NFC North Report Card: Week 12

Despite winning their seventh straight game, the Bears lead in the division hasn't grown over the last month because the Vikings keep winning. See how the Bears graded out compared to the competition.

BEARS REPORT CARD VS. BUCS
PASSING OFFENSE: D
-- Were it not for a screen pass that RB Thomas Jones turned into a 41-yard gain, rookie quarterback Kyle Orton's numbers would have been atrocious. Even with the long screen included, the Bears netted just 121 yards through the air. On one of the very rare occasions that he threw downfield, Orton was picked off near the goal line, spoiling a scoring chance in the second quarter. WRs Muhsin Muhammad and Justin Gage each had four catches but for a total of just 70 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C-minus -- Jones found the going tough all day and needed 25 carries to get 72 yards. Backup Adrian Peterson played his fourth straight impressive game with 27 yards on five attempts for a 5.4-yard average.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- The Bucs put up some solid passing numbers. WR Joey Galloway picked up 138 yards on seven catches, and QB Chris Simms threw for 202 yards while completing 19 of 30 passes. However, the Bears sacked Simms four times -- two each by DEs Wale Ogunleye and Alex Brown – for minus-34 yards, and forced him to lose a fumble at his own 1-yard line, which led to the Bears' only touchdown.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- Cadillac Williams gashed the Bears for 84 yards on 20 carries and broke several tackles along the way, and the Bucs averaged 4.3 yards on 25 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- P Brad Maynard had a 43.9-yard gross average but a net of just 35.5 because the Bears allowed 67 yards on six returns. PK Robbie Gould hit from 25 and 36 without a miss. PR Bobby Wade fumbled a return for the ninth time this season and was replaced by Rashied Davis.

COACHING: B -- The reins were pulled in on Orton with some conservative pass plays, but thanks to a dominant defense, the formula worked again, as the Bears scored just enough for their seventh straight victory.

PACKERS REPORT CARD VS. EAGLES
PASSING OFFENSE: D-minus
-- Although he had five passes picked in the Oct. 30 loss at Cincinnati, Sunday's outing by Brett Favre was easily his worst of the season. The telling statistics indicate as much: 45.5 completion percentage (15-for-33), 171 passing yards, 46.4 efficiency rating. All are low watermarks in 2005 for Favre, who also had two interceptions to bump his league-leading total to 19. TE David Martin led the team with just four catches, including a 13-yard touchdown late in the first half.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- For a half, Samkon Gado was every bit as dynamic as he was in his smashing starting debut Nov. 13 at Atlanta, when he became the first Packers back to reach the century mark this season with 103 yards on 25 carries. The undrafted rookie piled up 101 yards on 18 attempts for a powerful per-carry average of 5.6 yards in the opening 30 minutes Sunday. A superb 33-yard touchdown run, featuring a deft spin from S Brian Dawkins past the line of scrimmage, is the Packers' longest ground gain of the season. Following halftime, however, Gado lapsed into the overmatched newcomer. He churned out only 10 yards on eight second-half carries. The offensive line still wasn't in sync, as Grey Ruegamer rotated in for a few series in place of right guard Will Whitticker and one series in place of left guard Scott Wells.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- No Donovan McNabb and no Terrell Owens meant a fairly easy time of it for the Packers to turn the Eagles into a one-dimensional offense. Andy Reid's conservative play calling with Mike McMahon at quarterback eased things as well. The scattershot McMahon was 12-of-28 for 91 yards in the face of minimal pressure. The Packers didn't allow Brian Westbrook to be the lethal threat out of the backfield he was in a blowout victory at Philadelphia last year, limiting him to a total of only 11 yards on four receptions. Green Bay, though, didn't have an interception, with S Mark Roman dropping one in the third quarter. The Packers also were able to get their hands on the elusive McMahon only two times for a sack, never mind they were up against a makeshift Philadelphia offensive line they should have handled better.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- What was that about preventing Westbrook from being a game changer? The back did his damage this time on the ground, piling up 117 yards on 21 carries for a gaudy per-rush average of 5.6 yards. The Packers left the backside vacated on a savvy cutback move by Westbrook downfield en route to a 27-yard touchdown in the first quarter. MLB Nick Barnett, the team's top tackler this season, was unbelievably lax in bringing down the ball carrier at the line of scrimmage, allowing Westbrook to scoot free for a 22-yard run on fourth-and-inches that led to a third-quarter field goal. Green Bay then gave up a 12-yard gain to Ryan Moats at the outset of a long drive in the fourth quarter that ended with another field goal. The Packers, ranked eighth in the league coming into game in yielding an average of only 3.8 yards per carry, were hit for 5.3 yards per rush as they gave up a season-high 180 yards. Even the mobile McMahon found running room with four carries for 29 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: D -- The kickoff return unit has been a sore spot all season, and it got only worse Sunday. ReShard Lee and Andrae Thurman each committed costly fumbles on runbacks, which the Eagles turned into 10 points. Lee, a running back, made the cardinal sin of carrying the football in his right hand on a return up the left side, which left him vulnerable for an easy strip midway through the first quarter. Thurman replaced him for the rest of the game but probably cost himself future return duties by turning the ball over right after the Eagles went ahead 16-14 with 4 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter. Consequently, Favre and the offense had to wait nearly three more minutes before getting back on the field and were forced to try to score a touchdown, not a field goal, to win the game. PR Antonio Chatman had one of his better games, averaging 7.8 yards on five returns, highlighted by a 24-yard runback that started the offense on the Eagles side of the field for a touchdown march right before halftime. P B.J. Sander struggled for the second straight game, managing just a 36.0 gross average on seven kicks. K Ryan Longwell didn't attempt a field goal for only the third time this season.

