NFC North: John Shoop
It's a bit of a slow weekend here in the NFC North, in which the only divisional game scheduled involves a team that qualifies as the worst team in the entire league. (At least according to ESPN.com's weekly power rankings.)
David Birkett of the Oakland Press points out a particularly ignominious mark the Detroit Lions could approach Sunday against the Washington Redskins (in a blacked-out game at Ford Field.) The Lions haven't had a first-quarter score in six games this season; if they extend that run to seven, they'll move into a tie for third place on the NFL's all-time list in that category.
(The record is nine for you optimists out there.)
The pursuit of that mark should give you all the incentive you need to follow this game and check out our Rapid Reaction here later Sunday.
Continuing a bye weekend jaunt around the division:
- Carlos Monarrez of the Detroit Free Press profiles Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky, who helped turn around the University of Connecticut program in the early part of this decade.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune examines the status of Bears defensive coordinator Bob Babich, who doesn't have many friends among fans these days: "He has become to Lovie Smith what John Shoop was to Dick Jauron, a surprisingly polarizing assistant coach whose loyalty from his head coach is exceeded only by the scrutiny from his critics."
- Bears players are vowing to improve their defensive performance in the second half of the season, writes Carol Slezak of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette compares the Packers' 2008 offense under quarterback Aaron Rodgers to the 2007 version under Brett Favre. One of the few differences: This season, the Packers are running the ball on 44.7 percent of their snaps, up from 39.4 percent last season.
- Minnesota tailback Adrian Peterson has been more patient in 2008, according to Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Lost leads were the theme of Sunday's action in the NFC North.
Chicago held a 17-3 advantage in the third quarter but ultimately lost 20-17 at Carolina.
Green Bay sprinted to a 21-0 second-quarter lead before falling behind Detroit, 25-24, midway through the fourth.
Detroit saw its 25-24 lead vanish in a hurry, as the Packers scored 24 unanswered points in a 48-25 victory.
Minnesota led Indianapolis 15-0 late in the third quarter before losing 18-15.
What does it all mean? The national pundits weren't giving the division many high marks as the season began, and so far we know at least this: Only the Packers deserve credit for knowing how to win close games. For that reason, let's start with the defending division champions in our expanded Monday morning edition of BBAO:
- Cornerback Charles Woodson has earned extraordinary latitude with coach Mike McCarthy because of games just like Sunday, writes Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Woodson didn't practice all week because of a fractured toe, but he made two key interceptions in the fourth quarter. McCarthy: "He didn't even practice all week, and to go out and play at the level he did today, I just can't say enough about him and what his production obviously meant to our win today. I felt this individual, he turned that game around in the fourth quarter."
- Receiver Greg Jennings is emerging as new quarterback Aaron Rodgers' favorite receiver, writes the Press Gazette's Rob Demovsky.
- Do the Packers think they are as good as the 2007 team? "I do," defensive tackle Ryan Pickett told Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "Seriously, I really do."
- Lions quarterback Jon Kitna threw three interceptions Sunday, all in the fourth quarter. Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "[He] makes too many mistakes for a team with playoff aspirations."
- The Free Press' Mitch Albom: "Honestly, this franchise should rename itself 'Disneyland.' It guarantees a magical time." For opponents, of course.
- Did Lions receiver Roy Williams guarantee a victory next week in San Francisco? Here's what Williams said, according to Dave Birkett of the Oakland Press: "I think we're going to go across country and steal that victory and gear up for the bye week, relax, get our minds back together and get ready for the season."
- The Bears' Devin Hester was walking gingerly in the postgame locker room, writes the Chicago Tribune's Vaughn McClure. Hester suffered a rib injury Sunday and, needless to say, would be a huge loss for the Bears if he misses any time.
- Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune questions several of the Bears' late-game decisions, most notably quarterback Kyle Orton changing a third-and-1 run play to a pass. His throw to receiver Marty Booker was nearly intercepted. Morrissey: "In Chicago, that play is commonly referred to as a 'John Shoop.'"
- Bears tight end Greg Olsen on his two uncharacteristic fumbles: "Any time you have two critical errors that lead to your team losing, it's tough to swallow. That's really all there is to say. It's unacceptable."
- Booker played only seven snaps last week in Indianapolis but saw action on 23 plays Sunday, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times. Booker figures to replace Hester in the lineup, if necessary.
- Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press takes it to Vikings quarterback Tarvaris Jackson. Powers: "I don't know what it will take to eventually oust him. When does the Love Boat sail again?"
- A few Vikings players had choice words for each other in the locker room before reporters were allowed to enter, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune. "A lot of guys were angry," Jackson said.
- Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on his latest dropped touchdown pass: "Same old [stuff]." Shiancoe went on to tell Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune that he thought he had possession of Sunday's drop but admitted he put officials in a bad spot by releasing the ball after he hit the ground.