NFC North: 2012 Week 7 Rapid Reaction
October, 22, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
CHICAGO -- Some thoughts on Monday night's events at Soldier Field:
What it means: The Chicago Bears overcame a scare with their starting quarterback to win their fourth consecutive game. At 5-1, they remain alone atop the NFC North. The Detroit Lions, meanwhile, made four big mistakes to scuttle any chance at one of their signature comeback wins. At 2-4, the Lions are the only team in the division without a winning record. Their playoff hopes are bleak.
CutlerWatch: Bears quarterback Jay Cutler absorbed a violent but legal sack late in the second quarter from Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. Cutler's right shoulder hit the ground flush and Suh fell on top of him, apparently bruising Cutler's ribs. But Cutler missed a total of only five plays and returned from a locker room examination to start the third quarter. He completed seven of his final 14 passes for a modest 77 yards, but if there were any questions about his toughness -- and to be clear, there were none here -- Cutler answered them Monday night.
Lions mistakes: The Lions committed four turnovers in Bears territory, three in the red zone, on plays the Bears' opportunistic defense deserved credit for. Tailback Mikel Leshoure lost a fumble at the Bears' 17-yard line in the second quarter. Returner Stefan Logan muffed a punt at the Bears' 27-yard line after the Lions had stopped the Bears on the opening possession of the third quarter. Running back Joique Bell lost control of the ball at the Bears' 1-yard line. Finally, quarterback Matthew Stafford threw an interception at the Bears' 2-yard line on fourth down with 2 minutes, 39 seconds remaining. The Lions were going to have a hard time beating the Bears straight-up. Fouling up four scoring opportunities gave them no chance.
Two-deep: The Bears mixed up their defense early in the game, tossing in a few blitzes to keep Stafford from establishing a rhythm. But for the most part, their deep-safety look left the Lions unable to drive the ball downfield. Leshoure rolled up 63 yards on 12 carries, but the Lions didn't manage a pass play longer than 19 yards until midway through the fourth quarter.
Injury report: The Lions lost two starters in the third quarter. A right knee injury sent receiver Nate Burleson to the locker room. Safety Amari Spievey, meanwhile, suffered a concussion. It should be noted that symptoms from Spievey's most recent concussion, in the 2011 wild-card playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints, didn't subside until the middle of the spring. Burleson was replaced by rookie Ryan Broyles, who caught his first NFL touchdown with 30 seconds remaining to prevent a shutout.
What's next: The Lions will host the Seattle Seahawks, and the Bears will host the Carolina Panthers. Both games are Sunday.
October, 21, 2012
By Kevin Seifert | ESPN.com
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts after the Vikings' 21-14 win at the Metrodome on Sunday:
What it means: The Vikings are 5-2 after overcoming a shaky and worrisome 58-yard performance from quarterback Christian Ponder. The Vikings managed only 60 yards of offense in the second half, but their defense (seven sacks) did more than enough to secure this victory.
PetersonWatch: Tailback Adrian Peterson displayed as much explosiveness as we've seen since his return from knee surgery. He totaled 153 yards on 23 carries, including runs of 27, 22 and 17 yards. On the 27-yarder, Peterson dragged two Cardinals defenders the final 10 yards. His 13-yard scoring run in the first quarter snapped a career-long streak of five consecutive games without a touchdown, and frankly, it's not clear why the Vikings didn't feature him in the second half more often as Ponder's struggles continued.
PonderWatch: Ponder threw two bad interceptions and completed only 8 of 17 passes even as the Vikings maintained the most conservative approach imaginable. He threw high and behind tight end Kyle Rudolph in the first quarter, setting up the Cardinals' only touchdown, and floated an ill-advised pass just before halftime that was also intercepted. That's six interceptions, and a total of seven turnovers, for Ponder in his past three games after going without an interception in the Vikings' first four games. The Vikings are 2-1 in those games, but it's worrisome that he's missing on some basic throws. A season-high crowd of 61,068 was testy, giving Ponder a Bronx cheer when he threw a ball out of bounds in the third quarter and then booing a bit later when the Vikings shifted into an open backfield.
Defensive gains: The Vikings had a hard time tackling Cardinals running back LaRod Stephens-Howling, who finished with 149 combined rushing and receiving yards. But safety Harrison Smith's 31-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter staked them to a 21-7 lead, allowing the pass rush to let loose. Defensive end Brian Robison finished with three sacks (and a forced fumble) and defensive end Jared Allen had two against immobile quarterback John Skelton. Meanwhile, cornerback Antoine Winfield upended Skelton on a failed bootleg play on fourth down to end a third-quarter scoring threat.
Injury report: Vikings tight end John Carlson was taken into the locker room for evaluation of a possible concussion and did not return.
What's next: The Vikings need to rest quickly. They'll host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday for their second game in five days.