NFC North Report Card: Week 7

Three of the four teams in the division came away with victories on Sunday, but the one that didn't is already looking forward to winter vacation. See how the Bears stack up to the competition.

BEARS REPORT CARD VS. RAVENS
PASSING OFFENSE: C
-- Kyle Orton continues to play efficient, mistake-free football, despite a failure to put up big numbers -- or even average numbers. Orton threw for just 145 yards while completing 15 of 29 passes, and he overthrew several long passes intended for open receivers. But he did not turn the ball over and sold a play-action fake that resulted in a nine-yard TD pass to FB Marc Edwards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B -- Sprained knee and all, Thomas Jones kept pounding away at the Ravens' defense until he finally busted a season-long 42-yard run with less than 3:00 left to help secure the Bears 10-6 victory. Jones finished with 139 yards on 25 carries against one of the NFL's top defenses.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Bears conceded the underneath stuff, especially to TE Todd Heap (7 catches, 71 yards), but took away just about everything else, allowing just 133 passing yards. The defensive line got all 4 sacks, after getting just 5 in the first five games. Backup DT Tank Johnson had 2 of the sacks.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Of Jamal Lewis' 15 carries, 14 went for 3 yards or less, and he totaled just 34 yards for a 2.3-yard average. The Ravens totaled just 66 yards on the ground, the fifth-straight opponent that has failed to rush for more than 83 yards against the Bears.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-plus -- Rookie Robbie Gould hit from 23 and missed from 47 on a cold, windy, rainy day. P Brad Maynard, still not 100 percent because of a strained right calf, got by on smarts and location, and coverage teams were outstanding.

COACHING: B -- The Bears' coaches clearly realize what works for their team, and they continue to use the same formula with success. It involves running the ball frequently, throwing safe passes and avoiding turnovers and risky plays. It remains to be seen if that formula will work when the Bears need to move the ball consistently on offense, but with their defense, that might not happen too often.

LIONS REPORT CARD vs. CLEVELAND BROWNS
PASSING OFFENSE: B -- Jeff Garcia got his first start with the Lions -- coming off a broken left fibula -- and directed a patched-up receiving corps to a season-high 210 passing yards. Garcia kept several plays alive with his legs, then completed 22 of 34 passes for 210 yards. Eight different receivers caught balls, including five for 95 yards by rookie WR Mike Williams. The Lions played without two first-round WRs -- Charles Rogers (drug suspension) and Roy Williams (quad injury) -- and lost WR Kevin Johnson to a ruptured Achilles.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- The Lions running game is still not up to snuff, but there were signs of improvement as they ground out 119 yards on 37 rushing attempts, their second-best single game production of the season. RB Kevin Jones led the team with 74 yards on 21 carries and QB Jeff Garcia scored on a one-yard dive after the Browns covered his intended receiver, taking away the pass that was called on the play. The Lions' long run of the day was a 13-yarder by Jones, his second-longest run of the season.

PASS DEFENSE: A-minus -- Interceptions by CBs R.W. McQuarters, Dre' Bly and Andre Goodman highlighted a strong pass defense by the Lions, holding QB Trent Dilfer to 10 completions in 19 attempts. Dilfer's 73 yards passing was the Lions lowest yield of the season. In addition to the three interceptions, the Lions sacked Dilfer four times -- two each by DT Dan Wilkinson and DE Jared DeVries.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Without DT Shaun Rogers, who left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter, the Lions had trouble controlling the line of scrimmage and the running lanes against Browns RB Reuben Droughns. Droughns, a former Lion, gained 100 yards on 19 rushing attempts, including a 31-yard burst that lifted his per-carry average to 5.3.per carry. Overall, however, the Browns running game did minimal damage with 118 yards on 22 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- A 90-yard kickoff return touchdown by rookie Joshua Cribbs came close to spoiling the Lions day. The Lions' coverage unit broke down immediately after the team had taken a 7-3 lead on QB Jeff Garcia's one-yard touchdown run and dropping them into a 10-7 deficit. The other shortcoming was a 47-yard field goal attempt by K Jason Hanson that was wide right. Hanson later connected from 47 and 50 yards (his sixth in a row from 50 yards or more). P Nick Harris averaged 38.6 on five punt, with two inside the 20, and R.W. McQuarters (filling in for injured PR/KR Eddie Drummond) had an 18-yard punt return.

COACHING: B -- After a week-long mystery of guess-the-quarterback, Steve Mariucci made the right decision in going with veteran West Coast QB Jeff Garcia. The move -- after Garcia and former starter Joey Harrington split the reps in practice all week -- injected fresh life into the team, with an overall good result. Defensive coordinator Dick Jauron put together a good defensive strategy to limit Browns QB Trent Dilfer's effectiveness in the passing game and minimized their 5.4-yard rushing average.

PACKERS REPORT CARD VS. VIKINGS
PASSING OFFENSE: A-minus
-- Buoyed by 13 completions in his first 13 passes and going 16-of-19 for 211 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, Brett Favre turned in his best performance at the Metrodome, which usually has been a house of horrors for him. Favre finished 28-of-36 for 315 yards without an interception and wasn't sacked. He got a lift from Donald Driver, who had a season-high eight receptions for 114 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Driver, though, had only two catches totaling 13 yards in the second half as the Vikings devoted two defenders to him after Robert Ferguson went out with a sprained knee in the second quarter.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D --- Ahman Green's season-ending quadriceps injury midway through the fourth quarter notwithstanding, the team's biggest Achilles' heel of 2005 continued to be detrimental. Green, who returned after a one-game absence because of issues with the same quad, managed only 49 yards in 16 carries. The meager per-carry average of 3.1 yards was aided by a 13-yard run. As an offense, the Packers averaged a little more than 2 yards per rush with 45 yards in 22 carries. Tony Fisher, who will assume the lead role with Green out, had a grand total of 2 yards in five attempts. The Packers are averaging a miserly 3.1 yards on the ground this season.

