NFC North: 2013 Week 9 Upon Further Review NFC

Upon Further Review: Packers Week 9

November, 5, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Green Bay Packers' 27-20 loss to the Chicago Bears on Monday night:

[+] EnlargeSeneca Wallace
AP Photo/Mike RoemerSeneca Wallace mostly struggled after taking over for injured Packers QB Aaron Rodgers on Monday.
Wallace’s woes: Backup quarterback Seneca Wallace has not won a game as a starter since Oct. 3, 2010, when he led the Cleveland Browns to a win over the Cincinnati Bengals. And it showed. He was rusty during his three-and-a-half-quarter relief appearance after Aaron Rodgers left the game after getting sacked on the game’s opening series. It showed up the most on third down, when Wallace was forced to make plays. The Packers were just 1-of-9 on third downs, including 1-of-8 with Wallace in the game. He missed a key throw on third-and-goal from the 5 to tight end Andrew Quarless in the third quarter. “Seneca, he needs to perform better, and he’ll definitely do that with a week of practice,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said after the game. “We’re on a short week.”

Running game not enough: Usually, when the Packers go heavy on the run, they win. But not even 199 yards rushing, including a career-best 150 from rookie Eddie Lacy, was enough. The Packers ran the ball on designed rushes 50.9 percent of the time (28 of 55 plays) against the Bears. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Packers had a 33-2 record since 2008, the year Rodgers took over as the starter, when calling designed rushes at least 40 percent of the time. Lacy had 97 yards after contact, the most by any running back in a game this season, and had 110 of his rushing yards between the tackles, the most by a Packers running back since Week 5 of the 2010 season. In all, the Packers gained 156 of their rushing yards between the tackles, the most the Bears have allowed since Week 11 of 2008 (157, also against the Packers), according to ESPN Stats & Information. “We knew we could go out there and run the ball,” Packers left guard Josh Sitton said. “That was our game plan coming in. You know, we wanted to pound them on the ground and run play-action. We were able to do that throughout the whole game, we just couldn’t convert on third down a lot.”

Missed tackles: While missed tackles were a problem, Monday’s game wasn’t the Packers’ worst tackling performance of the season. According to, the Packers missed nine tackles against the Bears. A week earlier against the Minnesota Vikings, they missed a season-high 12 tackles. They also had an 11-missed-tackle game in Week 1 against the 49ers. Against the Bears, perhaps the bigger problem was not getting to the ball carrier soon enough. Running back Matt Forte ran for 80 of his 125 yards before contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. The Bears’ 113 yards before contact were the most the Packers have allowed this season. “They did pretty much what they wanted on our defense,” defensive tackle Ryan Pickett said. “We didn’t have a stellar performance at all.”

Special teams comes through: Half of the Packers' points came as the result of big plays on special teams. Jamari Lattimore's blocked punt in the first quarter led to James Starks' 32-yard touchdown run. In the third quarter, Lattimore recovered Mason Crosby’s surprise onside kick, which led to a 23-yard field goal. “I thought the special teams played well,” McCarthy said. “We recovered the surprise onside kick and then did a pretty good job with [Chicago return man] Devin Hester.”

Upon Further Review: Bears Week 9

November, 5, 2013
A review of four hot issues from the Chicago Bears' 27-20 win against the Green Bay Packers:

[+] EnlargeJosh McCown
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY SportsBears QB Josh McCown has seamlessly filled in for the injured Jay Cutler, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions in two games.
Offensive line: It has been a long time since Chicago’s offensive line protected this well against the Packers, and the group’s performance provides a glimpse of just how far the Bears have come. Not only did the Bears limit Green Bay’s defense to one sack, the line provided enough push in the ground game to allow the Bears to chew up eight minutes, 58 seconds on an 18-play drive in the fourth quarter with the club clinging to a four-point advantage.

Defensive line: Led by Shea McClellin, who churned out a career-high three sacks, Chicago’s front four finally generated a strong enough pass rush to produce a season-high five sacks. Along the way, the Bears knocked Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers out of the game, and there’s no question that played a significant role in the team’s success. Julius Peppers finally emerged as a disruptive force and tallied a sack and an interception in addition to batting down two balls. It would be easy to say the group pass rushed so well because of injuries to Green Bay’s offensive line. But let’s not lose sight of Chicago’s injury situation along the front four.

