NFC North: 2013 Week 11 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Minnesota Vikings

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
7:27
PM ET

SEATTLE -- A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' 41-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday:

What it means: The Vikings are now 2-8, tied for the worst mark in the NFC. Their loss to the Seahawks on Sunday was their most lopsided road defeat of the season, and it extinguished whatever minuscule hopes they had of ending the 2013 season with a winning record. The Vikings will go to Green Bay next week to face a reeling Packers team, and after Christian Ponder followed a sharp first half with two interceptions -- one that set up a touchdown and another that was returned for a score -- Minnesota might decide now is the time to put Josh Freeman back in action.

Stock watch: Falling: Ponder. The quarterback's second half was among the ugliest he's had in 2 1/2 professional seasons; he hit just four of nine passes for 15 yards and threw two interceptions. He had another pass that could have been intercepted for a touchdown. Ponder hit seven of seven throws in the second quarter, and finished the first half 9-of-13 for 114 yards and a touchdown, though he did fumble deep in Vikings territory. But as he's done so many times in Minnesota, he proved unable to put two consistent halves together, and was pulled for Matt Cassel with just more than 12 minutes left in the game. Coach Leslie Frazier could take most of the week, once again, to decide on a starting quarterback, but if the Vikings aren't going to use Freeman now, it's worth asking if they ever will.

Big plays kill Vikings: Seattle put up 24 points in the first half despite holding the ball for just more than 11 minutes, as quarterback Russell Wilson burned the Vikings for a number of big plays. On Seattle's first-quarter touchdown drive, Wilson connected with Doug Baldwin for 44 yards after Xavier Rhodes fell down, and found Ricardo Lockette in the middle of the Vikings' defense for 27 yards on the next play. The second-year quarterback finished the day with 230 passing yards and a pair of touchdowns, despite attempting just 18 passes.

Sullivan injured: Center John Sullivan left the game in the fourth quarter with a head injury and did not return. A press box announcement did not specify if Sullivan had a concussion, but if he does, he could be challenged to return for next week's game in Green Bay.

What's next: The Vikings head to Lambeau Field next Sunday to face the Packers.

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
7:16
PM ET
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 27-13 loss to the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

What it means: The Packers' once promising season is quickly crumbling -- and all injured superstar quarterback Aaron Rodgers can do is watch. Green Bay (5-5) lost its third straight game and fell a game behind Detroit (6-4) and Chicago (6-4) in the NFC North standings. The Packers had not lost three in a row since 2008.

Tolzien time: With Rodgers and Seneca Wallace hurt, third-string quarterback Scott Tolzien made his first career start. The undrafted free-agent signee out of Wisconsin finished 24-of-34 passing for 339 yards, but threw three interceptions -- two of them extremely ill-advised attempts.

On the team’s opening drive of the second half, Tolzien was trying to hit wideout James Jones with a slant route, but he never saw Giants linebacker Jon Beason, who picked off the pass.

Then, with 10:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, Tolzien was trying to hit wideout Andrew Quarless, but he never saw Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who snagged the pass at the line and waltzed in for a 24-yard touchdown.

The final pick was overthrown and snagged by Giants safety Antrel Rolle in center field. Overall, Tolzien was quite effective when he had time. He just made two really bad rookie mistakes.

Locking down Lacy: Eddie Lacy, the NFL’s leading rusher the past five weeks of the season, was held to just 27 yards on 14 carries. New York’s defensive line was stout, and limited Lacy from getting into the second level. Lacy did score on a 4-yard touchdown run with 12:52 left in the fourth quarter.

Gashed: Other than a diving interception by cornerback Tramon Williams at the end of the second quarter -- the team’s first interception since Week 7 in Cleveland -- and back-to-back sacks by Brad Jones and Clay Matthews early in the fourth quarter, the Giants pretty much manhandled the Packers' defense. New York rolled up 334 yards of total offense, while Victor Cruz had a field day from the slot, finishing with eight receptions for 110 yards.

Almost doesn’t count: Facing a fourth-and-7 from the Giants’ 43 with 6:32 remaining in the third quarter, the Packers went with a fake punt. The ball was snapped to the up-back, M.D. Jennings, but he was tackled a yard shy of the first-down marker. And on its ensuing possession, New York capped off a 10-play, 63-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run by Brandon Jacobs, making it 20-6.

Injury report: The Packers were without cornerbacks Sam Shields and Casey Hayward due to hamstring injuries. They were also missing starting right tackle Don Barclay and left outside linebacker Nick Perry. The team announced at halftime that defensive tackle Johnny Jolly would not return due to a groin injury. Later, cornerback James Nixon left the game due to a knee injury and did not return.

