- Kevin Seifert, NFL Nation
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All four NFC North teams made their preseason debuts Saturday night. Hooray and yippee.
As we discussed last week, preseason games don't rank high on my list of NFL excitement. But I understand not everyone feels this way, so what follows is an attempt to reasonably account for each game while giving direction to those seeking more information. We'll tweak and continue this format throughout the preseason.
San Diego Chargers 25, Chicago Bears 10
Preseason record: 0-1
Of interest: Quarterback Jay Cutler played only one series and threw only two passes, but it was notable that both went to receiver Johnny Knox. Early in training camp, Cutler clearly was favoring Knox, and many people around the NFL consider Knox the Bears receiver who best fits this offense. On the other side of the ball, the Bears had to be happy with rookie safety Major Wright's debut. In limited action, he was credited with seven tackles before leaving with a left hand injury. And, finally we heard from the long-forgotten Al Afalava. The 2009 starter intercepted a pass, but also appeared responsible for a blocked punt when he let San Diego's Brandon Lang pass into the backfield easily.
Local coverage: Wright had a "pad-popping" debut, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPNChicago.com. Special teams coordinator Dave Toub is still looking for the right combination, writes Jeff Dickerson of ESPNChicago.com. Offensive coordinator Mike Martz went with a vanilla approach, writes Sean Jensen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Backup quarterback Caleb Hanie suffered a right shoulder injury of undetermined severity, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune.
Next: Saturday vs. Oakland Raiders
Pittsburgh Steelers 23, Detroit Lions 7
Preseason record: 0-1
Of interest: The Lions' new defensive line performed as advertised. Right end Kyle Vanden Bosch got to Steelers quarterback Byron Leftwich twice, forcing poor throws, and left end Cliff Avril had a sack. As we discussed during our camp tour, that's the kind of game-to-game performance the Lions' defense will need to improve this season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford's interception came off a rushed, high pass that was tipped by his receiver. Call it a wash. On the other hand, his 2-yard touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson clearly reflected elevated communication.
Local coverage: Running back Jahvid Best's quickness was as advertised, writes Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press. Chris McCosky of the Detroit News: "Several of the players and position groups the Lions are counting on to push them toward respectability made encouraging first impressions Saturday. However, there were still too many remnants of the old horror show on display." The Lions lost linebacker Jordon Dizon (knee) for the season, according to Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
Next: Saturday at Denver Broncos
Cleveland Browns 27, Green Bay Packers 24
Preseason record: 0-1
Of interest: You're reading this right: The Packers' starters were down 14-0 midway through the first quarter of this game. And I wouldn't say their defense was playing vanilla schemes, either. I know I saw cornerback Charles Woodson on at least one blitz. Take that for what you will. More concerning to me was the night of tailback Ryan Grant, who lost a rare fumble on his first carry and later stumbled to the sideline after a head injury. It's not believed serious, but it was a reminder of the Packers'questionable depth behind him. Oh, and quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 12 of 13 passes for 159 yards. Ho hum.
Local coverage: Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette: "[T]he Packers were looking to be better than they showed entering their second year in defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 defensive scheme." The Packers' performance "made it clear that the team has some work to do before making travel plans for Dallas in February," writes Jason Wilde of ESPNMilwaukee.com. Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: "There's no shame in giving up an 80-yard drive to crafty veteran Jake Delhomme, who probably will be the Cleveland Browns' starting quarterback opening day, but when your starters give up 162 yards and three touchdowns, it makes it look as though you've been pussyfooting around all summer."
Next: Saturday at Seattle Seahawks
Minnesota Vikings 28, St. Louis Rams 7
Preseason record: 1-0
Of interest: Six players didn't make the trip because of injury, and two others -- middle linebacker E.J. Henderson and running back Adrian Peterson -- were in uniform but didn't play. The Vikings followed through on their plans to play quarterback Sage Rosenfels for most of the game, but to me it was odd that Tarvaris Jackson, who would be the team's starter if Brett Favre retires, got only one series. Doesn't he need more repetitions? And even though Rosenfels finished with 310 yards and three touchdowns, television cameras caught Brad Childress giving him an animated, one-sided coaching point in the first quarter.
Local coverage: Rosenfels downplayed his discussion with Childress and a separate incident with offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, according to Bob Sansevere of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune: "With their stars either in Mississippi, on the sideline or sitting at home, the Vikings early on looked like a team playing its first preseason game without its best players." Rosenfels exploited blown coverages, according to Tom Pelissero of 1500ESPN.com.
Next: Aug. 22 at San Francisco 49ers
All four NFC North teams made their preseason debuts Saturday night. Hooray and yippee.As we discussed last week, preseason games don't rank high on my list of NFL excitement.