NFL Nation: Anthony Adams
Former San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Anthony Adams produced quite a few laughs recently with a video parodying his "retirement" from the NFL.
Adams didn't retire so much as teams stopped calling him once his contract with the Chicago Bears expired following the 2011 season. That's the way it is for so many NFL players, including some of the ones we discussed earlier Tuesday.
One year, you're in the starting lineup and one of the guys. The next year, it's as though you never existed.
I've been thinking lately about how humbling it must be for someone such as Nnamdi Asomugha, widely regarded as a top cornerback within the last couple years, languishing on the market while reportedly deciding between the 49ers and New Orleans Saints. There is no bidding war over Asomugha or anyone else at this stage of free agency.
Before Adams produced his retirement video, he made the one at the top of this post, parodying life as a free agent. That video comes to mind in relation to many of the accomplished players without contracts as March turns to April. Instead of enjoying the free-agent high life reserved for a select few, Adams portrayed life on the market as filled with anxiety and self-delusion. At one point, he scrambles into action as if a job offer is coming through, only to discover someone tried to engage him in a game of "Words With Friends" on his smartphone.
Funny stuff, unless you're the one waiting for that call.
Ryan Donahue was deactivated before the game because of his strained right quadriceps. As expected, newcomer Robert Malone will punt and hold for place-kicker Jason Hanson, who returned from the bye week with stitches in his left knee after an accident.
Watching Hanson in pregame warmups has been interesting. Amid windy conditions, Malone bobbled one snap, just after Hanson had hit the right upright from 47 yards. On the next kick, Hanson badly pulled a 52-yarder left of the uprights. After changing sides, Hanson slipped during an attempt from about 30 yards. Hanson, who has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, was significantly short from 49 yards at that end.
Meanwhile, Bears kick returner/receiver Devin Hester (ankle) is active for this game. The Bears made one notable change to their starting lineup, announcing that Anthony Adams will start at nose tackle.
Green Bay Packers
Opponent: Indianapolis Colts
Location: Lucas Oil Stadium
Day/Time: Friday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Coach Mike McCarthy estimated that starters will play midway through the second quarter. Although they could see extra time, it's not expected that McCarthy will bring them out for the third quarter. ... Receiver/returner Randall Cobb (knees) and defensive end Mike Neal (knee) aren't expected to play. Receiver Greg Jennings (knee) could join them on the sideline. Running back James Starks (ankle) and linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring) should return from a week off.
Focal point: I'm curious to track how the Packers' offense performs when it is not in the no-huddle. That alignment has given them most of their success in the preseason, but I'm assuming they won't be running it every play during the regular season. From a competition standpoint, it's worth keeping a close eye on how tailback Ryan Grant performs and if Starks picks up where he left off before the ankle injury. Could Starks lay claim to the starting job with a strong showing?
Opponent: Tennessee Titans
Location: LP Field
Day/Time: Saturday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Most starters will play at least a half. ... Receiver Sam Hurd (ankle), linebacker Lance Briggs (knee) and defensive tackle Anthony Adams (calf) have been ruled out. Tight end Kellen Davis (back) could miss the game, while cornerback Zack Bowman (concussion) appears likely to resume playing.
Focal point: The Bears' current offensive line configuration could lock itself into a Week 1 assignment with a solid outing that builds off last week's performance against the New York Giants. On the other hand, receiver Roy Williams needs to make a few catches in order to assure the Bears he is worthy of the starting job they handed him in training camp. Like most NFL teams, the Bears would like to see their offense produce a few touchdown drives before the preseason is over. Finally, I would like to see the Bears' defensive line rotation start shaking itself out. It's not clear at this point if they have a legitimate backup defensive end or if any of their two reclamation projects, Vernon Gholston and Amobi Okoye, will provide any help.
