NFC North Report Card: Week 13

Two divisional matchups came away with the Bears and Vikings coming out on top, while the Lions joined the Packers as being eliminated from the division race. See how the Bears graded out compared to the competition.

-- Neither one of the starting wide receivers, Muhsin Muhammad and Justin Gage, caught a pass. It was the first time in 51 games Muhammad was blanked. He had an opportunity for a TD catch but dropped a ball that hit his hands, although he was closely guarded by Al Harris. QB Kyle Orton completed just six of 17 passes for a net of 49 yards after three sacks. He was also intercepted once on a ball that bounced off the hands off TE Desmond Clark.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Without much threat of a passing game, Thomas Jones still rushed for 93 yards on 19 carries and went over 1,000 yards for the season. Adrian Peterson picked up 48 yards on 11 carries while giving Jones a rest.

PASS DEFENSE: B-plus -- Brett Favre threw for 277 yards, but he needed 58 passes to do so. The Bears sacked Favre twice and picked him off twice. Nate Vasher returned one pick 45 yards for a clinching touchdown, and Charles Tillman went 95 yards with an end-zone pick to set up a field goal and create a potential 10-point swing.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-- The Packers picked up 100 yards, including 75 on 20 carries from Samkon Gado, but the Bears didn't allow a run of more than 13 yards. MLB Brian Urlacher led the attack with 13 tackles, and WLB Lance Briggs had 11.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C -- PK Robbie Gould converted four of five field-goal attempts, hitting from 21, 25, 35 and 40 yards but coming up short on a 43-yarder. P Brad Maynard had a net average of 41.5 yards on six kicks, and the punt coverage team allowed a total of just 3 yards. PR Rashied Davis fumbled twice and, although the Bears recovered both, he was replaced by Bobby Wade, who had lost the job to Davis because of his fumbling.

COACHING: C -- It's time to consider getting QB Rex Grossman back in the lineup to replace the ineffective Orton, but coaches refuse to consider the notion -- at least publicly.

-- The West Coast offense has never been shorter or less effective than the way it was run by the Lions and Jeff Garcia against the Vikings. Garcia completed just one throw of more than 13 yards -- a short toss that RB Artose Pinner turned into a 19-yard gain. Garcia was intercepted twice. The first -- returned for a touchdown -- was nullified by a roughing-the-quarterback penalty; the second -- at the Vikings' 2-yard line with 52 seconds remaining in the game -- ended the Lions' comeback hopes. His passer rating of 45.7 was an accurate measure of the Garcia's effectiveness, although RB Shawn Bryson and TE Marcus Pollard dropped passes.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- Nothing sensational, but interim coach Dick Jauron put a stress on running the ball, and the Lions had moderate success with 105 yards on 23 attempts. And that was without RB Kevin Jones, who missed the game with a quadriceps injury. In his absence, Artose Pinner had the best day of his three-year career with 14 carries for 64 yards. RB Shawn Bryson got six carries for 29 yards, and the Lions offensive line showed modest improvement in the run blocking phase of the game.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- Vikings QB Brad Johnson set the tone on his first offensive play of the game -- an 80-yard touchdown pass to Koren Robinson, who got the jump on CB R.W. McQuarters and couldn't be touched. A few minutes later, Johnson burned Lions Pro Bowl CB Dre' Bly with a 45-yard throw to Robinson, setting up Minnesota's second touchdown of the game. Johnson completed 17 of 23 throws for 256 yards and two TDs, despite relatively effective inside pressure from DTs Dan Wilkinson and Shaun Rogers, who had a sack apiece.

RUSH DEFENSE: C -- The Vikings running game was comparable to an annoying drip from a leaky faucet. The Lions weren't flooded, but they couldn't shut it off either, and in the end it did some damage. RB Michael Bennett needed 22 carries to get 79 yards, but he also scored on a 7-yard run. DTs Wilkinson and Rogers played one of their best games of the season, but the Lions still gave up 103 yards.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-plus -- After several games in which they struggled, the special teams had a good day against Minnesota. Eddie Drummond had his best punt return of the season -- a 38-yarder -- and also averaged 22.7 yards on three kickoff returns. PK Jason Hanson was successful on all three field goals (45, 26 and 28 yards), P Nick Harrison dropped two of his five punts inside the 20 and had a net average of 42.2 yards; and the coverage teams were solid except for a 36-yard kickoff return by Robinson.