COACHING: D -- The early-season magic of first-year defensive coordinator Jim Bates is wearing off. Or, perhaps it's his adequate collection of players has worn down. For the second straight game, the Packers weren't able to come up with any key defensive stops in the fourth quarter and squandered a halftime lead. Shoddy tackling, especially by the unit's leader (Barnett), shouldn't be happening in the fundamentally sound system endorsed by Bates. Inexcusable mistakes continue to haunt the offense. The latest rash of fumbles brings into question how much of practice is actually devoted to preventing those. Similarly, someone on the coaching staff, specifically head coach Mike Sherman, probably would do well to finally have a long chat with Favre and spell it out that he's doing the injury-depleted team more harm than good when he insists on making careless throws into double and triple coverage. The coaches, though, didn't help Favre much for continuity's sake by changing up the offensive line with periodic substitutions at the guard spots throughout the game.

LIONS REPORT CARD VS. FALCONS
PASSING OFFENSE: D
-- Too many dropped passes (at least four, by unofficial count), too many breakdowns in communications between quarterbacks and receivers, and a general lack of productivity by the Lions' West Coast offense. Starter Joey Harrington was benched late in the first half after completing just six of 13 passes for 61 yards, but he was a victim more than a cause of the problem. Jeff Garcia came off the bench, absorbed two vicious hits as he was being sacked, and managed to complete 14 of 24 passes for 154 yards. However, he was out of sync with his receivers frequently. No. 3 QB Dan Orlovsky completed five or 11 throws for 43 yards but threw the ball with authority. Virtually all of the Lions' wide receivers, as well as TE Marcus Pollard, dropped at least one catchable ball.

RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- It's not as though the Lions couldn't run the ball; coach Steve Mariucci simply chose not to run it. Even before the game got out of hand, the Lions abandoned the run although Kevin Jones averaged 8 yards on four carries, Shawn Bryson averaged 4.3 yards on six carries and Artose Pinner had two 6-yard runs. For the game, however, the Lions ran the ball only 13 times.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Once the Falcons got their lead up to 17 points, they were content to run the ball and control the clock, so QB Michael Vick didn't do as much damage with his arm as he might have. Vick completed 12 of 22 passes for 146 yards and two touchdowns. The Lions did not sack him, but LB Nate Wayne had an interception. CB Dre' Bly, back in the lineup after missing four games with wrist surgery, broke up two passes that probably would have been interceptions if he had not been wearing a cast on his right hand.

