NFC North: Bears-Lions

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert
Williams

DETROIT -- What's wrong with the Lions' offense? It took a while, but receiver Roy Williams finally provided his theory late Sunday afternoon.

"How many yards did we have rushing today? ... Fifty-four. That's what's my opinion is. It's the running game. If we can run the ball, and keep our defense off the field, and run that clock, I think we have a good chance to win. Run the football."

It's a bit surprising to hear a receiver suggest a team needs to run the ball. But Williams isn't necessarily suggesting the Lions should run more -- just better. Sunday, they managed 54 yards on 13 carries, including a 12-yard touchdown run from rookie Kevin Smith. In four games this season, the Lions have 289 yards rushing as a team.

Of course, it's also convenient for a player with minimal impact on the running game to suggest that it needs the most work. Williams caught seven passes for 96 yards Sunday, but no one considers the Lions' passing game particularly proficient right now.

 
 AP Photo/Paul Sancya
 Kyle Orton torched the Lions with a career-high 334 yards passing.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- I did a quick count Sunday afternoon as I left the locker room. I've covered 20 Lions games since 1999, a representative sample that I think gives me the authority to say they're as bad now as they have been at any point in the past 10 years.

Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Chicago Bears reflected an embarrassing lack of preparation and left the Lions in total disarray. Worst yet, they have 12 games left to play.

We'll get into the status of Jon Kitna -- the team said back spasms, not performance, forced him out of the game at halftime -- and fill you in on a colorful postgame interview with receiver Roy Williams.

First, however, it's only sporting to admit -- yes -- the Bears are the class of the NFC North. While the Lions weren't competitive after the first quarter, the Bears deserve credit for producing the most complete performance of a division team this season.

Five weeks into 2008, Chicago is the only NFC North team with a winning record. Sunday, its defense forced two turnovers -- not bad considering it was on the field for only 56 plays -- while limiting the Lions to 12 first downs and 185 total yards. And the offense rolled up 425 yards even though their most productive skill position player, tailback Matt Forte, managed only 36 yards on 15 carries.

The Bears are 3-2 and have yet to play a division game at Soldier Field. It's still very early, but in essence the division title now goes through Chicago.

"Our goal is about getting on top of the division and staying there," coach Lovie Smith said.

The Bears seemed to be reeling two weeks ago after an overtime loss to Tampa Bay, a defeat that dropped them to 1-2. Since then, they have followed a newly aggressive offense to an early lead Sept. 28 over Philadelphia and Sunday in Detroit.

"We feel if we execute, that's the kind of offense we can be on a consistent basis," quarterback Kyle Orton said. "We feel like we're in a good spot."

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Rapid Reaction: Bears 34, Lions 7

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
4:05
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- While watching Sunday's affair at Ford Field, it was hard to know exactly where the Chicago Bears' dominance ends and the Detroit Lions' incompetence begins.

Nearly everything the Bears tried to do worked, and the Lions could hardly string together three consecutive positive plays in a 34-7 Bears victory. But give credit where its due: As the sun sets on Week 5, the Bears sit alone atop the NFC North.

In fact, they're the only North team with a winning record, but who's counting? Any way you look at, the Bears produced the most convincing performance of any team in the division this season.

Most interestingly, at least to me, is that the Bears used their passing game to jump on an opponent for the second consecutive week. Quarterback Kyle Orton threw for a career-high 334 yards, and even with the big lead, the Bears called more passes (35) than running plays (30) before Orton was replaced by Rex Grossman.

If you're a Detroit resident, don't be concerned. Fans have been streaming out of Ford Field since early in the third quarter. At the final gun, about seven people were still in the stands. There should be no Sunday afternoon traffic disruptions.

Be back with you in a few hours.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- Lions receiver Roy Williams is a pretty emotional player, but he's downright showing up his quarterback here in the second half of a rout at Ford Field.

I'm sitting approximately three miles above the field, and even I can see Williams motioning demonstrably every time quarterback Dan Orlovsky misses him. One incompletion bounced off Williams' hands and into those of Chicago cornerback Charles Tillman, who returned it 26 yards for a touchdown.

