NFC North: 2012 Week 10 Rapid Reaction
November, 11, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
CHICAGO -- Long lauded for toughness and durability, Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler suffered his second concussion over the last three seasons Sunday in his team's second loss of the season, a 13-6 defeat at the hands of the Houston Texans at Soldier Field.
The injury might bring into question Cutler's durability, considering he's missed time with a concussion in the past, in addition to a sprained knee that forced him out of the 2010 NFC Championship game and a broken thumb that knocked him out of the last six games of the 2011 season.
But the most significant impact of Cutler's injury is the fact it potentially jeopardizes his availability for Monday night's game at San Francisco.
Let's look closer.
What it means: Chicago's defense remains one of the league's best, but its performance against the Texans serves as somewhat of a wakeup call, and a message that there's still plenty of improvement to be made. For the team, the loss isn't too damaging. The Bears maintain the top spot in the NFC North, and lead the second-place Green Bay Packers by a game.
Too many turnovers: The Bears turned the ball over three times in the first quarter, but Houston turned only one of them -- an interception by former Bears safety Danieal Manning off Cutler -- into points (a 20-yard Shayne Graham field goal).
Chicago finished with four turnovers, which matches its high for the season that coincidentally came on Sept. 13, when the Bears lost 23-10 at Green Bay.
Even Chicago's opportunistic defense can't always match and cancel out that many giveaways. The Bears intercepted Matt Schaub twice, but like the Texans turned only one of the turnovers into points. Tim Jennings' interception early in the second quarter set up a Robbie Gould 51-yard field goal.
Leaning on Marshall: Entering the game on Sunday, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall had accounted for 37.9 percent of Chicago's targets, which ranked as the highest rate for a receiver in the NFL this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Through three quarters on Sunday, Marshall had been targeted nine times with the receiver coming up with six catches for 90 yards. Marshall's nine targets accounted for 42.8 percent of the team's total targets in the first three quarters.
Interestingly, Marshall came into the game as the only receiver in the NFL with multiple drops on throws into the end zone this season (2), and he added another one in the second quarter when a long ball by Cutler in the second quarter bounced off his hands in the end zone with the Bears trailing. The drop forced the Bears to settle for a long field goal.
But despite Marshall's drops in the end zone, he still has two more catches (5) on throws to the end zone than he did in all of 2011 (3). In 2011, Marshall caught just 12 percent of the 25 balls thrown his way in the end zone.
He finished the game with eight catches for 107 yards, his second straight 100-yard performance and fifth of the season.
Forte a nonfactor: The Bears continue to talk about utilizing running back Matt Forte more, but the club failed to establish him against Houston's second-ranked rushing defense. Forte rushed for 39 yards on 16 attempts, and gave the team minus-2 yards on two receptions in the passing game.
The 37 yards from scrimmage marked Forte's lowest output of the season.
100 back to back: The Bears came into Week 9 with the league's best rush defense, surrendering just 77.9 yards per game, before ruining that by allowing Chris Johnson to rush for 141 yards. Johnson's 100-yard effort marked the first time the Bears allowed a 100-yard game since Week 5 of last season.
The Bears gave up another 100-yard game against the Texans to Arian Foster (102 yards), marking the first time the club allowed consecutive 100-yard outings since Weeks 13 and 14 of 2009, when Steve Jackson and Ryan Grant accomplished the feat.
What's next: The Bears will receive the next two days off before beginning preparation for a Monday night showdown at San Francisco. Through the first half of the season, the Bears faced just two teams (Indianapolis and Green Bay) with records of better than .500. After the loss to the Texans on Sunday, the Bears take on five teams in a row that have six wins.
November, 11, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on Sunday's events at the Metrodome:
What it means: The Minnesota Vikings snapped a two-game losing streak with an improbably productive offensive effort while leading receiver Percy Harvin was sidelined. The Vikings are 6-4, including 2-0 in the NFC North after sweeping the Detroit Lions this season, and can't be ruled out of the NFC playoff race. The Lions, meanwhile, are now 4-5, including 0-3 in the division. They would need to finish at least 5-2, if not 6-1, to make the playoffs. And that's with the NFL's most difficult strength of schedule.
Spreading it out: Harvin's absence forced Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder to look elsewhere for production, and he found it with surprising ease after a month's worth of struggles. His 54-yard pass to rookie receiver Jarius Wright on the opening drive appeared to give the whole team confidence, and Ponder went on to complete 24 of his 32 passes to nine different receivers. Most notably, tight end Kyle Rudolph (two receptions in the past three games) was brought out of mothballs for seven receptions, 64 yards and one touchdown.
PetersonWatch: The Vikings' early passing success paved the way for a triple-digit fourth quarter for tailback Adrian Peterson. After totaling 51 yards through three quarters, Peterson had 120 yards in the fourth, including a game-clinching 61-yard scamper. Peterson finished with 171 yards, and in four games he has rushed for a stunning 629 yards.
Lions offense: The Lions got a 207-yard day from receiver Calvin Johnson, but for the most part the Lions had trouble stringing together drives. Why? They failed on their first eight third-down attempts and finished the game with only one third-down conversion. If you're not scoring on big plays, you're going to have a hard time scoring at all under those circumstances.
Safety dance: The Lions played without starting safeties Louis Delmas and Amari Spievey, both of whom were injured, and in this case it showed. Backup Erik Coleman was beat on Wright's 54-yard play, while Ricardo Silva missed a makeable tackle on Rudolph's 20-yard touchdown reception.
Injury report: Lions defensive end Cliff Avril did not return after leaving on the second play of the third quarter. He was evaluated in the Lions' locker room for a possible concussion. The Lions used Willie Young and Lawrence Jackson in his place. Meanwhile, Lions cornerback Chris Houston did not return after injuring his ankle midway through the fourth quarter. Houston eventually was taken to the locker room on a cart.
What's next: The Lions will host the Green Bay Packers next Sunday at Ford Field. The Vikings have their bye.