NFC North Report Card: Week 10

The division race has tightened up as the Bears and Packers are on winning streaks, while the Vikings and Lions are a downslide.

PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Of all the poor passing performances by Bears quarterbacks since Rex Grossman's season-ending injury, this was the worst. Craig Krenzel completed just 10 of 28 passes and was sacked five times for the third straight week, leaving the Bears with 75 net passing yards. Krenzel also lost a fumble for the third straight week and was intercepted twice. WR David Terrell didn't help matter with three drops, and TE Desmond Clark could have prevented one of the picks by coming down with a high throw.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- With no threat of a passing attack, the Titans were able to crowd the line of scrimmage and repeatedly stuffed Anthony Thomas (72 yards on 29 carries) in the backfield. The Bears ran 34 times but never for more than nine yards.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- DE Michael Haynes returned his first career interception 45 yards for a touchdown, and the Bears sacked Billy Volek three times, including one for the game-winning safety in overtime. But they also allowed the Titans' backup to throw for 334 yards. WR Drew Bennett had six catches for 148 yards, frequently finding gaping holes deep in the Bears' secondary, and Derrick Mason caught seven for 91 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Bears forced Chris Brown (62 yards on 20 carries) to fumble twice in a three-play sequence in the middle of the second quarter, and his effectiveness was limited after that.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- R.W. McQuarters took a punt back 75 yards for a TD in the third quarter and then went 85 yards for an apparent TD on his next punt return, but it was nullified by an illegal block in the back. P Brad Maynard punted a season-high 11 times and continued his outstanding season with a net average of 43.2 yards and four punts inside the 20. PK Paul Edinger was wide left from 39 yards, which could have been critical without some late heroics by his teammates.

COACHING: C -- The defense has become a dangerous unit, and the rotation system along the D-line is functioning productively with several players making big contributions. The offense is dangerous, too ... to the Bears. They cannot continue to win with Craig Krenzel playing the way he is. With an ultraconservative game plan, coordinator Terry Shea might not be giving Krenzel a chance to succeed.

LIONS REPORT CARD VS. JAGUARS
PASSING OFFENSE: D
-- Virtually anything that could go wrong did go wrong. QB Joey Harrington had another subpar performance, his third in the past five games. His receivers had at least three drops and let another three or four catchable balls get away. And the windy, blustery weather conditions added to the Lions' inability to move the ball down the field. Except for Harrington's 46-yard throw to WR Roy Williams, who was inexplicably left uncovered on the play, the Lions wouldn't have had even 100 yards passing. Harrington's 11-for-33 and 121 yards with an interception boiled down to a 32.5 passer rating.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D-plus -- After struggling with an unsatisfactory three-man running back rotation, coach Steve Mariucci turned the job over to rookie RB Kevin Jones against the Jaguars. The change registered a slight improvement. Jones got all 19 carries and gained 81 yards (4.3 yards per attempt), which is six yards better than the Lions averaged in the first eight games, but it was hardly enough to provide a consistent ground threat.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Jaguars backup QB David Garrard (19-for-36, 198 yards, 2 TDs) didn't exactly torch the Lions secondary, but he was more than adequate filling in for injured Byron Leftwich, especially when he connected with WR Jimmy Smith for the game-winning 36-yard touchdown pass in overtime. The Lions sacked him three times but didn't make plays when they had to, except for a brief period in the fourth quarter.

RUN DEFENSE: F -- The Lions are getting worse and worse at stopping the run. They prided themselves on going 13 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher; now they have gone three consecutive games giving up 99 yards or more. RB Fred Taylor led the assault with 144 yards on 23 carries and Garrard had 42 yards on seven carries, helping the Jags to a total of 239 yards on 50 time-consuming rushing attempts.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- Kick returner Eddie Drummond single-handedly got the Lions back into the game and sent it into overtime with punt-return touchdowns of 55 and 83 yards. He set a club record with 199 punt-return yards, the third-best total in NFL history. The coverages were good, Nick Harris did a good job on punting and the new rookie LS Don Muhlbach passed his first NFL test. On the negative side, PK Jason Hanson missed a 32-yard chip-shot field goal attempt.

COACHING: D -- Mariucci finally made the move to turn the running game over the Jones, but that was about the only thing that worked right for the Lions. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron had no answers for the Jacksonville running game, and Mariucci let a costly 34 seconds run off the time clock before the two-minute warning when he had all three timeouts remaining.

PACKERS REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus
-- Brett Favre had a passer rating of 133. He was in total control against a Ted Cottrell-coordinated defense that tried to blitz but didn't have any luck. Favre wasn't sacked and was knocked down only once. RG Marco Rivera blocked three-technique DT Kevin Williams about 85 percent of the game and did an outstanding job. Javon Walker set the tone in the first possession, going over CB Brian Williams for a 50-yard touchdown. Ahman Green dropped two passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: A-minus -- The Packers pounded 35 times for 206 yards, including 145 in 21 by Green. The Packers ran toss after toss, which tired the Vikings' interior people and got Green to the edge. The toss probably has been their most effective play this season. Green made good reads all day. Nick Luchey failed to gain on fourth and 1 when he made the wrong read and stayed too far inside.

