NFC North: 2011 Week 9 coverage
November, 8, 2011
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
PHILADELPHIA -- The Chicago Bears overcame a furious Philadelphia Eagles third-quarter onslaught and a couple of their own mistakes on the road to carve out a 30-24 victory Monday night at Lincoln Financial Field.
The Bears scored an impressive victory, given the circumstances, to boost their record to 5-3.
Let’s take a deeper look:
What it means: If the regular season came to a conclusion today, the Bears would be the second wild-card team behind the Detroit Lions in the NFC. So this impressive victory over the Eagles raises the stakes for Sunday’s game against the Lions at Soldier Field.
The Lions, who are coming off a bye week, lead the Bears in the NFC North standings by one game. So a Bears victory would tie them with the Lions for second place in the division.
Wright nabs first career pick: Major Wright should send linebacker Lance Briggs a thank you card for helping the second-year safety pick off the first pass of his NFL career.
Briggs tipped a Michael Vick pass into Wright’s hands, which resulted in a Bears field goal after the safety’s 36-yard return.
Despite the big play, Wright wasn’t able to stay in the lineup full time. Veteran Brandon Meriweather replaced Wright in the second quarter, but Wright was back at his strong-safety position to start the second half.
Bennett returns: Wildcat quarterback, chain mover. Yes, Earl Bennett resumed his role as Chicago’s Swiss Army knife of offense Monday night after missing nearly six games with a torso injury, and he didn’t disappoint, racking up five catches for 95 yards and a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave the team a 27-24 lead.
Bennett caught just two balls in the first half for 40 yards and took one snap as quarterback in the Wildcat formation.
Look for his role to increase as the season continues. Jay Cutler's comfort with the receiver was apparent almost immediately against the Eagles. On Chicago’s first third-down situation, Cutler completed a 14-yard strike to Bennett.
Forte’s first fumble of 2011 a fiasco: Bears running back Matt Forte racked up 79 all-purpose yards in the first half but made a mistake in the second quarter that nearly caused a major momentum swing. After catching a short dump-off from Cutler, the running back looked to make a move on Brian Rolle, who punched the ball loose and scooped up the fumble for a 22-yard touchdown return.
Rolle’s score helped Philadelphia tie the game at 10 with 1:38 left in the first half.
The fumble was Forte’s first of the season, and interestingly the running back hadn’t put the ball on the ground in 347 touches prior to Monday night. Forte’s second fumble led to another Eagles touchdown, but the running back finished the game with a game-high 133 yards rushing.
Gould booms another bomb: Robbie Gould made his second field goal of the season from 50-plus yards when he banged in a 51-yarder in the second quarter to give the Bears a 10-0 lead.
Gould is 7-of-9 from 50-plus yards over the past three years and 7-of-11 from those distances over his career.
What’s next: The Bears take the day off Tuesday before getting back to work Wednesday in preparation for their second meeting with Detroit. The Bears trail the Lions by one game in the NFC North standings and can move into a tie with them for second in the division with a victory.
November, 6, 2011
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
SAN DIEGO -- A few thoughts on yet another Green Bay Packers victory, 45-38:
What it means: A rare rainy day at Qualcomm Stadium led to quite a shootout. It reminded a few of us of the Packers' 2009 wild-card playoff game at the Arizona Cardinals. For a while there in a wild fourth quarter, nobody could stop nobody. In the end, however, the Packers raised their NFL-best record to 8-0, winning for the 14th consecutive time dating back to last December.
Pass defense: Packers safety Charlie Peprah and cornerback Tramon Williams each returned two interceptions for touchdowns in the first quarter, two of three interceptions the Packers had on the day. Those scores were obviously critical to the final outcome. But overall, this game won't do much to settle concerns about the Packers' pass defense. Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns, including two after the halfway point of the fourth quarter that made this game a nail-biter for the Packers. The Packers had a particularly tough time tracking tight end Antonio Gates, who caught eight passes and drew two key fourth-quarter penalties.
Thanks, Quentin: The Chargers appeared to have the Packers stopped on third down with 2 minutes, 44 seconds remaining. But a holding penalty on cornerback Quentin Jammer, who was defending receiver Jordy Nelson, gave the Packers an important first down. The penalty robbed the Chargers of their remaining timeouts and cost them about a minute and 20 seconds on the clock. The Chargers finally regained possession with 1:05 left, but Peprah's second interception of the game clinched it with 14 seconds left.
RodgersWatch: Oh yeah, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes and a total of five incompletions in yet another razor-sharp performance. Rodgers has had at least a 110 passer rating in all eight Packers game this season, an NFL record.
Injury report: Hard-luck linebacker Frank Zombo did not return after injuring a hamstring. Zombo has also dealt with shoulder and knee injuries this season.
Packers pride: I've never seen a visiting team cheered as loudly as the Packers were Sunday. Conservative estimates suggested a third of the stadium was populated by Packers fans. I would say it was closer to half. It was quite a showing, regardless, and made for a raucous midseason atmosphere.
What's next: The Packers have an extra day of preparation for next Monday night's game against the Minnesota Vikings at Lambeau Field.