There was little doubt that Williams thought it was a bad pass as he held both arms behind him while walking off te field. On another play, Williams tried to kick a pass that landed at his feet.

The Bears are dominating this game in all areas, and I suppose it's good that Williams is taking it seriously. But directing his emotions at Orlovsky probably isn't helping anything. We'll be back with you shortly after the game and again a few hours later.

Lions turn to Orlovsky

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
3:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- That roar you just heard was the remaining Lions fans here cheering for backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who just replaced starter Jon Kitna.

We're not aware of any injury to Kitna, who threw for 74 yards in a disjointed first half. Orlovsky has been warming up since the end of halftime, and Kitna is on the sideline with nothing obvious -- other than his team's performance -- bothering him.

The Bears have extended their lead to 24-0 on Matt Forte's second touchdown of the game.

There was plenty of bye week discussion about the possibility of elevating No. 3 quarterback Drew Stanton, but in reality Stanton is not close to being ready to play. Orlovsky has never been considered a likely possibility as the Lions' long-term starter, but with all else lost Sunday, he's getting his chance.

Someone say mercy

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
2:33
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- This is how bad it is Sunday afternoon at Ford Field: With 40 seconds remaining, the normally conservative Chicago Bears called a timeout with hopes of getting the ball back and padding their lead before halftime.

Alas, Chicago got off only more play after taking possession at its 10-yard line. But it's clear that the Bears -- like most everyone in attendance here -- has little regard for the Lions' competitiveness. It's 17-0 at halftime and Detroit looks like a team that has only installed half of its offense.

Twice, quarterback Jon Kitna threw deep and when his receiver cut off his route. There is little imagination and less execution. Officially, the Bears have held the Lions to five first downs and 67 total yards.

Chicago could very well end this day with sole possession of first place in the NFC North. They'll be deserving -- as will the Lions with their position in the cellar.

No relief for Lions offense

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
1:49
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- The Lions' bye week wrinkle was a modified no-huddle that looked a lot like the one Chicago used last Sunday night against Philadelphia.

So far, the results haven't changed much.

The Lions went three-and-out in all three offensive drives during the first quarter as the Bears built a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 lead.

The Ford Field crowd has been booing quarterback Jon Kitna from the outset. But the Lions' problems, at least early on, have looked systemic. Their entire offense is out of synch -- starting with, well, the starters.

Rookie tailback Kevin Smith told reporters he had been demoted during the week, but Smith started over veteran Rudi Johnson. But it was Johnson who got the Lions their initial first down, a 15-yard run early in the second quarter.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- After returning from a quick stroll on the Ford Field concourse, we found Chicago general manager Jerry Angelo preparing to talk with a group of Chicago-area reporters.

(Quick aside on Ford Field pre-game: Lots of Bears fans. Otherwise, to steal a quote from "Swingers," this place is dead.)

Angelo spoke this weekend with suspended defensive tackle Tommie Harris. Harris is expected to re-join the team Monday, and following the conversation, Angelo said: "I feel we've got a better understanding -- he of us and us of him."

The Bears suspended Harris for Sunday's game, reportedly because he was late for a rehabilitation assignment. Harris apparently told the Bears the same thing he has said publicly: That the punishment was harsh because he is having a difficult time dealing with a child he fathered out of wedlock.

Angelo said Harris "lost his focus" and that the team wanted to "get his attention." Harris doesn't have a sack this season and has been slowed by a knee injury, but Angelo said the Bears are confident he will return to his previous form soon.

"He's not done the things that we're used to seeing him do," Angelo said. "But when I look at him, there are certain pockets of his play that he looks just like Tommie. We just haven't seen a consistent Tommie for 60 minutes. That's what we're looking for, so that's what I feel we're going to see starting this week."

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Vasher won't play for Bears

October, 5, 2008
10/05/08
11:47
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- Chicago cornerback Nate Vasher was the most prominent name among today's inactive players for the Bears' game against Detroit.

Vasher has a hand injury and had been listed as questionable. Second-year player Corey Graham will start in his place.