PASS DEFENSE: D-minus -- The good news was that Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila applied steady pressure against tackles Bryant McKinnie and Nat Dorsey and finished with two sacks. The bad news was the coverage. Al Harris was excellent, but Ahmad Carroll, nickel back Michael Hawthorne and dime back Joey Thomas really struggled. Also, strong backer Hannibal Navies was humbled by TE Jermaine Wiggins, who caught six passes for 94 yards.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Vikings didn't really even try to run. They tried 16 times and gained 71 yards, a decent 4.4 average. But with all the success Daunte Culpepper was having, coach Mike Tice didn't think running was necessary. FS Bhawoh Jue, starting for injured Darren Sharper, made several knifing tackles in situations when teammates were out of position.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Ryan Longwell is one of the game's great kickers. He made a 43-yarder as time expired in the first half and then a 33-yarder as time expired to win the game. His kickoffs were OK. Punter Bryan Barker had three punts, none of which were any good. TE Ben Steele made an enormous recovery of a fumble by Ferguson late in the fourth quarter to set up Longwell's winning boot.

COACHING: C-plus -- The Packers moved the ball up and down the field. Early in the third quarter, Mike Sherman got greedy and went for it on fourth and 1 at the Minnesota 15. The Packers led by 14 at the time and could have made it a three-possession game. When they were stopped, the Vikings' comeback got under way. Defensive coordinator Bob Slowik has a unit that is blowing way too many coverages. It will come back to haunt the Packers unless the problem is corrected.

VIKINGS REPORT CARD FOR PACKERS GAME
PASSING OFFENSE: B-plus
-- QB Daunte Culpepper threw for 363 yards and four touchdowns and had a 117.9 passer rating. But the passing game sputtered in the first half as the Vikings fell behind 24-10. WR Nate Burleson, who caught 11 passes for 141 yards and a touchdown, dropped what would have been a 22-yard touchdown pass late in the second quarter. The Vikings settled for a field goal. Culpepper also was sacked four times. Although the offense was revived in a 14-point fourth quarter, it still missed WR Randy Moss, who was sidelined for the second consecutive game because of a strained right hamstring.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Vikings ran the ball only 16 times, including two reverses by receivers, and were forced to ditch the run because the Packers kept scoring touchdowns. Michael Bennett started and showed a good burst for the first time this season, on an 11-yard run. He and Onterrio Smith tied with a team-high 21 yards rushing on five carries (4.4). But Culpepper was the most effective runner with 19 yards on three carries.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Brett Favre had one of his easiest games against the rival Vikings. He threw three of his four touchdowns in the first half, including a 50-yarder to Javon Walker that started the scoring. The Vikings couldn't stop the run and didn't come close to sacking Favre. With a running game and time to throw, Favre nearly can't be stopped. The Vikings did manage to force the Packers to go three-and-out on two consecutive possessions in the fourth quarter, stopping Favre passes short on third down both times. That enabled the Vikings to score two touchdowns and tie the score at 31-31.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- After rushing for 261 yards in the last meeting last season at the Metrodome, the Packers ran for 206 on 35 carries (5.9) on Sunday. Ahman Green had 145 yards on 21 carries (6.9), including a ridiculously easy 35-yarder followed by a 17-yard sweep that led to a touchdown, giving the Packers a 21-10 lead late in the second quarter. The Vikings' linebackers were nowhere to be found on either of Green's runs in that three-play scoring romp. The run defense was considerably better in the second half. LB E.J. Henderson and DT Spencer Johnson stuffed FB Nick Luchey for no gain on fourth-and-one from the Vikings' 15 midway through the third quarter.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- New kickoff specialist Jose Cortez was a flop in his first game as a replacement for Aaron Elling, who is out for the season because of a broken right ankle. Cortez's short kickoffs led to returns of 55 and 37 yards by Robert Ferguson. The latter, which went to the Green Bay 46 with 1:11 left in the game, set up Ryan Longwell's game-winning 33-yard field goal as time expired. The Vikings believe a fumble by Ferguson on the critical return was recovered by CB Derek Ross and then stolen by Packers TE Ben Steele, a former Viking, at the bottom of a pile of players. The officials ruled Steele recovered the ball. Vikings P Darren Bennett had another horrendous game, averaging 35.2 yards on five punts. Burleson had one punt return for minus-1 yards. And Kelly Campbell returned five kickoffs for a 19.6-yard average.

COACHING: D -- Coach Mike Tice can argue all he wants that the current three-game losing streak isn't the same as last year's historic collapse. But if it looks the same, smells the same ... it is the same. So far. Yes, the Vikings have lost on last-second field goals at Indianapolis and Green Bay, as opposed to being blown out at San Diego and Oakland, as they were last year. But the bottom line is this team is reeling big-time, and Tice is struggling to keep it from imploding. The Vikings badly need WR Randy Moss to return from his hamstring injury. With games at home against Detroit and Jacksonville the next two weeks, the Vikings aren't done yet. But until they win, last year's 3-7 slide after a 6-0 start will be shoved in their face on a daily basis. Offensively, the Vikings scored on their first possession, which is a rarity, but then they went into a funk before pouring it on in the fourth quarter. Defensively, Ted Cottrell's group had no clue how to stop the Packers' cutback runs in the first half. Cottrell made some good adjustments in at halftime, but ultimately the run defense and lack of pressure on Favre was too much to overcome.


Bear Report Top Stories