COACHING: C -- If the goal was to stay in the game after giving up two costly big plays in the first half, Jauron succeeded in his first game as the Lions' interim coach. The Lions were in it until Garcia's interception in the last minute. That, obviously, is not enough. Most of the questions regarding Jauron's first game since replacing Steve Mariucci involved his personnel choices -- Garcia as the starting quarterback and WR Charles Rogers being inactive.

-- Granted, QB Brett Favre had one of his more prolific games of the season with 31 completions and 277 yards through the air. However, he was put in a position of having to throw the ball 58 times (17 in the game-ending series), three short of his career high, and that opened him to the punishment inflicted by Chicago's merciless defense and led to him making a couple of painful mistakes. He wasn't remotely close to throwing the ball out of the end zone on a broken play deep in Bears territory, resulting in Charles Tillman's easy interception and 95-yard return that set up a go-ahead field goal for the Bears right before halftime. Then, as further testament of how off-kilter he's been of late, Favre threw inside of Donald Driver, and Nathan Vasher snuffed it out with a 45-yard interception return for a late touchdown that sealed the outcome. The Packers' lax pass protection put Favre in harm's way, especially TE Donald Lee waving a blitzing Tillman on through off the right edge for a blindside shot of Favre that resulted in one of his two lost fumbles. Driver had a quiet game-high eight receptions that totaled all of 64 yards.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- For the second straight week, rookie Samkon Gado and the running game took on a Jekyll-and-Hyde persona: a strong, promising first half followed by a nearly nonexistent second half. The Packers gashed Chicago's stout front seven for 67 yards in the opening 30 minutes, including 48 by Gado, who had a 2-yard touchdown run. Save for a 13-yard run early in the third quarter, Gado struggled to finish the game with 75 yards on 20 carries. Get the speedy Gado outside the tackles, and he's a young prospect to be reckoned with. Not so when he's running right up the cluttered middle. An 11-yard run by WR Antonio Chatman in the first half enabled the Packers to attain 100 yards on the ground against a defense that came in surrendering an average of only 92.6.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Packers have benefited of late from not having to contend with a formidable quarterback who's going to drive an offense down the field with his howitzer arm -- see Pittsburgh's Charlie Batch, Minnesota's Brad Johnson, Philadelphia's Mike McMahon and Chicago's Kyle Orton. Yet, the common denominator in those four outings is a loss for Green Bay. The Packers limited Orton to 68 yards on 6-for-17 accuracy and, coupled with a Mark Roman interception in the first quarter, kept his passer rating to a laughable 23.7. And while Al Harris shut out would-be playmaker Muhsin Muhammad in the catch department, the Packers gave up a couple of big pass plays. Ahmad Carroll was beaten badly for a 34-yard completion to Bernard Berrian, which set up a field goal in the second quarter. Orton connected with Berrian again for an 18-yard pickup on a fade pattern against nickel back Mike Hawkins early in the fourth quarter, leading to another field goal. Green Bay, though, flustered Orton with three sacks and didn't yield a third-down conversion in eight pass plays.

RUSH DEFENSE: C-minus -- The second-half-of-the-season woes continued for a once-sturdy defensive front, which was hit for 100-plus yards on the ground for the fifth straight game. The Bears racked up 139 yards, averaging a healthy 4.5 yards per crack. While the Packers held RB Thomas Jones (19 carries, 93 yards) under the century mark for the first time in the teams' last four meetings, he exploited their recent tendency to overpursue and took a cutback run at the line of scrimmage 27 yards on the first play of the second quarter. Middle linebacker Nick Barnett also continued to be plagued by missed tackles, though he was Johnny-on-the-spot for recovering a bungled toss play to Jones in the first half. Adrian Peterson was an effective change-of-pace back for the Bears, producing 48 yards on 11 carries.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F -- P B.J. Sander, the pro equivalent of a redshirt freshman after being deactivated all of last season, couldn't withstand the heat of his first NFL game in frigid, blustery conditions. Sander was out of sorts at the outset of the game, mishandling the snap and getting off a kick that traveled 14 yards. He then shanked a punt out of bounds all of 21 yards in the second quarter. A 50-yard boot in the third quarter enhanced the average to 35.7 yards on the day, his second-worst of the season. The maligned return units were just as dismal. Antonio Chatman mustered 3 yards on his only punt return and literally slipped in an expanded role on kickoff returns, averaging 12 yards on three runbacks before being removed from those duties late in the first half. Carroll got a shot in the second half and was marginally better with two returns averaging 21.5 yards. Ryan Longwell didn't attempt a field goal for the second straight game.