Opponent: New England Patriots
Location: Ford Field
Day/Time: Saturday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Starters will play around half of the game... Running back Jahvid Best (concussion) and Maurice Morris (hand) aren't expected to play, so the Lions are likely to start Jerome Harrison. Mike Bell, Aaron Brown and Stefan Logan will be available to rotate in. Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch (shoulder) is a strong candidate to sit out as well.
Focal point: The Lions' uncertain depth at running back will be on full display. By the end of the night, we should have an idea if they have someone capable of carrying a significant load while sharing the job with Best. On the other hand, fans might get their first look at rookie receiver Titus Young. Meanwhile, the countdown continues for the first preseason hit on quarterback Matthew Stafford. He told reporters this week: "You guys can ask all you want. I don't think about it. I just play football and whatever happens, happens."
Opponent: Dallas Cowboys
Day/Time: Saturday/8 p.m. ET
Personnel notes: Some starters are expected to play into the third quarter. ... The Vikings have a long injury list. Tight end Visanthe Shiancoe (hamstring), linebacker Heath Farwell (hamstring), linebacker Jasper Brinkley (hip), tailback Toby Gerhart (ankle), defensive tackle Kevin Williams (foot) and cornerback Asher Allen (toe) are among those who won't play.
Focal point: The Vikings' first-team offense has produced three points this preseason and isn't likely to be on the field much in the preseason finale. So Saturday night is their best and last chance to build some momentum for the regular season. The offense hasn't appeared disorganized or confused. It just hasn't had much punch yet and its personality is far from defined. It would also be helpful if rookie Christian Ponder can establish himself as the No. 2 quarterback so the Vikings can free up Joe Webb to focus on the Wildcat and other unique packages.
Veteran Anthony Adams was sidelined by a minor injury and could ultimately supplant Toeaina, and it's also possible that rookie Stephen Paea could work his way into the rotation. But based on recent personnel moves, and the lack thereof, it seems clear the Bears are counting on Melton to provide the interior disruption at the so-called "under tackle" position that is considered a fundamental building block of the Bears' scheme.
Fans who follow the Bears closely know that Melton flashed a few signs of promise at the end of last season, collecting 2 1/2 sacks over the final two months of the season, but no one can credibly stand up and say he is indisputably ready to take on a such a critical role on the defense.
"I'm just trying to establish myself right now," Melton said. "It's time for me to go out there and prove something."
Melton's relative inexperience at the position is stunning. He began his college career at Texas as a 280-pound running back, scoring 16 touchdowns during his first two seasons. He transitioned to defensive end midway through his career, actually losing 15 pounds to meet the program's size requirements, and didn't become a defensive starter until his senior year.
The Bears made him a fourth-round draft choice in 2009, and after a year on injured reserve, Melton played in 16 games last season as a reserve defensive end and occasional inside pass-rusher.
Is that the type of pedigree a Tampa-2 defense should be looking for in its under tackle? It's true that you can't have a proven veteran at every position, and the Bears can put All-Pro defensive Julius Peppers next to him. But they are without question taking a leap of faith with a player of unique athletic background but little seasoning at the position.
When I asked Peppers how he thought the Bears line was shaping up this summer, his answer was revealing.
"It hasn't shaped up," Peppers said. "It's still early. When we make the final team and see who we've got, we'll see what our expectations are. Right now it's kind of up in the air."
I don't think Peppers was implying the Bears will seek a new lineup via free agency or trades later this summer. He just put words to what is obvious: It's impossible to know if Melton is ready to take on this job. But the Bears have been talking up his candidacy for months, so I expect them to give him a long leash as the season begins.
To wit: In March, general manager Jerry Angelo said: "We feel, physically speaking, he's got everything you want in terms of size, speed, toughness. That's not any question. Now it's just a matter of learning the position and that will come with the repetition of more play."
To prepare for the role, Melton gained nearly 30 pounds and is now 295. He said the footwork he learned as a running back will help him because "you've got to position your feet around your opponent before you start using your hands" and suggested it is just a matter of time before he locks down the position.
