NFC North: 2013 Week 1 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: 49ers 34, Packers 28

September, 8, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rapid reaction from the Packers’ 34-28 loss to the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday at Candlestick Park:

What it means: The read-option offense didn’t beat the Green Bay Packers. Anquan Boldin did. In his first game with the 49ers, the former Baltimore Ravens receiver exposed another problem with the Packers’ defense. 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s new favorite target caught 13 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Kaepernick threw for 412 yards and three touchdowns.

Stock Watch: Considering the 49ers ranked fourth last season in rushing defense, it may not be fair to judge whether the Packers’ running game has improved. But the numbers weren’t pretty. They rushed for just 63 yards on 19 attempts. Combine that with the fact that starting running back Eddie Lacy, in his first NFL start, lost a fumble in the second quarter. Lacy finally got going in the fourth quarter. Lacy capped a go-ahead drive that gave the Packers a 28-24 lead with 8:20 remaining with a 2-yard touchdown leap over the pile. He carried five times for 26 yards on the drive. The problem was Lacy carried nine other times for just 15 yards.

Trouble up the middle: Without safety Morgan Burnett and slot cornerback Casey Hayward, both sidelined with hamstring injuries, the Packers had all kinds of trouble defending the middle of the field. The safeties were responsible for the 49ers’ first two touchdowns, a 20-yard pass from Kaepernick to tight end Vernon Davis against M.D. Jennings in the first quarter and a 10-yard pass from Kaepernick to Boldin in the second quarter.

Sitton struggles: Josh Sitton, in his first game since moving from right guard to left guard, struggled. He was penalized three times -- once for illegal hands to the face and twice for holding -- and didn’t fare well in the running game.

Up-and-down debut: Rookie left tackle David Bakhtiari drew a tough assignment in his first start, facing Aldon Smith, who finished second in the NFL last season with 19.5 sacks. Bakhtiari gave up two sacks to Smith but those may have been his only two bad plays.

What’s next: The home opener is Sunday against the Washington Redskins, who will be coming off a short week after playing the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night.

Rapid Reaction: Lions 34, Vikings 24

September, 8, 2013

DETROIT -- My thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' 34-24 loss to the Detroit Lions.

What it means: With a September schedule that included two division road games and a trip to London for a home game, it was important for the Vikings to get off to a good start. But after blowing a 14-6 lead on the road and losing for the ninth time in 10 NFC North road games, they'll have to win in Chicago next week to avoid starting 0-2. The Vikings hope to get defensive tackle Kevin Williams back, and they'll have a week to plug some of the leaks in their run defense that emerged with the six-time Pro Bowler's absence on Sunday. But in what looked like one of the team's more favorable road matchups, the Vikings missed an opportunity.

Stock watch: Falling -- Vikings' defense. They allowed the Lions to post 469 yards, generating little pass rush on Matthew Stafford and getting gashed by Reggie Bush on both the ground and on screen passes. Trailing by three with a chance to get the ball back midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings committed two penalties on third down -- a roughing-the-passer call on Letroy Guion and a pass interference penalty on Xavier Rhodes -- to extend a Lions drive that would turn into a touchdown.

Simpson emerges: After a disappointing first season in Minnesota, receiver Jerome Simpson caught seven passes for 140 yards on Sunday, hauling in two deep passes from Christian Ponder and posting the third-most yards of his career. His 47-yard reception in the third quarter, where he dove to track down a ball directly over his head, set up a touchdown that got the Vikings within three.

Peterson neutralized: After he galloped 78 yards on the Vikings' first play from scrimmage, Adrian Peterson had a quiet day. He gained just 13 yards on his next 16 carries, scoring two more touchdowns but struggling to take pressure off Ponder, who threw two interceptions and was sacked three times.

What's next: The Vikings (0-1) travel to Chicago next Sunday, looking for their first win in the Windy City since Peterson's rookie year in 2007.

DETROIT -- Some thoughts following Detroit’s 34-24 win over Minnesota at Ford Field on Sunday.