PASS DEFENSE: C-minus --- A superb, pressure-filled first half, in which the Packers sacked Daunte Culpepper three times and held him to 52 passing yards, gave way to an abominable performance in the second half that spurred the Vikings' comeback from a 17-0 halftime deficit. Culpepper rarely was under duress, as he was in the face of occasional blitzing the first two quarters, and had ample time to pick apart both the secondary and the slow-to-react linebackers for 228 yards the last 30 minutes.

RUSH DEFENSE: B --- What little damage done by the Vikings on the ground evolved out of pass sets, when Culpepper either took off out of the shotgun on a designed draw up the middle or scrambled away from the rush. He ran seven times for 41 yards, only 4 yards fewer than Mewelde Moore's team-high total in 13 carries. Moore did gash the defense with 15- and 13-yard pickups, but committed a crucial fumble deep in Packers territory on a strip by middle linebacker Nick Barnett, which led to a Green Bay field goal.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D-minus --- Can't write off a horrendous display by the unit as a complete failure because Ryan Longwell connected on field-goal attempts of 53 and 39 yards, the latter of which tied the score at 20-20 with 24 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Yet, for the second time this season, wayward kicks by usually sure-fire Longwell likely cost the Packers a victory. The troubles carried over to the kickoff-coverage group. Koren Robinson averaged 29.4 yards in five returns. His 72-yard burst late in the second quarter nearly proved fatal, but the Packers forced a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. Then, late in the game, a missed tackle allowed Robinson to pick up 10 more yards, giving Culpepper a reasonable shot from the Vikings' 36 to throw two passes and get Edinger in range for the game-winning boot.

COACHING: D --- A continuation of a rash of season-ending injuries to key players aside, Mike Sherman came under fire after he basically took the football out of Favre's hot right hand with the game on the line. A curious run call on third-and-2 from the Vikings' 20 backfired, with fill-in center Scott Wells snapping the ball early to Favre and forcing a hurried handoff to Fisher that resulted in a 1-yard loss. Thus, the Packers had to settle for Longwell's score-tying field goal in the final minute, when they seemingly were in position with enough time left to go for the victory. That Minnesota went on to win the game after trailing 17-0 at halftime is an indictment on how the season has quickly unraveled at 1-5, with the outlook not bright since three straight games against heavyweights Cincinnati, Pittsburgh and Atlanta are next on the schedule.

VIKINGS REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus
-- After a miserable first half, Daunte Culpepper rebounded to complete 17 of 23 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns in the second half as the Vikings rallied from a 17-0 deficit to beat Green Bay. Culpepper, who finished 23 of 31 for 280 yards, was sacked five times, but his pass protection improved in the second half as he led the Vikings on five scoring drives (three field goals, two touchdowns) over the final two quarters.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Nothing spectacular, but the Vikings were able to get 100 yards on the ground for only the second time this season. Quarterback Daunte Culpepper's 18-yard scramble was the Vikings' longest run of the game, and running back Mewelde Moore led the team with 45 yards on 13 carries. The Vikings still need to establish a more consistent run game if the offense is truly going to get on track.

PASS DEFENSE: C -- Packers quarterback Brett Favre completed his first 13 passes, and Donald Driver caught six passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the first half. But after receiver Robert Ferguson injured his knee and ankle in the second quarter while making a 44-yard catch, the Vikings made a key halftime adjustment. Cornerback Fred Smoot was assigned to Driver and also got some safety help. Driver caught only two passes for 13 yards in the second half and did not have a reception in the fourth quarter.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- The Vikings were able to make the adjustment to stop the pass largely because the Packers' run game was a non-factor, averaging 2 yards on 23 attempts. The Vikings continued to rely on a 3-4 defense and nose tackle Pat Williams was a force for the second consecutive week. Williams frequently dominated Packers center Scott Wells and got into the Green Bay backfield on a regular basis.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- After a tough game last week against Chicago, the special teams rebounded in a big way. Paul Edinger's third field goal of the day, a 56-yarder as time expired, gave the Vikings the victory. Holder Brad Johnson, who mishandled a snap at Chicago, made one of the biggest plays Sunday, pulling Cullen Loeffler's low snap off the turf and getting it down in time for Edinger to hit the winner. Koren Robinson also played a role in setting up the winner, by returning a Green Bay kick 25 yards to the Vikings' 36. Robinson averaged 29.4 yards on five returns, including a long of 72 yards. Mewelde Moore, taking over for the recently released Keenan Howry on punt returns, averaged only 3 yards on three punt returns.

COACHING: B -- No one would reveal exactly what coach Mike Tice said at halftime, but everyone agreed it worked. Tice would only say he talked in a negative tone for the first time in two years. Offensively, coordinator Steve Loney said no adjustments were made at halftime and attributed the 23-point second half to execution and few mistakes. Defensively, the move to put cornerback Fred Smoot on Packers receiver Donald Driver proved to be a stroke of genius.


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