Updated NFC North Report Card: Week 16

The Bears clinched the division crown with a victory over Green Bay. Minnesota won't be going to the postseason after a loss to Baltimore, while Detroit got just their fifth win of the season.

BEARS REPORT CARD VS. PACKERS
PASSING OFFENSE: C
-- Rex Grossman was sharp in his first start in 15 months. His numbers (11-for-23 for 166 yards, an interception and a TD pass) would have been more impressive were it not for three drops by WR Muhsin Muhammad, one of which should have been a 28-yard TD late in the game. WR Bernard Berrian (three catches, 93 yards) is emerging as a dangerous deep threat.

RUSHING OFFENSE: B-minus -- Thomas Jones had his first 100-yard game in nine weeks, picking up 105 yards on 25 carries and scoring on a 2-yard run. Backup Adrian Peterson was solid in relief with 30 yards on eight attempts.

PASS DEFENSE: B -- The Packers' Brett Favre threw for 317 yards, but he needed 51 passes to do so. Favre completed 31 passes, but he was intercepted four times, twice by rookie Chris Harris and once each by Charles Tillman and Lance Briggs. Favre was also sacked twice and was flagged twice for intentional grounding.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- With the injury-ravaged Packers down to Tony Fisher and Noah Herron, the Bears permitted just 65 yards on 21 carries, and Green Bay's longest run of the day was a 10-yarder on a reverse by WR Antonio Chatman.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- The Bears allowed an 85-yard punt-return TD by Antonio Chatman, as P Brad Maynard had a bad day, lacking distance and hang time. PK Robbie Gould hit his longest field goal of the year, a 45-yarder. Berrian has been an upgrade in the punt-return department, combining sure-handedness with speed and quickness.

COACHING: A -- The defense allowed too many yards but still just seven points as banged-up veteran starters Mike Brown, Hunter Hillenmeyer and Ian Scott were wisely rested, even though they could have been pressed into service and risked further injury.

PACKERS REPORT CARD VS. BEARS
PASSING OFFENSE: C-plus
-- Brett Favre has been stuck on 19 touchdown passes for a month now, and he couldn't end the streak despite having one of his more prolific games of the season. Problem was Favre's gaudy numbers of 30-of-51 passing for 317 yards were offset by four interceptions. That makes nine miscues in the last four TD-less games and 28 for the season, one short of Lynn Dickey's franchise record, set in 1983. Favre's questionable decision-making wasn't the primary culprit this time, rather shoddy blocking that had him under duress with little time to react on a number of plays. None was more critical than a toss into the flat intended for FB William Henderson that LB Lance Briggs easily intercepted and returned for a 10-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give Chicago breathing room with a 24-7 lead. The loss of C Mike Flanagan in the first half proved to be the undoing for the shuffled interior of the line. WR Donald Driver and RB Tony Fisher were an asset to Favre in fighting for extra yardage after a handful of catches.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The Packers discovered what running the football is like without, ahem, Samkon Gado. The rookie sensation missed his first game because of a torn knee ligament, and the lackluster results against the Bears' stout defense weren't surprising. Rookie Noah Herron, who didn't start but became the team's sixth featured back of the season, averaged only 2.4 yards on 14 carries, though he did score on a 1-yard plunge in the second quarter. Fisher was slightly better on his six carries, averaging 3.7 yards. WR Antonio Chatman had the longest gain on the ground with a 10-yard burst on an end-around.

PASS DEFENSE: D-plus -- True, Green Bay's second-rated pass defense actually lowered its season average of 169.7 yards allowed per game by giving up only 166 to Rex Grossman on Sunday. However, Grossman, in his first start of an injury-marred season, was the difference-maker for the Bears' revitalized offense against a secondary that continues to be the Packers defense's weakest link. CB Al Harris, the Pro Bowl wannabe, was exploited for the second straight week. Grossman picked on Harris early and often, and succeeded with throws to Muhsin Muhammad and Bernard Berrian. The speedy Berrian made the biggest play of the game by blowing past CB Ahmad Carroll for a 54-yard pickup that led to a go-ahead touchdown late in the first half. In the next Chicago possession, it took LB Paris Lenon to show the defensive backs how a deep pass is to be properly covered, as he made an exceptional breakup on the run in downfield coverage of Muhammad. S Mark Roman had the only takeaway by the defense three plays later with an easy interception on a badly underthrown deep ball by Grossman.

