NFC North: Brian Dawkins

Free Head Exam: Chicago Bears

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
11:15
AM ET
After the Chicago Bears' 51-20 victory over the Tennessee Titans, here are three issues that merit further examination:
  1. Free Head Exam
    ESPN.com
    The Bears' schedule is about to get much more difficult, with consecutive games against the 7-1 Houston Texans and the 6-2 San Francisco 49ers. But while we have a moment, we should note how well the Bears have eaten through the softer part of their season. Through nine weeks of the season, during which they've played one less game than some teams because of an early bye, the Bears have the highest point differential (116 points) in the NFL. That means they've outscored their opponents by a larger sum of points than any other team. The Texans are next at 100, followed by the New England Patriots at 92. Margin of victory is a mostly meaningless statistic in the NFL, unless the league needs to use its seventh or eighth tiebreaker to determine playoff inclusion or seeding. But it speaks to the Bears doing what good teams do: Beat up on lesser opponents.
  2. What more can we say about Charles Tillman's season that we haven't already? He forced another four fumbles Sunday, bringing his season total to seven and allowing him to pass Charles Woodson on the NFL's all-time list for forced fumbles by a defensive back. Tillman has 34 in his career, second only to Brian Dawkins' 36. Keep in mind Dawkins played 16 years and Woodson is in his 15th season. Tillman's patented ability to punch the ball out of an opponent's hands has put him in the record books. We've mentioned him in the MVP discussion already. It's an unlikely scenario given the recent history of the award, but Tillman should be in the realistic conversation for NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The NFL record for most forced fumbles in a season is 10, according to pro-football-reference.com.
  3. We've spent some time discussing why the Bears have favored Michael Bush over Matt Forte near the goal line. So it's worth noting that when Forte scored on an 8-yard run in the first quarter, it was his first goal-to-go carry of the season. Bush had taken each of the six such plays the Bears had run on this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and scored on three of them. Entering the season, Forte had the fourth-most goal-to-go rushes in his career and the lowest number of touchdowns among qualified runners. He now has 10 touchdowns on 87 goal-to-goal carries over five seasons.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Receiver Brandon Marshall's three touchdown receptions brought his total to seven this season. Five of them have come with the Bears holding at least a 17-point lead. Quarterback Jay Cutler acknowledged that early leads have created more favorable one-high safety looks from opposing defenses, which apparently are assuming the Bears will run the ball with a lead. That's not to diminish anything Marshall has done this season. He has provided a play-making element the Bears haven't had in perhaps their history. But the real test for Marshall and the Bears will be whether he can help them build leads against the likes of the Texans, 49ers and Green Bay Packers. He's done it twice, against the Indianapolis Colts and Detroit Lions. It's much more difficult to operate against an opponent that is close behind than in a game that is a blowout. Can Marshall and Cutler do it? Let's see.

Free Head Exam: Detroit Lions

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
3:55
PM ET
After the Detroit Lions' 45-10 victory against the Denver Broncos, here are three issues that merit further examination:
  1. Matthew Stafford was speaking quickly Sunday as he walked reporters through his 56-yard touchdown pass to receiver Calvin Johnson. But I think I got the gist of it. Stafford called a "center double-head nod" on the play, partially because the Broncos had been jumping the Lions' snap count, but also because he wanted to see if safety Brian Dawkins would tip off his coverage by leaning toward Johnson at what he thought would be the snap. Otherwise, Johnson would be in single coverage against Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey. Dawkins didn't lean, according to Stafford, and that's why he decided to give Johnson a shot down the left sideline.
  2. Head Exam
    Kevin SeifertFollowing their win against the Broncos, the Lions take their turn in the examination room.
  3. I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I think you're taking it too far if you think Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch was mocking the act of prayer and/or God by "Tebowing" after a sack in the first half Sunday. I'm guessing Tulloch got some pushback from somewhere, because Monday he tweeted: "I have a love & passion for the game of football. Football is a form of entertainment. Have a sense of humor, I wasn't mocking GOD! #Tebowing." Yes. Let's everyone lighten up on this one.
  4. Many of us probably imagined Tulloch as a traditional run-stopping middle linebacker when he arrived from the Tennessee Titans. So it's been interesting to see the Lions put Tulloch in a spy role twice this season, on Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow and Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Tulloch has performed well in those situations, generating a sack in each game and giving running quarterbacks that face the Lions in the future something to consider. "Whenever you have a quarterback like that, as a free player in man coverage, you don't want to take your eyes off him," Tulloch said.
And here is one issue I still don't get:
Are the Lions going to get running back Jahvid Best back this season? I'm not sure if anyone knows the answer to that question. It's obviously taking some time for Best to recover from his second concussion in three months. The bye will give him a third week of recovery. Although every concussion is different and all are unpredictable, they typically fall into a couple of categories in the NFL. One requires perhaps a week or two of downtime before a return to the field. The other takes longer and begins to impact conditioning and other factors. If Best isn't ready to play when the Lions return from their bye, it will be fair to question the likelihood of a 2011 return. Monday, coach Jim Schwartz told reporters: "We'll see. It’s one of those things that you really can’t have a timetable on."

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