"It's really just repetitions," he said. "You've got to really get in your groove. Once you get things going, the game really starts slowing down for you."
During a news conference with reporters Sunday, general manager Jerry Angelo suggested there aren't many intriguing possibilities left on the free agent market and implied the Bears were prepared to take their lumps while developing their own incumbents.
"These offensive linemen are tough to find," Angelo said. "We've got a good nucleus of young guys with traits we look for, but they've got to come together. We can't just run up and down the starting line, get a guy with a few games under his belt, and think that's the answer. They've got to come together. We like our young players. We need to develop some of them. How are you going to develop them if you don't play them? And if you don't play them, then how do they know you believe in them?"
"It's a catch 22. We brought in an experienced center who is in the prime of his career. That's the best we could do."
Angelo went on to chide reporters for identifying problems rather than offering solutions. ESPN.com's free agency tracker will show you all of the offensive linemen who re-signed with their previous teams and those who were willing to jump. That latter list includes guards David Baas (New York Giants), Daryn Colledge (Arizona Cardinals), Harvey Dahl (St. Louis Rams) and Robert Gallery (Seattle Seahawks).
But what's done is done. There is no sense harping on the Bears' decision/failure not to add experienced veterans to this group. It's more productive to look ahead at how the Bears will deal with the hand they've dealt themselves. In short, this situation gives offensive line coach Mike Tice the most difficult job of any NFC North assistant for the second consecutive season.
Once again, the Bears will ask Tice to build a line from scratch in the shortest timetable imaginable. Last season, it took nearly half of the regular season before the Bears found a happy medium between their scheme and personnel.
In addition to working Spencer into the mix, Tice will have to bring along rookie Gabe Carimi, who has opened camp as the second-team left tackle but almost assuredly will replace Frank Omiyale with the first team in short order. Tice will have to coax significant development from left guard Chris Williams and right tackle J'Marcus Webb, and he'll have to hope that Roberto Garza's shift between guard and emergency center doesn't set him back.
I'll agree with Angelo on this much: An aggressive move on free agency doesn't guarantee improvement. As it stands now, two of their five positions -- center and left tackle -- are likely to have been turned over by the start of the regular season. Is that enough? Or have the Bears sentenced themselves to another year of fits and starts on offense?
- Tailback Matt Forte reported amid rumors he was considering a contract holdout. ESPNChicago.com's Jeff Dickerson confirmed his presence. Whether Forte will practice Saturday is another story. Remember, in 2008 the Bears allowed receiver Devin Hester to miss practice (while attending meetings) until his contract extension was finalized.
- The Bears agreed to terms with defensive tackle Anthony Adams, who presumably returns as a full-time starter. We have discussed the possibility of the Bears pursuing free agent Brandon Mebane, but it appears the market for Mebane has gotten pretty expensive.
- As expected, the Bears wrapped up negotiations with first-round draft pick Gabe Carimi. Like the Detroit Lions, they will enter training camp with their entire draft class signed.
- To the right are two charts courtesy Jason Starrett of ESPN's Stats & Analysis group. They show how unreliable receiver Roy Williams has been since leaving the NFC North. The Bears, who reportedly have agreed to terms with Williams, are hoping that his return will reverse that trend.
But I'm less interested in where Ray Edwards, Cullen Jenkins, Tommie Harris and Cliff Avril will play in 2011 than in who might be joining one of our teams. (All indications, by the way, are that Avril will be a restricted free agent and thus will return to the Lions.)
First, the Bears should be in the market for experienced defensive tackles after releasing Harris. They've already made some moves, drafting Stephen Paea in the second round and indicating that Henry Melton could shift from end to tackle. But veteran Anthony Adams is a pending free agent, and Mebane's career track suggests he would be an upgrade.
