NFC North: 2012 Week 11 Rapid Reaction
November, 19, 2012
By Michael C. Wright | ESPN.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Chicago Bears extended their run of futility at Candlestick Park, losing their eighth straight at the venue on Monday night in embarrassing fashion, 32-7.
With quarterback Jay Cutler missing the trip as he recovers from a concussion, backup Jason Campbell filled in ineffectively, and suffered five sacks behind poor protection in addition to throwing two interceptions to finish with a passer rating of 52.7.
The defense couldn't bail out the offense, either.
Although the defense had saved the offense seemingly countless times already this season, the turnover finally dried up for Chicago's takeaway-happy unit. The loss marked the first time all season the Bears defense failed to force a turnover.
What it means: The team's 7-1 start certainly brought optimism about its prospects for the season, but the Bears gave up their NFC North lead with Monday's loss and now sit behind the Green Bay Packers with upcoming matchups against Minnesota and Seattle, both 6-4. Having lost now to all three opponents they've faced with winning records (Packers, Texans and 49ers), Monday night's slaughter might have provided somewhat of a reality check for the Bears.
It's apparent they're probably not be the contender they thought they were just weeks ago. But at the same time, the Bears can certainly develop into that. The fact is that the teams that advance deep into the playoffs typically start peaking near the end of November and into December.
So the harsh dose of reality force fed to the Bears by the 49ers on Monday can either derail the club's season or serve as the catalyst it needs moving into crunch time. Only the Bears can determine how they'll respond from this.
OL woes: Perhaps Campbell should have pulled a Cutler and barked at the offensive line, bumped some of them or something to motivate the unit, considering the way it performed in giving up five sacks against the 49ers. As usual, offensive tackles J'Marcus Webb and Gabe Carimi served as the most egregious offenders up front. The former seemed confused by San Francisco's twists and the latter once fell flat on his behind when Aldon Smith bull rushed right through him on the way to a sack.
The loss to the Texans last week marked the first time the offensive line finished a game without giving up a sack. The unit has now given up 33 sacks with six games remaining, after allowing 49 in 2011.
Timely signing: It certainly appeared to be the case when Campbell took a hard shot from Ahmad Brooks that left him on the turf momentarily writhing in pain. Largely because of shoddy protection along the offensive line, Campbell suffered four sacks and appeared to be on track to be replaced in the lineup by veteran Josh McCown, who was just signed on Tuesday.
Because there was a penalty on the play, Campbell was able to recover on the sideline and re-enter the game. But the Bears came extremely close to needing to play McCown.
Marshall smothered: Prior to the matchup with the 49ers, none of Chicago's opponents fully committed to shutting down receiver Brandon Marshall. The 49ers did, however, and the tactic worked so well it eliminated a huge chunk of the Bears' passing game by taking out Marshall. Defended by double teams and coverage rolled to him most of the night, Marshall didn't make his first catch until the 10:47 mark of the third quarter.
Marshall hauled in a 13-yard touchdown for his second reception of the night, which also gave Chicago its first points of the night with 3:43 remaining in the third quarter. But by then, San Francisco had already jumped out to a 27-0 lead.
Marshall came into the game averaging 7.4 receptions and 100.4 yards, and left having caught two passes for 21 yards and a TD.
Shoddy safety play: Inconsistency at the safety position seemed to be a hallmark of Chicago defense in recent years, before the team appeared to correct the problem with solid play through the first nine games from Chris Conte and Major Wright. That didn't last, however, as San Francisco exploited Wright and Conte on Monday night by threatening them for most of the night with tight end Vernon Davis, who caught six passes for 83 yards and a TD.
On several occasions, Davis broke free in Chicago's secondary, running wide open with either Conte or Wright chasing only to be overthrown or missed by Kaepernick.
Dating back to last season Conte and Wright had started 15 games together coming into Monday night, holding opposing quarterback's to a passer rating of 63.7 with the duo combining for eight interceptions over that span.
Kaepernick finished with 243 yards through the air and a passer rating of 133.1 and tossed a pair of TDs.
What's next: The Bears take Tuesday off, before returning to practice on Wednesday in preparation for Sunday's game at Soldier Field against the Minnesota Vikings. Focus is key coming off a loss like this with a short week to prepare.
November, 18, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
DETROIT -- A few thoughts on Sunday's events at Ford Field:
What it means: The Green Bay Packers won their fifth consecutive game, this time in thrilling fashion, to improve to 7-3. The Detroit Lions fell to 4-6 and, in all likelihood, will have to win all of their remaining six games to qualify for the playoffs. The Packers are now 13-1 in their past 14 games against the Lions and have won nine consecutive NFC North games.
RodgersWatch: Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers led the fifth fourth-quarter comeback of his career, emerging from game-long doldrums to lead an 82-yard drive in just six plays. A 40-yard pass to tight end Jermichael Finley got the Packers in scoring position, and receiver Randall Cobb hauled in Rodgers' high-arching 22-yard pass just before the two-minute warning to account for the winning score. Rodgers has received criticism for not leading more drives of that nature, but opportunity is at least part of that statistic.
StaffordWatch: Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford is usually the quarterback who leads fourth-quarter drives, but this time he threw six consecutive incomplete passes over two possessions after Cobb's touchdown. Overall, Sunday wasn't Stafford's best game. He threw two interceptions, one of which Packers safety M.D. Jennings returned 72 yards for a touchdown, and he did not appear to be in sync with his receivers for long portions of the game. He completed only 17 of 39 passes and was sacked five times by a Packers defense that was playing without linebacker Clay Matthews.
Slump continues: Packers place-kicker Mason Crosby has now missed seven of his past 13 field goal attempts after failing to convert from 50 and 38 yards Sunday. You wonder how much patience the Packers will have with him. In fairness, however, Crosby did hit from 39 yards with 19 seconds left to account for the final scoring. But in the first quarter, coach Mike McCarthy opted against a 49-yard attempt and elected to go for it on fourth-and-4. (The play failed.) The Packers also tried an, ahem, unusual fake in the fourth quarter when Crosby lined up for a 58-yard attempt. Referee Ron Winter called tight end Tom Crabtree for a false start; when Crabtree went into motion, he stopped behind center as if he was going to catch a pitch. Presumably, Winter ruled the design of the play an illegal "abrupt shift."
Fairley dominates: We needed to go to the tape last week to uncover a strong performance by Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. No such exercise was needed Sunday to determine that teammate Nick Fairley played a whale of a game. Fairley dominated the Packers' new left guard, Evan Dietrich-Smith, and finished with two sacks among his unofficial seven tackles. Interior pressure and game-filling play from Fairley and Suh were big reasons why the Packers' offense didn't have many scoring opportunities Sunday.
Injury report: Lions left tackle Jeff Backus injured his hamstring in the second quarter and, after trying briefly to play with a wrap on his leg, left the game for good just before halftime. Rookie Riley Reiff replaced him, and now it'll be a real question if Backus can recover in time on a short week to maintain his streak of 186 consecutive games started.
What's next: The Lions have their annual quick turn for the Thanksgiving Day game, in which they'll host the Houston Texans. The Packers will play at the New York Giants in prime time next Sunday night.