What’s next: The Packers will host the Minnesota Vikings next Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
6:18
PM ET

CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 23-20 overtime win over the Baltimore Ravens at Soldier Field:

What it means: Only the tiebreaker from Detroit sweeping Chicago keeps the Bears from leading the division. So Chicago's win over the Ravens coupled with Detroit's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers puts the Bears back in serious contention for a legitimate shot at winning the NFC North.

Second-guessing Marc Trestman: With possession at the Baltimore 2-yard line thanks to a defensive holding penalty on Jimmy Smith in the second quarter, Chicago called three consecutive passes that fell incomplete, leading to the Bears settling for a 20-yard field goal that made the score 10-3 in favor of the visitors. The calls seemed a little questionable given where the Bears were on the field. After throwing incomplete to Brandon Marshall and Tony Fiammetta on first and second down, Josh McCown tossed another incompletion to Marshall. On the play, it appeared McCown could have taken advantage of a mismatch on the outside with tight end Martellus Bennett lined up against a Baltimore cornerback.

In the fourth quarter, the Bears elected to punt instead of trying to convert a fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 44 that would've allowed them to run more time off the clock to preserve a win in regulation. With a little more than a minute to play and the Ravens in the red zone, Trestman also elected not to burn any of his timeouts. Had he called a couple, the Bears may have had time to mount a potentially game-winning drive after Justin Tucker's tying 21-yard field goal.

Bass bailout: Despite the squandered opportunity from the 2 in the second quarter, Bears reserve defensive end David Bass bailed out the offense on the first play of Baltimore's ensuing possession just 12 seconds later. Midway through his rush, Bass tipped a Joe Flacco pass intended for Vonta Leach back into his own hands and romped 24 yards for the touchdown to tie the score at 10.

Coming into the game, the Bears held a 24-2 record since 2005 when they've scored a defensive touchdown, including 10 consecutive wins under those circumstances. Now they're 25-2 with 11 in a row.

Defensive letdown: Even after Bass' potentially game-defining play, the defense slumped on Baltimore's next possession, allowing Flacco to go 5-for-5 for 47 yards on a drive capped by a touchdown pass to Torrey Smith. Defensive end Julius Peppers added to the letdown with a 15-yard penalty for hitting Flacco as the quarterback attempted to slide on a play during the drive. Peppers appeared to slip on the play, which led to the contact.

Season high in a half: The Bears committed seven penalties for 61 yards in the first half alone, which was enough to set a season high for penalties and penalty yardage. The most the Bears had been penalized before Sunday was six times for 43 yards in an Oct. 6 loss to New Orleans.

The Bears only topped that by finishing with 13 penalties for 111 yards. Normally, that gets you beat.

What's next: The Bears review film of Sunday's game on Monday before taking the day off Tuesday and beginning preparations Wednesday for the first of back-to-back road games starting with the St. Louis Rams.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

November, 17, 2013
11/17/13
4:35
PM ET

PITTSBURGH -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 37-27 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

What it means: What a complete collapse for the Lions, a team that had went through every sort of emotion during Sunday’s game. They started off discombobulated in the first quarter, set records in the second quarter, then fell apart in the second half.

It’s tough to explain how the Lions went from an offensive juggernaut in the first half to Calvin Johnson not having a reception in the second half and Matthew Stafford unable to even throw for half a field after halftime. It is, though, a loss that could hurt the Lions down the road. Detroit had complete control over this game before a combination of defensive lapses, dropped passes and a bizarre fake field goal call in the fourth quarter turned a win into a loss and a potential three-game winning streak into a 6-4 record that gives the Bears and Packers a chance to keep pace in the NFC North.

Stock Watch: Rising -- Safety Don Carey. Carey had yet another week of significant playing time with cornerback Bill Bentley injured, and he had a decent game, making nine tackles and two tackles for loss. ... DeAndre Levy had a game-high 12 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Falling -- Detroit’s fourth quarter defense. The Lions gave up a 97-yard drive to Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers midway through the fourth quarter, resulting in a touchdown with 4:46 left to give Pittsburgh the lead. ... Reggie Bush's production. The running back fumbled, ran for 31 yards on 12 carries and caught two passes for 23 yards. Not his best day.

Setting records: Detroit’s typical combination of Stafford-to-Johnson gave the Lions some big records in the first half. Stafford threw for 327 yards in the first half, a franchise record. He also broke Bobby Layne’s franchise passing record of 15,710 yards. With 362 yards Sunday, Stafford now has 16,005 yards. Stafford, though, faded in the second half, passing for only 35 yards.

What’s next: The Lions return home for two games in less than two weeks when they face Tampa Bay next Sunday and then Green Bay on Thanksgiving Day.

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