Most recently, Mebane made two tackles behind the line of scrimmage in the Bears' 35-24 victory over the Seahawks in the divisional playoffs. Scouts Inc. offers this take on his strength as a player: "He has enough power to hunker down and clog things up on the inside and can be extremely quick off the ball to penetrate and create problems in the backfield."
Second, connections are always important when trying to predict free-agent movement. Mebane has two critical associations with the Bears. The man that drafted him in Seattle, Tim Ruskell, is now the Bears' vice president of player personnel. And the Bears' new defensive line coach, Mike Phair, spent the past six seasons with the Seahawks.
As we've discussed several times, offensive line should be the Bears' top priority in free agency. But on a secondary level, it makes sense to keep an eye on whether they'll take the seemingly obvious step of pursuing a player who makes sense for their team.
But in one of many twists we can expect in the structure of the 2011 offseason, the NFL Players Association has declared the franchise tag to be irrelevant until a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) is reached.
The existing CBA will expire March 3, and the reality is no players will be changing teams this offseason -- whether they are franchised or not -- until the league reaches a labor resolution.
It is possible, however, that players who are franchised now could be grandfathered into the next CBA. So it's at least worth discussing who might be candidates here in the NFC North. The exact salary levels, as well as the number of years required for unrestricted free agency, are yet to be determined. Below we've included players with at least four years of experience.
Team: Chicago Bears
Prominent players with expiring contracts: Defensive tackle Anthony Adams, tight end Desmond Clark, cornerback Corey Graham, quarterback Caleb Hanie, center Olin Kreutz, safety Danieal Manning, punter Brad Maynard, linebacker Nick Roach and linebacker Pisa Tinoisamoa.
Comment: Kreutz probably doesn't need to be protected with a tag. Hanie could garner interest around the league but would you guarantee him franchise money to stay?
Team: Detroit Lions
Prominent players with expiring contracts: Safety C.C. Brown, cornerback Chris Houston, defensive end Turk McBride and quarterback Drew Stanton.
Comment: Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com reports the Lions won't use the tag.
Team: Green Bay Packers
Prominent players with expiring contracts: Safety Jarrett Bush, left guard Daryn Colledge, running back Brandon Jackson, receiver James Jones, defensive end Cullen Jenkins and running back John Kuhn.
Comment: Jenkins is a possibility, although the Packers have a young player in Mike Neal who might be ready to take over his spot next season. Colledge's status is uncertain.
Team: Minnesota Vikings
Prominent players with expiring contracts: Defensive end Ray Edwards, linebacker Chad Greenway, linebacker Ben Leber, receiver Sidney Rice, defensive end Brian Robison and nose tackle Pat Williams.
Comment: Greenway and Rice are young players the Vikings would hate to part ways with. They have seemed cooler on Edwards' status.
They started with what seemed like a promising hand. They placed a significant amount of chips toward the center and stuck it out even when the hand appeared less promising. They finally realized there was little sense in folding based on how much they had already invested and how little more they stood to lose.
Quarterback Alex Smith is that once-promising hand. There's little sense in folding at this point. If anything, the odds for success improved after Smith finished last season with 18 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions playing basically half the season.
But what if the 49ers could ditch this hand in favor of a more proven one? What if the price were not prohibitive? What if they could acquire Donovan McNabb from the Eagles for, say, a second-round choice in the 2010 draft?
The 49ers already have two first-round choices. They could draft the offensive tackle they need and still get a potential starter at another position. The Eagles already have an extra third-round choice. An additional second-rounder would leave them with five choices in the first three rounds, tied with the Browns for the most in the league.
Let's look at this deal from an NFC West perspective. Would the Cardinals, Seahawks and Rams rather face the 49ers with McNabb or the 49ers with Smith and whichever player San Francisco drafted in the second round? I think they'd rather take their chances with Smith and the 2010 second-rounder.
