NFC North: 2013 Week 7 Rapid Reaction

Rapid Reaction: Minnesota Vikings

October, 21, 2013
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' 23-7 loss to the New York Giants on Monday night.

What it means: At 1-5, with a double-digit loss to a winless team behind them and two consecutive games against division leaders in front of them, the Vikings' 2013 season is all but lost. The team's decision to shoehorn Josh Freeman into the starting quarterback role, after two weeks with the team, backfired badly on Monday night, with Freeman connecting on fewer than 50 percent of his passes, and Minnesota's only touchdown came from a Marcus Sherels punt return. The Vikings have spent enough time fiddling with their quarterback situation now that they might as well spend the rest of the year evaluating Freeman, or possibly giving Christian Ponder one last look. Any chance of a second straight playoff berth appears to be dead.

Stock watch: Falling -- Freeman. It will take the quarterback time to feel comfortable in the Vikings' offense, so it probably wasn't fair to expect great results Monday night. But the optimism that comes from being the fresh face on a team with quarterback problems is gone for Freeman, and he'll have to match up with Aaron Rodgers next week, assuming he's the starting quarterback again. The Vikings will likely get better games from him -- they certainly couldn't get much worse than they did on Monday -- but his honeymoon period with Vikings fans likely won't last past this game.

Another disappointing night for Peterson: A week after carrying just 10 times in the Vikings' 35-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers, Adrian Peterson was completely stifled against the Giants. He carried just 13 times for 28 yards, getting outrushed by Peyton Hillis -- who only signed with the Giants last week -- and posting the fifth-fewest yards of his career. Peterson was more of a factor in the passing game, nearly turning a 22-yard pass into a bigger gain, but he's now run for just 90 combined yards in his last two games.

Rocky night for special teams: The Vikings did get a touchdown when Sherels took a punt back 86 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, giving Minnesota an early 7-3 lead. But Sherels later fumbled a punt -- a play after dropping what might have been an interception return for a touchdown -- and defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd fumbled a short kickoff. Kicker Blair Walsh, who was playing with a strained left hamstring, also missed from more than 50 yards for the first time in his career. He had been a NFL-record 12-for-12 from more than 50 yards to start his career.

What's next: The Vikings (1-5) have another prime-time matchup looming; they face the NFC North-leading Green Bay Packers on Sunday night at Mall of America Field.

Rapid Reaction: Green Bay Packers

October, 20, 2013

GREEN BAY, Wis. – A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers’ 31-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday at Lambeau Field.

What it means: Combined with losses by the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions earlier on Sunday, the victory moved the Packers into first place in the NFC North for the first time this season. The Bears and Lions both dropped to 4-3, while the Packers improved to 4-2. The question now is whether they can hold on to first place given all their injuries.

Stock watch: One of the big questions all week was whether Jarrett Boykin could give the Packers any production in place of injured receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones. Boykin, who had two drops the week before against Baltimore during his first extended action, fared just fine. Coach Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers wisely got Boykin involved early with a few short passes to get his confidence up. Boykin finished with eight catches for 103 yards, including his first career NFL touchdown -- a 20-yarder in the fourth quarter.

Concern for Finley: In one of the scarier injury scenes of the season, Packers tight end Jermichael Finley was taken off the field on a gurney after he sustained a neck injury with 10:03 left in the game. Finley received medical attention on the field for several minutes, but the Packers said he had movement and feeling in all of his extremities. The injury occurred when Finley took a hit to the head from Browns safety Tashaun Gipson, who was penalized for unnecessary roughness for what referee Jeff Triplette said was leading with the helmet.

Penalty-aided points: The Browns got their only points of the first half, a 46-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff in the second quarter, thanks in part to an unnecessary roughness penalty on Packers cornerback Tramon Williams. Williams violently threw receiver Josh Gordon to the ground after Gordon dropped a pass. The Browns were so bad in the first half, gaining just 89 total net yards, perhaps Williams should have known that Gordon was going to drop the pass.

What’s next: After two straight AFC wins over the Browns and Baltimore Ravens, the Packers return to the NFC North for back-to-back prime-time games next Sunday night at the Minnesota Vikings and on Nov. 4 at home against the Chicago Bears on "Monday Night Football."