RUSH DEFENSE: D -- By spotting the Bears a double-digit lead in the third quarter, the Packers played right into the hands of the run-oriented Chicago offense. The Bears featured a heavy diet of Thomas Jones and Adrian Peterson in the final 30 minutes, during which the tandem combined for 94 yards on 24 carries. Jones finished with 105 yards and averaged 4.2 yards per pop, his second strong effort against the Packers' fading run defense in the past three weeks. DT Cullen Jenkins, though, did come to life to drop Jones for a 4-yard loss on a third-and-4 play at midfield to get the football back for the offense for a last-gasp drive to try to send the game to overtime.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-minus -- Too bad special teams coordinator John Bonamego didn't impress upon Chatman that every game this season should have been treated as if it were played on Christmas Day. Chatman fulfilled Bonamego's holiday wish of returning a punt return for a touchdown. However, the electric 85-yard dash into the end zone midway through the fourth quarter was a long time in the making for both Chatman and the underachieving special teams units. Allen Rossum had the team's last punt return for a touchdown four years ago. Still to be sorted out is the inept kicking game, which featured two more missed field-goal attempts by Ryan Longwell, who wisely refrained from making new holder Ryan Flinn the scapegoat. Flinn didn't flinch in his NFL debut, averaging an acceptable 40 yards on three punts.

COACHING: D-plus -- While there's no denying there was a decidedly spirited effort on the part of the players on the heels of their 48-3 meltdown at Baltimore six days earlier, a loss remains a loss. Some of the same silly mistakes that should have been rectified long before the final weeks of the season continued to haunt the Packers, particularly a number of drive-killing penalties and another batch of interceptions from Favre. Despite his contention that he was going to call a timeout at that moment anyway, coach Mike Sherman erred by challenging the spot of a second-quarter run by Herron, who clearly was tackled short of the goal line. Sure enough, Sherman lost another challenge later in the first half and left himself with none for the remainder of the game.

LIONS REPORT CARD vs. SAINTS
PASSING OFFENSE: C
-- QB Joey Harrington struggled at times in his first start after losing the job to Jeff Garcia the previous three weeks. He was intercepted in the end zone after a game-opening 16-play drive and frequently missed receivers as the game progressed. WR Roy Williams also had a costly drop on a play that might have gone for a touchdown. Harrington and Williams atoned for their mistakes with two completions for 55 yards on the drive that set up PK Jason Hanson's game-winning field goal.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The running game has been a source of disappointment and frustration for the Lions most of the season and -- with RB Kevin Jones out with an elbow injury -- they got scant production in that area again against the Saints. RB Artose Pinner got just 57 yards on 20 carries against a Saints defense that has given up an average of 137.5 yards per game, the No. 30-ranked average in the NFL.

PASS DEFENSE: C-plus -- Saints QB Todd Bouman, starting in place of Aaron Brooks, completed 21 of 38 passes for 233 yards, but the Lions were able to keep him out of the end zone. They made the best use of James Hall's sack, which forced a fumble. DT Shaun Rogers scooped up the ball and scored on a 21-yard return.

RUSH DEFENSE: B-plus -- The Saints were averaging 112 yards per game but managed just 47 yards on 25 rushing plays against the Lions. DTs Rogers and Dan Wilkinson have been a disruptive force to teams trying to run inside on the lines, and the beat-up linebacker corps combined for 13 tackles.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- Hanson kept his cool under difficult conditions and kicked the game-winning 39-yard field goal as the final seconds ticked off the clock. P Nick Harris dropped four of his six punts inside the New Orleans 20-yard line and, as Hanson's holder on field goals, did a good job of managing the final field goal.

