NFC North Replay

In the current state of the division, the Detroit Lions were able to take sole possession of first place without playing a game. For the third straight week, only one team in the NFC North came away with a win.

With a 1-1 record the Lions are in first place, the Bears and Vikings are tied for second at 1-2, while the three-time defending division champion Packers are in the cellar at 0-3.

Here's a look back at Week 3.

Chicago Bears
Kyle Orton threw three interceptions in the first 17 minutes of the Bears' 24-7 loss to Cincinnati, and he had four by halftime.

At that point, the Bears trailed only 10-0 and still had a chance to get back in the game. Still, Bears coaches said they didn't consider gong to the bullpen for veteran backup Jeff Blake, who played six of his 14 seasons with the Bengals.

Orton's fifth interception came on a diving grab by Deltha O'Neal 4:52 into the third quarter, at the Bengals 30-yard line. It preceded a 36-yard Carson Palmer-to-Chris Henry TD pass that victimized Charles Tillman and gave the Bengals a 17-0 lead with 7:03 left in the third quarter.

By then, even the confident Orton was showing signs of shellshock.

It also served to make the Bears one-dimensional, since the offense went heavily toward the run with Orton struggling. But the Bengals defense adjusted accordingly, keying on Thomas Jones, who rushed for 79 first-half yards on 14 carries. In the second half, Jones managed just 27 yards on 13 carries.

Green Bay Packers
Three more interceptions by Brett Favre, including two into the hands of safety Will Allen in the fourth quarter, kept the Packers from posting their first victory in a game that was theirs for the taking. Instead, Tampa Bay escaped Lambeau Field with a 17-16 win.

Favre had two touchdown passes but threw for only 195 yards, his sixth game of not hitting the 200-yard mark in his last seven games against the Buccaneers, dating back to 2000. The Packers have won only three of those contests.

The run game continued to sputter, with Ahman Green gaining only 58 yards on 19 carries against the league's stingiest rush defense. Green hasn't rushed for 100 yards in 10 straight games.

The defense shut out the Bucs in the second half after giving up a pair of early touchdown passes from Brian Griese to Joey Galloway.

Green Bay also held rookie Cadillac Williams, the league's top rusher, in check until he ripped off half of his 158-yard total in the final quarter. A 24-yard run up an empty gut before the two-minute warning sealed the Packers' first home loss to the Bucs in 14 meetings, dating to 1990.

A missed extra-point attempt by Ryan Longwell, only the fourth of his nine-year career, proved to be the difference on the scoreboard. A high snap from usually reliable Rob Davis was the culprit late in the first quarter. Longwell also was wide left on a 42-yard field-goal try in the third quarter.

Minnesota Vikings
After two horrible games, Daunte Culpepper finally looked like, well, Daunte Culpepper. The Vikings quarterback completed 21 of 29 passes for 300 yards and three touchdowns in a 33-16 victory over the New Orleans Saints.

The Vikings' special teams unit helped the team get off to a quick start as Richard Owens forced Aaron Stecker to fumble the opening kickoff. Antoine Winfield recovered at the Saints 24, setting up a Culpepper touchdown pass to Travis Taylor on the first play from scrimmage with only 13 ticks off the clock.

That gave the Vikings their quickest score to open a game in team history, breaking the previous mark of 16 seconds set in 1989 against Philadelphia. Taylor finished with two TD catches, and rookie first-rounder Troy Williamson added a 53-yard scoring grab. Kicker Paul Edinger made four of five field-goal attempts.

Detroit Lions
During their bye week, the Lions had a self evaluation process that left a mixed review.

GOOD NEWS
The defensive tackle tandem of Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson has been the strength of the team in the early going.

They dominated in the season opener against Green Bay, providing an inside pass rush against quarterback Brett Favre and depriving running back Ahman Green of any kind of running room.

Lovie Smith and the Bears figured out a way to circumvent the 680 – it might actually be closer to 700 - pounds of defensive tackle force in the second game, but it wasn't like Rogers and Wilkinson were manhandled. One or the other was double-teamed the entire game and the Bears were able to get outside much of the time on their way to 187 net rushing yards.

The good news is that Rogers, a Pro Bowl alternate in 2003 and a Pro Bowl starter in 2004, is in the first year of a new contract and seems as motivated as he was a year ago. Wilkinson, in his 14th season, is playing some of his best football in recent years.

If the Lions get the rest of the supporting cast to play anywhere near the level of those two, they should be able to stay in a lot of games, regardless of how the offense plays.

BAD NEWS
Coach Steve Mariucci is in his third season with the Lions, has his own set of coaches, his own set of players and his beloved West Coast offense. And still the Lions are horribly inconsistent moving the football.

They were good enough to beat Green Bay in the season opener at Ford Field, but when they got on the road, the looked a lot like the team that set an NFL record by losing 24 in a row on the road during the 2001-03 seasons.

The problems begin up front, in the offensive line. No one expected the Lions to be dominating up front, but quarterback Joey Harrington has had to rush every pass and running back Kevin Jones has had virtually no running room.

Furthermore, the Lions are getting only modest production from their trio of first-round wide receivers - Roy Williams, Charles Rogers and Mike Williams. Veteran tight end Marcus Pollard and wide receiver Kevin Johnson have been Harrington's most dependable receivers in the first two games but they aren't going to scare opposing defenses enough to pull their eighth defender out of the box.


Bear Report Top Stories