29 since 2004 when they finish with a negative turnover margin.
The Bears were minus-five in turnover margin thanks to a Knox fumble, a trio of Caleb Hanie interceptions -- two returned for touchdowns -- and a fourth-quarter Josh McCown INT.
Set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season, Hanie has likely sealed his fate in Chicago with his poor play over four starts.
What’s next: The Bears face the Green Bay Packers on the road Sunday night.
December, 18, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
KANSAS CITY -- Some thoughts on a historic day at Arrowhead Stadium:
What it means: The Packers lost for the first time in 364 days, snapping a streak of 19 consecutive victories that ended two short of tying the NFL record. They missed a chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, but at 13-1, they could secure it as early as Monday night if the San Francisco 49ers lose to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Still, injury concerns on the offensive line figure to be a big part of the football discussion in Green Bay this week.
Controlled: The result was no fluke. The Packers briefly led 7-6 in the third quarter but the Chiefs controlled this game for most of the afternoon. The Chiefs' offense controlled the ball for more than 37 minutes, punted only twice and got a 299-yard performance from quarterback Kyle Orton in his first start. They ground up yardage against the Packers' defense all afternoon and finished with 442 total yards.
RodgersWatch: Sunday was the worst game of the season for the Packers' passing game. I counted at least half a dozen drops, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers & Co. clearly had a hard time adjusting to life without receiver Greg Jennings. It was the first time all season Rodgers has completed fewer than half of his passes.
Missed challenge: Should Packers coach Mike McCarthy have challenged a key play midway through the fourth quarter, one that ultimately led to a Chiefs field goal? On the play, Chiefs tight end Leonard Pope appeared to fumble into the end zone at the end of a 33-yard reception. McCarthy decided against a challenge, but former NFL vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said via Twitter that the call would have been overturned on review and the ball awarded to the Packers. It might not have made an impact on the outcome, but you never know.
Injury report: The Packers finished the game with right guard T.J. Lang playing right tackle after injuries to starter Bryan Bulaga (knee) and backup Derek Sherrod (leg). Evan Dietrich-Smith replaced Lang at left guard, meaning the Packers had only two players -- center Scott Wells and right guard Josh Sitton -- in the positions they opened the season at.
What's next: Merry Christmas. The Packers will host the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field next Sunday night.