What it means: For Detroit, this was a big-deal win. It may be only the opener, but the Lions showed a bunch of flashes of what they could potentially do on offense, with Reggie Bush being capable of running out of the backfield and the explosiveness in the short passing game. They also showed that their offensive line could hold up well, limiting Minnesota to just one sack. Considering Detroit’s next two games are on the road -- including a trip to Washington, D.C., in two weeks -- winning the season opener was extremely critical.

Stock watch: Rising -- Detroit’s defensive line. The Lions were always going to have a talented, big defensive line. But against Minnesota, Detroit’s deepest and most talented unit showed up all game long. Nick Fairley recovered a fumble, and Ndamukong Suh had a pressure that forced an interception in the first half. They spent a good portion of the day pressuring Minnesota quarterback Christian Ponder. Also rising -- rookie tight end Joseph Fauria. The undrafted free agent saw a lot of time and caught his first career touchdown pass, a 1-yarder to give Detroit a 34-24 lead in the fourth quarter. In the coming weeks, he could end up taking snaps from Brandon Pettigrew if he can be consistent.

Reggie Bush’s debut: Detroit’s big-time free-agent acquisition paid almost immediate dividends. He scored a 77-yard touchdown off a screen pass from Matthew Stafford and almost had two more touchdowns, but both were reviewed and it was determined he was out at the 1-yard line. He finished with 21 rushes for 90 yards and four receptions for 101 yards and a touchdown.

Containing Peterson: It may not look like it statistically, but Detroit’s defense did a good job limiting Minnesota superstar Adrian Peterson. Other than his 78-yard touchdown on his first carry of the season, Detroit’s defense held Peterson to 13 yards. In all, Peterson had 18 carries for 88 yards. He still did damage, though, scoring three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving).

What’s next: The Lions head on the road the next two weeks, starting with a trip to Arizona next weekend.

CHICAGO -- Here are a few quick thoughts on the Chicago Bears24-21 win over the Cincinnati Bengals.

What it means: With the Bears behind 21-17, Jay Cutler engineered an eight-play, 81-yard drive and hit Brandon Marshall for the go-ahead 19-yard touchdown. Cutler completed 3 of 4 passes for 63 yards, and scrambled for an 18-yard gain. That drive should give Cutler’s teammates confidence in his ability to lead in crunch time, while giving the quarterback belief in Marc Trestman’s offense.

Record-setting Gould: Robbie Gould blasted a team-record 58-yard field goal with 13 seconds remaining in the first half, which is precisely what a kicker should be doing in a contract year. Gould’s previous best kick was a 57-yarder hit in 2011.

Dating back to 2010, Gould has made 11 consecutive field-goal attempts from 50-plus yards. Gould is now 14-of-18 on field goals of 50-plus yards.

In the final year of his contract, Gould expressed disappointment at training camp about the team’s decision to not sign players to extensions during the season.

Pressure please? The Bengals converted 70 percent of third downs through the first three quarters, as Andy Dalton tossed a pair of touchdown passes. The one missing stat came from Chicago’s side, and it showed exactly why the Bengals experienced so much success on offense.

The Bears simply failed to pressure Dalton, who despite throwing two interceptions, finished the first three quarters with a passer rating of 97.2. Chicago didn’t register a single hit on the quarterback in the first three quarters, as Dalton carved up the secondary for 257 yards on 23-of-29 passing.

But the Bears delivered with the game on the line, holding on to a 24-21 lead over the final eight minutes.

Shea McClellin dropped Dalton for a 5-yard loss, which basically short-circuited Cincinnati’s potential comeback drive in the fourth quarter.

Gutsy effort by Tillman: Cornerback Charles Tillman picked off two passes, but he had an up-and-down day against A.J. Green, who finished the game with a pair of touchdown receptions. Not only did Tillman struggle at times against Green; the cornerback also suffered from dehydration.

Tillman vomited at least twice on the sideline prior to leaving the game late in the second quarter. Tillman re-entered after halftime, and played the rest of the way.

What’s next: The Bears will take a couple of days off before returning to Halas Hall to begin preparations Wednesday for the matchup against NFC North foe Minnesota.