COACHING: B -- The Lions haven't had anything to play for since Dick Jauron took over as the interim coach four games ago, but Jauron continues to preach the value of hard work. The Lions didn't play particularly well against the Saints, but they persevered and got the win. They seemed to be in disarray as they failed to stop the clock in the final seconds, but the field-goal unit bailed them out.

REPORT CARD VS. RAVENS
PASSING OFFENSE: B-minus
-- Brad Johnson rebounded from a poor performance against Pittsburgh to throw for 248 yards and two touchdowns in the Vikings' 30-23 loss to Baltimore. Johnson was especially sharp in the first half, completing 13 of 16 passes for 148 yards with the two scores. He registered a 144.8 passer rating in the opening half. Johnson was unable to guide the Vikings to a touchdown in the second half, despite the fact the Ravens fumbled the opening kick of the third quarter, enabling Minnesota to start a drive on the Baltimore 26-yard line. With starting C Melvin Fowler and RT Marcus Johnson out because of sprained ankles, the Vikings started Cory Withrow at center and Mike Rosenthal at tackle. Brad Johnson was sacked three times, the most since the Vikings' victory at Green Bay on Nov. 21. He was sacked five times in that game.

RUSHING OFFENSE: D -- The inconsistency continues. The Vikings had only 14 rushing attempts and gained 42 yards. Michael Bennett got his third consecutive start but was pulled after losing 1 yard on a carry during the opening series. Bennett was done, and suddenly Mewelde Moore was back in favor. Moore carried 10 times for 49 yards after getting four rushes for minus 1-yard in the previous three games. After Moore's rushing totals, the rest of the Vikings' ground game looked like this: Bennett 1 carry, minus-1; Travis Taylor 1 carry, minus-2; and Ciatrick Fason 2 carries, minus-4. Fason showed again that he simply isn't ready to assume the short-yardage rushing job.

PASS DEFENSE: D -- The Vikings took a big step backward as Kyle Boller threw all three of his touchdown passes on third downs and picked on the dime back on each occasion. Ralph Brown was beaten on TE Todd Heap's 6-yard touchdown catch and on Mark Clayton's 47-yard TD grab. Brown was then benched in favor of rookie Dovonte Edwards. Edwards, however, bit on a fourth-quarter move by Derrick Mason that ended up resulting in a 39-yard scoring strike from Boller that put Baltimore ahead to stay. Brown and Edwards weren't the only ones who had off nights. Boller passed for 289 yards, the most pinned on the Vikings since Carolina's Jake Delhomme threw for 338 yards in Week 8.

RUSH DEFENSE: B -- Baltimore averaged only 2.8 yards on 32 rushing attempts as the Vikings held an opponent under 100 rushing yards for the first time in four games. NT Pat Williams, who did not receive a spot on the Pro Bowl roster despite having a stellar season, tied for the team lead with seven tackles as he once again made it difficult for an opponent to run the ball up the middle. Jamal Lewis led Baltimore with 74 yards on 24 carries, and 19 came on a run midway through the fourth quarter as the Ravens attempted to eat up time against a defense that was tiring.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B -- After a poor performance against the Steelers, the Vikings rebounded nicely in this department. K Paul Edinger made all three of his field-goal attempts, and the Vikings did not give up any long returns. In fact, Baltimore backup return man Chester Taylor was stripped of the ball as he returned the opening kickoff of the second half, and the Vikings recovered. Koren Robinson remained solid on kick returns, averaging 19.5 yards on four attempts.

COACHING: C -- The Vikings tried to make adjustments to slow the Baltimore passing game but were unable to do so in what was a must-win game for Minnesota's playoff hopes. Coach Mike Tice did make one decision that surprised many. With the Vikings trailing 24-20 in the fourth quarter and facing a fourth-and-1 at the Baltimore 38, Tice elected to have Chris Kluwe punt instead of going for it. The Ravens, beginning from their own 12, drove 68 yards in 11 plays to get a key Matt Stover field goal that made it a seven-point lead. Not only did Baltimore get points, but the Vikings didn't get the ball back until 1:49 remained.


Bear Report Top Stories