RUSH DEFENSE: F -- The Lions played as poorly against the run as they have all season. Vick was a big part of the problem, of course. He caught the Lions off guard on at least two bootlegs for big yardage and finished the game with six runs for 57 yards. RBs Warrick Dunn (116 yards on 17 carries) and T.J. Duckett (72 yards on 19 carries) occasionally found themselves in wide open space after breaking through the first line of resistance.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The highlight of the special teams were K Jason Hanson's two kickoffs into the end zone, giving the Falcons no chance at returns, and P Nick Harris' 47.5-yard average on four punts. PR/KR Eddie Drummond couldn't get meaningful yards against Atlanta, and the punt coverage team gave up a 29-yard return to the Falcons' Allen Rossum.

COACHING: F -- In the game that frequently brings out the best in the Lions, they barely put up a struggle on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, they seemed to be only going through the motions, which was part of the reason Mariucci got the ax Monday. The Lions did not seem adequately prepared either offensively or defensively for Atlanta.

VIKINGS REPORT CARD VS. BROWNS
PASSING OFFENSE: B
-- Nothing spectacular, but Brad Johnson continues to find ways to win, improving to 4-0 as the Vikings' starting quarterback. Johnson passed for a season-high 207 yards and three touchdowns. All three scoring passes went to receiver Marcus Robinson and equaled Johnson's total for the season entering the game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- The Vikings continued their inconsistent ways in this area, rushing for 81 yards (2.6 average) after going for 160 (4.3 average) in their previous game against Green Bay. The key was the Browns still had to respect the play-action pass. Running back Mewelde Moore led the way with 67 yards on 21 carries, behind an offense line that included a new starting left guard (Anthony Herrera) and right tackle (Marcus Johnson). While Herrera had a solid game, Johnson struggled and was benched on two occasions. He finished the game with five penalties, including three false-start calls during the first drive. Veteran Mike Rosenthal, who lost the starting job, replaced Johnson.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Vikings had a season-high five sacks, including two by rookie DT C.J. Mosley. Mosley entered the game in the first quarter after All-Pro Kevin Williams left because of injury. Mosley and LB Keith Newman both forced fumbles in Cleveland territory that resulted in turnovers and two touchdowns for Minnesota. FS Darren Sharper, who has six interceptions in the past four games, had two picks in the fourth quarter and also had four passes defensed. Sharper's first pick led to another Vikings touchdown. CB Antoine Winfield, matched up for much of the game against Browns rookie Braylon Edwards, also had an interception and three pass breakups.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- NT Pat Williams continued to build on a Pro Bowl season, anchoring the middle and helping contain running back Reuben Droughns. Droughns had 73 yards on 19 carries (3.8 average), including a long of 14, and the Browns finished with 78 yards as a team. Pat Williams' play was especially important with Kevin Williams being forced out early.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- A strength for the majority of the season, the kickoff coverage unit had some breakdowns against the Browns. Cleveland's Joshua Cribbs had five returns for an average of 31 yards, including a long of 48 yards in the third quarter. He also added a 47-yard return in the fourth quarter. K Paul Edinger made his only field-goal attempt, a 43-yarder in the first quarter. Koren Robinson fumbled away a kickoff return at the end of the second quarter, but the turnover wasn't costly because the half ended on the play.

COACHING: B -- A month ago few believed Mike Tice would be employed by the Vikings much past Jan. 1, but the Vikings have turned things around with Tice at the helm. Tice and his coaches have led their team to four consecutive victories, and that streak should hit five on Sunday in Detroit. Tice is 7-0 against the Lions since taking over in Minnesota. Once in charge of a high-powered offense, Tice is now overseeing a team that is winning because of its defense and special teams. That was the case Sunday, as defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell's unit helped set up 21 points by the offense off turnovers.


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