Then again: The defensive line bears some responsibility for the team’s horrid showing against the run. That needs to get fixed ASAP. It wasn’t as if Green Bay’s offensive line dominated the Bears up front, either. The gaping holes the Packers ran through on many occasions came as a result of improper run fits from the defensive line and linebackers. In addition, the safeties either took bad angles or tackled poorly, which resulted in extra yardage from the Packers after contact. Eddie Lacy averaged 6.8 yards per carry and gained 150 yards for Green Bay. That’s too much yardage allowed for the Bears to be consistently successful.

What to do with Cutler: Jay Cutler is expected to play Sunday when the Bears host the Detroit Lions in a showdown for sole possession of first place in the NFC North. But if there’s any question as to whether Cutler would be susceptible to reinjuring his torn groin muscle, the Bears shouldn’t hesitate to sit him another week and give Josh McCown another start. In his past two outings, McCown has proven plenty capable of engineering Chicago’s offense at a high level, generating passer ratings of 90.7 and 119.6 with three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Upon Further Review: Vikings Week 9

November, 4, 2013
A review of four hot issues following the Minnesota Vikings' 27-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday:

[+] EnlargeChristian Ponder
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsVikings quarterback Christian Ponder is tackled on a scramble by Cowboys cornerback B.W. Webb in the first quarter at AT&T Stadium.
Last-minute meltdown -- again: For the third time this season, the Vikings gave up a touchdown on a two-minute drill, and unlike in the first two games, which both occurred in September, players were willing to voice their frustrations with what went wrong. Both defensive end Brian Robison and defensive tackle Kevin Williams questioned the decision to rush three linemen for most of the last drive, giving Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo time to pick apart the team's depleted secondary. It will be interesting to hear what coach Leslie Frazier has to say about his players' comments today; Frazier has thrived on building consensus on his teams, but at 1-7, his veterans' criticisms are getting harder to ignore.

Peterson shines in Lone Star state: Adrian Peterson grew up just less than two hours from Dallas, and he bought tickets for 62 friends and family members on Sunday. Those who came to watch the reigning NFL MVP got a good show; Peterson ran for 140 yards on 25 carries, benefiting from a game plan that got him the ball after three straight weeks in which he failed to log more than 13 carries. Peterson also was as tough for the Cowboys to bring down as he was in his best moments last year; he averaged 8.5 yards per carry against eight-man fronts, which is easily his highest total this season. For as much as it's seemed like he's struggled, Peterson has 711 yards through eight games, which is only 64 yards behind where he was at this time last year -- although it should be mentioned that Peterson ran for 1,353 yards in the second half of the season last year.

Loadholt injured: The Vikings' five starting offensive linemen -- Matt Kalil, Charlie Johnson, John Sullivan Brandon Fusco and Phil Loadholt -- have started 25 straight games together, dating back to the first week of the 2012 season. That streak could be in jeopardy after Loadholt suffered a concussion during the second quarter of Sunday's game. And with the Vikings' next game on Thursday, it seems unlikely Loadholt will be able to return in time. J'Marcus Webb, Loadholt's replacement, gave up a sack in the end zone on the team's first play of the second half on Sunday, and the Cowboys' Nick Hayden recovered Christian Ponder's fumble for a touchdown. If Webb, who signed with the Vikings after the Chicago Bears cut him in August, can't protect Ponder on Thursday against the Washington Redskins, the Vikings could be in for more headaches.

Ponder back in the saddle: The quarterback appears likely to start again on Thursday after going 25-of-37 for 236 yards, a touchdown and an interception on Sunday; with a short week after a decent performance from Ponder, the Vikings probably won't turn to Josh Freeman yet. But it's worth asking at this point when, or if, the team will turn things over to Freeman. The Vikings have a 10-day break after Thursday's game, but their next two games are against two division leaders in two tough venues -- Seattle and Green Bay. If the Vikings want to see Freeman before December, they might have to bite the bullet and play him in a difficult environment.