Take a look at the last 10 players the 49ers have drafted in the second round: Chilo Rachal, David Baas, Justin Smiley, Shawntae Spencer, Anthony Adams, Jamie Winborn, John Engelberger, Jason Webster, Jeremy Newberry and Marc Edwards.
Some became good players. None could affect games the way good quarterbacks affect games.
Some Eagles fans are tired of McNabb. They think Philadelphia has gotten as far as McNabb can take them. They're ready for a change. The 49ers can have no such complaints. They haven't been a playoff team since 2002. They would gladly "settle" for multiple playoff appearances and a quarterback with a 92-49-1 (.651) regular-season starting record, according to Pro Football Reference.
Sanders' group gave up 549 yards, including 414 in the air to just-returned Texans quarterback Matt Schaub. There have been no obvious clues that coach Mike McCarthy would consider a change, but such performances -- especially two weeks after getting steamrolled in New Orleans -- tend to change things.
Because of injuries, Sanders had cornerback Charles Woodson starting at safety. His backup middle linebacker (Desmond Bishop) was starting on the outside. His starting outside linebacker (A.J. Hawk) was starting in the middle. And three opening day starters -- safety Atari Bigby, defensive end Cullen Jenkins and middle linebacker Nick Barnett -- were out altogether.
But Sanders told Green Bay reporters he won't use the injuries as an excuse:
"When you're responsible for something, I take that responsibility very, very seriously. So I'll continue to work. I won't back down until we find a way and get it back going because we've played some pretty good defense around here, and I know we can. It's my responsibility to get us back to doing that."
While it's not yet clear if Sanders will lose his job, it seems pretty obvious the Packers will have to make wholesale changes to their defense in the offseason.
Continuing around the NFC North:
- When it rains, it pours. Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher suffered a significant knee injury Sunday, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Tauscher almost certainly is out for the season.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune on Bears quarterback Kyle Orton: "When the Bears' ace is oblivious to adversity of any kind, good things happen. Against the Jaguars, Orton was a different quarterback from the guy who had been favoring his sprained right ankle since he injured it Nov. 2 against Detroit. ... The quarterback who completed 20 of 34 passes for 219 yards, two TDs and one interception on a frigid day against the Jaguars looked familiar."
- Finally, notes Vaughn McClure of the Tribune, Bears tight ends Desmond Clark and Greg Olsen caught a touchdown in the same game.
- Bears receiver Devin Hester has eight receptions for 147 yards in the past two games, notes John Dietz of the Daily Herald.
- Defensive tackle Anthony Adams tied for a team-high eight tackles in place of injured starter Dusty Dvoracek, writes Brad Biggs of the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Detroit coach Rod Marinelli made the mistake of trusting his defense in the fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to Minnesota, writes Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com.
- Kowalski also notes that quarterback Daunte Culpepper will undergo tests on his injured shoulder Monday.
- Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press: "The bleak goes on."
- FOX television apologized for airing a locker room video clip in which Vikings tight end Visanthe Shiancoe was naked, writes Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
- Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes the Vikings "limboed" to another victory Sunday: "The Vikings bent backward, tucked their chins in and barely limboed under the bar they should be vaulting."
Thursday should be another interesting day in Minnesota, where there could be action in two different courthouses pertaining to the NFL's suspension of six players for taking a banned diuretic.
First, there will be some kind of follow-up on the temporary injunction issued to Minnesota defensive tackles Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in Hennepin County District Court. At this moment, the players can return to the Vikings' practice facility and prepare for Sunday's game at Detroit, but the NFL seems likely to seek an immediate reversal of the injunction from Judge Gary Larson.
Second, the NFL Players Association is expected to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to overturn all six suspensions, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported late Wednesday night. One of the judges in that court is David Doty, who has maintained a long-time purview over the league's collective bargaining agreement.
The bottom line is that we're headed toward an unprecedented legal fight to get these six players eligible for Sunday's games. A final answer should come by Friday.