COACHING: D -- The season now can be labeled an unequivocal failure. The Packers don't even own the city of Chicago or the state of Illinois anymore after their 11-game road winning streak over the Bears was dumped into Lake Michigan by an uninspired performance. Talk of playing the spoiler against the NFC North front-runners was just that. The defense did all right in not giving up a touchdown to an otherwise anemic Chicago offense, but Barnett and Roman showed a lack of focus with drops of would-be interceptions. Familiar holding and false-start penalties on offensive linemen were drive killers, not to mention poorly executed blitz pickups that endangered Favre. Speaking of the quarterback, coach Mike Sherman again refrained from calling out the spotty decision-making of his offensive leader, suggesting not everyone is being held accountable for the collapse this year.

-- QB Brad Johnson threw for a season-high 256 yards, including an 80-yard touchdown strike to WR Koren Robinson on the Vikings' first offensive play. Johnson and Robinson also connected on a 45-yard pass to set up the Vikings' second touchdown. Johnson, who threw for 157 yards in the first half, continues to stay away from making any crucial mistakes. He has been intercepted only twice in 163 passing attempts, while throwing for eight touchdowns.

RUSHING OFFENSE: C -- RB Mewelde Moore aggravated his sprained right ankle on a first-quarter punt return, leaving Michael Bennett to handle much of the rushing load. Bennett finished with 79 rushing yards on 22 carries and one touchdown -- he also had a 5-yard touchdown reception -- but could have had more if the offensive line had done a better job of executing its blocking assignments. Lions DTs Shaun Rogers and Dan Wilkinson overpowered the Vikings at times, and Detroit finished with eight tackles for losses. Both LG Anthony Herrera and RG Adam Goldberg were benched for periods. Veteran Chris Liwienski, who lost his starting spot at left guard after nine games, subbed for both players at different times.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Lions' inept passing game was a big reason the Vikings gave up only 118 passing yards. Lions QB Jeff Garcia rarely challenged the Vikings defensive backfield, and his deep pass for Roy Williams late in the game was intercepted by SS Corey Chavous. Garcia's longest completion went for only 19 yards. CB Brian Williams, who continues to start in the place of the injured Fred Smoot, had a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- With the Lions' top running back, Kevin Jones, sidelined by injury, Detroit managed 105 yards on the ground. Detroit gained 49 of its yards on its only touchdown drive of the day, all by Artose Pinner. That included a 12-yard run that was the Lions' longest rushing play of the game.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- Although his unit has been a strength for much of the season, special teams coordinator Rusty Tillman was unhappy with the play of his group Sunday -- especially on returns. Detroit's Eddie Drummond, a Pro Bowl return man whose production has declined this season, averaged 23 yards on three punt returns and 22.7 yards on three kick returns. His long punt return went for 38 yards, and his long kick return was 34 yards. The Vikings also lost punter Chris Kluwe, who suffered a strained right knee and sprained left ankle on separate plays. The sprained left ankle forced Kluwe to leave the game and resulted in kicker Paul Edinger having to punt twice in the fourth quarter. His second boot turned out to be a beauty, pinning the Lions at their 7 with Minnesota leading 21-16 late in the fourth quarter.

COACHING: B -- Mike Tice convinced his team that the Lions' coaching change last week would make Ford Field a hornet's nest. While that was far from the case, it gave Tice an angle to help keep his team focused and extend its winning streak to five games. Despite the victory, Tice wasn't pleased with the play of various units, in particular the offensive line. The offensive staff deserves credit for deciding to open the game with a deep pass right away, catching the Lions and overmatched CB R.W. McQuarters off-guard.

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