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

October, 20, 2013

LANDOVER, Md. -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 45-41 loss to the Washington Redskins on Sunday at FedEx Field:

What it means: A 4-3 record with an injured quarterback in Jay Cutler going into the bye isn’t ideal, but the Bears are in decent shape with a much needed week off on the horizon. The Bears need this time off to heal.

Stock watch: Josh McCown’s stock shot through the roof with his outing (119.6 passer rating), which should give the staff and his teammates confidence in him should Cutler be forced to miss extended time.

D on field too long: Chicago’s offense put the defense in a difficult bind in the first half by missing on all four of its conversions on third down. That resulted in Washington leading in time of possession 22:01 to 7:59, which means the defense was on the field way too long. The statistics indicated as much.

In taking a 24-17 lead at the half, the Redskins converted 4 of 8 third downs and racked up 14 first downs on 42 snaps. Chicago, meanwhile, generated just two first downs and 46 yards on 17 plays.

Record-tying Hester: Devin Hester finally produced the breakout game the team anticipated with his first touchdown this season on a return. Hester broke an 81-yard punt return for a TD with 5:52 left in the first half, and that score tied him with Hall of Famer Deion Sanders for most combined return TDs (19) in NFL history.

Hester reached 19 total return TDs in 114 games, while it took Sanders 188 games.

The Hester outing wasn’t unexpected. Washington gave up a touchdown on an 86-yard punt return last week, in addition to a 90-yard kickoff return that set up another Dallas Cowboys touchdown.

First miss: The seemingly automatic Robbie Gould missed his first field goal of the season with 9:30 left in the third quarter and his team down 24-17. Gould pushed the 34-yard attempt wide right.

Gould connected on a 47-yard attempt in the first quarter for his 11th-consecutive field goal without a miss this season. Gould hit a 49-yarder in the fourth quarter.

What’s next: The Bears return to Halas Hall on Monday for a 9:30 a.m. film review before an 11:30 team meeting. After that, the Bears receive the rest of the week off for their bye. The club won’t return to practice until 7:30 a.m. Oct. 28.

Rapid Reaction: Detroit Lions

October, 20, 2013

DETROIT -- Some thoughts on the Detroit Lions27-24 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals:

What it means: Tough, tough loss for Detroit. It struggled defensively, came back offensively and wasted some big, big plays from Calvin Johnson, as Mike Nugent make a 54-yard field goal at the buzzer to win.

The loss puts some pressure on Detroit. The Lions drop to 4-3 and now have a somewhat critical game against Dallas at home next Sunday to keep some positive momentum going. Perhaps the worst thing for Detroit is the way the loss happened. The Lions' defense finally pressured quarterback Andy Dalton to get the ball back late in the fourth, but the offense stalled with some questionable play calling. Rookie punter Sam Martin, who has been consistent for Detroit, shanked a punt to give Cincinnati a chance.

Stock watch: Rising -- cornerback Darius Slay and receiver Kris Durham. Slay will eventually be a starter. The rookie again entered the game in relief of a starter -- first to replace the benched Chris Houston and then staying in when Rashean Mathis left the game for the second straight week with a groin injury. Durham had his fourth straight game with at least three receptions. He has been big for the Lions since Nate Burleson’s forearm injury.

Falling -- Front-four pressure and Detroit’s pass coverage. Dalton was not sacked once and was barely rushed Sunday by the Lions’ front four in the first 58 minutes. When it mattered, though, the Lions got the pressure they needed as Ndamukong Suh sacked Dalton with less than two minutes left. The Lions' secondary struggled to find A.J. Green, who blew past Houston for one touchdown and could have had a second if not for a fingertip saving play by safety Glover Quin.

Record-setting Calvin: On what might be the play of the year for Detroit, Johnson caught a 50-yard touchdown pass in triple coverage to tie the game at 24. On the play, he went over 100 yards receiving in a game for the 35th time, setting a franchise record. Herman Moore, who was in the press box Sunday, had 34. Johnson also became the third Lions player in history to score 60 touchdowns, joining Moore and Barry Sanders.

What's next: Detroit has its second straight home game, this time against Dallas. Then the team will be off for its bye.