We'll keep you informed and also try to do a better job than we did Wednesday of spreading our coverage to the other teams in this division. Thanks for hanging in with is. This blog will always be a work in progress.
So let's take our morning spin:
- Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune wonders if the latest Vikings drama will motivate owner Zygi Wilf to wash his hands of the franchise and sell.
- Minnesota state law has some unique facets that could aid Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in their legal fight, writes Sean Jensen of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy defended his play calling on the goal line late in last Sunday's loss to Carolina, writes Greg A. Bedard of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. McCarthy, who called three consecutive runs before opting for a short field goal, said: "If you go and watch the film and you call my play calling conservative, I wouldn't agree with that. I mean, we pushed the ball down the field. We're not a conservative offense so I don't even know why we're talking about it. The quarterback threw the ball 45 times in the game."
- The Packers plan to use linebacker Brady Poppinga more as a designated pass-rusher, writes Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- Chicago defensive tackle Anthony Adams will get a shot to prove he can be a full-time starter over the final four weeks of the season, writes Bob LeGere of the Daily Herald. Adams will be replacing the injured Dusty Dvoracek in the starting lineup.
- David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune doubts that the Bears can win all four of their remaining regular-season games.
- As of Wednesday, the Detroit Lions had about 8,000 tickets remaining for Sunday's game against Minnesota and were facing another local television blackout, according to the Detroit Free Press.
- Lions quarterback Dan Orlovsky is close to being ready to play again, but he is out for Sunday, writes David Birkett of the Oakland Press. Daunte Culpepper will start and it's likely Drew Henson will be his backup.
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is running a fan poll on its Web site this week as Minnesota prepares for its matchup Sunday at Jacksonville.
The question: "Whom would you rather have coaching the Vikings?" The choices are current coach Brad Childress and his predecessor, Mike Tice. As of Wednesday morning, Tice was leading the voting 85 percent to 15 percent.
(You have to vote to see the results. I voted once for each to maintain my perfect record of objectivity).
Unscientific as it might be, the poll suggests some fans have come around on Tice's tenure after applauding his firing in 2006. It also speaks to the backup quarterback syndrome, which dictates that fans crave whoever isn't playing quarterback, or coaching, at the time of the question.
Tice, now the Jaguars' assistant head coach/tight ends, had a 33-34 record in four seasons with the Vikings. Childress is 19-23 in Year 3. Speaking this week to the Star Tribune's Mark Craig, Tice said he was proud to have been "competitive each week" given the limitations of working for a franchise that was on the selling block for most of his time as coach.
Tice also said that his admission to scalping 12 Super Bowl tickets in 2006 has blocked his chances of getting another head coaching job.
"I'm absolutely sure the ticket thing will harm me because it harmed me last year with one particular team," Tice said. "The team came out and told my agent that they wouldn't consider me because of that. But you make your bed. You have to sleep in it."
Tice would not identify the team.
Continuing around the NFC North this morning:
- The Vikings never announced it, but according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune, the team has extended the contract of vice president of football operations Rob Brzezinski. The agreement occurred during the spring, at about the same time vice president of player personnel Rick Spielman's contract was extended.
- Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune suggests that fans get off the back of defensive coordinator Bob Babich and jump on coach Lovie Smith: "The assumption here is that Smith, not Babich, is really running the defense."
- Could defensive tackles Marcus Harrison and Anthony Adams get more playing time? The Chicago Sun-Times delves into that question in its Two-Minute Drill.
- The Green Bay Packers are three defensive touchdowns away from tying the NFL record of 10, set by the 1998 Seattle Seahawks. Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette has the story.
- Really good read from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Lori Nickel, who profiles nickel back Tramon Williams, who went to Louisiana Tech to be a full-time student -- working odd jobs to pay his way -- before walking onto the football team.
- Detroit has three consecutive home games coming up, but as Terry Foster of the Detroit News points out, the Lions have been better on the road. Their margin of defeat this season at Ford Field has averaged 20.5 points, while they have lost by an average of 9.3 on the road.
- Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press offers six suggestions for maintaining a winless season. Among them: Continuing to "think inside the box."
ATLANTA -- The Chicago Bears will face Atlanta's top receiver today without one of their top cornerbacks.
That was the upshot of Sunday's inactive list here at the Georgia Dome. Bears cornerback Nate Vasher will miss his second consecutive week because of a wrist injury, leaving Charles Tillman and Corey Graham to defend Falcons receiver Roddy White.
White leads the Falcons with 26 receptions but suffered a concussion Wednesday during practice. He sat out the rest of the week but apparently will give it a go Sunday.
APPLETON, Wis. - This town got off to a rousing start Monday morning. We're headquartered in Appleton, about 30 miles away from Green Bay and the home of most visiting teams for Packers games.
So it was pretty easy to connect the dots of intention when a truck cruised down College Ave., slowed down considerably in front of the Minnesota Vikings' hotel, and started laying on the horn like there was no tomorrow. Not sure what time the Vikings' wakeup call was Monday morning, but we're doubt anyone slept past 7 a.m. CT. Gametime: 11 hours.
We'll be heading up to Green Bay in a few hours and should be in Lambeau Field by early afternoon, where the blogging will commence in earnest. In the meantime, here are extended posts I wrote on the Vikings-Packers rivalry and the teams' running games.
We've brought you our "Black and Blue all over" feature since the ESPN blog network launched in July, with a goal of distilling the volume of NFC North-related stories. We hope this will be an especially valuable service on Monday mornings, considering the thousands of words most newspapers still devote to Sunday games.
Monday night's matchup between the Packers and Vikings left us with only two games Sunday, and like most people, we were surprised by the outcome of both. The Detroit Lions looked nothing like the calm and crisp team that sailed through preseason, while the Chicago Bears were able to turn the switch in time to post an improbably dominant victory at Indianapolis.
Looking at the highlights of Monday's coverage:
- Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times noted the Bears' impressive victory. But, as only a Chicago media member can, Mulligan pointed out the Bears caught the Colts at the right time. Peyton Manning missed the preseason because of a knee injury. The interior of the Colts' offensive line was new. Lucas Oil Stadium robbed the Colts of their hometown crowd weapon. And they're an easy team to run against. Otherwise, it was a great win.
- The Bears made two personnel changes official: Kevin Payne is the new starting safety while Dusty Dvoracek unseated Anthony Adams at nose tackle.
- Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye had a dominating night, as the Chicago Tribune writes. Three of Ogunleye's six tackles were behind the line of scrimmage, including a safety.
- Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press puts the Lions' opener in perspective: "When the Atlanta Falcons put a whupping on you, it's time to close shop."
- Lions quarterback Jon Kitna was trying to stop the confidence bleed afterwards. "You cannot allow yourself to get in the mindset of, it's the same old thing," Kitna said, according to the Free Press.
- Kitna was part of a sideline dispute with several Lions assistant coaches, but downplayed it afterwards.
- Speaking of the same old thing: Receiver Roy Williams had one acrobatic touchdown reception, but he admitted to making the wrong adjustment on another play, leading to a third-quarter interception.
- Tom Kowalski of Mlive.com writes the Lions' poor tackling Sunday is a reflection of a basic lack of talent, not a lapse in coaching.
- Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune and Jason Wilde of the Wisconsin State Journal touch on the rivalry between the teams they cover. Wilde asked coach Mike McCarthy if he disliked the Vikings more than any other NFL team. McCarthy responded with a broad smile that lasted for 15 seconds before Wilde realized that was his (non-) answer.
- Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes that its time for the Packers' offensive line to come of age, even with injuries that have forced lineup changes at three positions: "Either play up to the standards of a real NFL offensive line -- starting tonight against the Minnesota Vikings -- or step aside for someone else."