Fellow cornerback Charles Tillman, who has a shoulder injury, will play.

It will be interesting to see if the Lions try to attack Graham early with receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson.

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DETROIT -- Don't know about you, but I'm curious to see (and hear) how Lions fans react early on during the first game of the PM (Post-Millen) era.

It seems a long time ago, but it's been less than two weeks since Lions owner William Clay Ford fired president/general manager Matt Millen. That move removes the most negative wind from the sail of Lions fans, most of whom made a habit in recent years of chanting "Fire Millen" and displaying variously creative placards that sent the same message.

The reality is this is the same group of players and coaches who went 4-0 in the preseason and then opened the regular season 0-3. Millen's departure will have little to no immediate impact on the on-field product, one way or the other.

But now that the shroud has lifted, will Lions fans react with seven years' worth of pent-up glee? Or will they wait, pensively, for something good to happen first on the field?

I've been here for plenty of awfully quiet days at Ford Field. If nothing else, perhaps the Lions will get a rare home-field advantage out of it.

I'm going to go take a stroll on the concourse here in a bit and will let you know what I pick up.

Audibles: NFC North Week 5 preview

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

Chicago Bears (2-2) at Detroit Lions (0-3), 1 p.m. ET

The Lions have had two weeks to prepare for a Bears team that could be without both starting cornerbacks Sunday at Ford Field.

Charles Tillman (shoulder) and Nate Vasher (hand) are nursing injuries and might not be available to defend Lions receivers Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson. Detroit spent the first three weeks of the season trying to establish their running game, but an 0-3 record suggests the Lions should re-focus around their two best players.

Offensive coordinator Jim Colletto, in fact, has said he expects to sprinkle more passes into the early part of the game. This could all be subterfuge for a team that truly plans to run Rudi Johnson at the Chicago defense all day, but it makes too much sense to think otherwise.

The Bears most definitely will point tailback Matt Forte north to attack a Lions run defense that is giving up an NFL-worst 207.7 yards per game, but we're guessing Detroit will work harder to maximize Williams and Johnson.

Green Bay Packers (2-2) vs. Atlanta Falcons (2-2), 1 p.m. ET

Whether Aaron Rodgers or rookie Matt Flynn starts at quarterback, you have to figure the Packers will rely more heavily on their running game Sunday against the Falcons. Rodgers hardly practiced during the week and at best will play with a sore right shoulder.

If Flynn starts, the Packers aren't likely to put him into more pressure situations than necessary. That means it's time for Green Bay tailback Ryan Grant and his offensive line to step up after averaging 93.5 rushing yards per game as a team during the first quarter of the season.

The Falcons haven't been competitive on the road, losing by 15 points at Tampa Bay and Carolina, and their run defense is ranked No. 23 overall in the NFL.

The Packers would be well-advised to limit their risks on offense, control the ball and keep their injury-depleted defense off the field.

Minnesota Vikings (1-3) at New Orleans (2-2), 8:30 p.m. ET Monday night

This game could provide a surprise two-way aerial show for viewers of ESPN's Monday Night Football.

We know all about the Saints' high-flying offense, which averages an NFL-high 327 yards passing per game. But the Vikings, coming off their best passing day of the Brad Childress era, are actually licking their chops as well.

The Saints have one of the league's worst pass defenses, having given up almost 250 yards per game. Gus Frerotte and Tarvaris Jackson combined for 272 passing yards last week at Tennessee, and receiver Bernard Berrian is predicting big things for Monday night's matchup.

Weekend programming note

October, 3, 2008
10/03/08
2:38
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

We'll be in Detroit to chronicle the first game of the Lions' PM (post-Millen) era Sunday. The Chicago Bears will be visiting as well, hoping to avenge last season's sweep at the hands of the Lions.

Look for pre-game, in-game and post-game analysis from Ford Field. We'll also keep you up to date on Green Bay-Atlanta, which has a 1 p.m. ET kickoff as well.

I won't be in New Orleans for the Vikings-Saints matchup on Monday Night Football, but it will be covered expertly by my colleague Pat Yasinskas of NFC South fame.

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