NFC North News and Notes: Oct. 7

Should the Lions be making drastic changes from a special-teams perspective? Will the Packers be able to protect Aaron Rodgers in the passing game? Can the Vikings expect this kind of magic all season long from Brett Favre? Take a tour of the NFC North with the NFL experts at Scout.com.

Detroit Lions

Fans aren't calling for coach Jim Schwartz's head as the Lions approach Sunday's game against Pittsburgh. But some are calling for special teams coordinator Stan Kwan's.


WR Dennis Northcutt
Getty Images: Chris Graythen

Schwartz isn't going to give it to them.

"I'm not George Steinbrenner," he said.

But he was upset with the Lions' considerable struggles on special teams in Sunday's 48-24 loss at Chicago and already has announced one change, replacing Aaron Brown with fellow rookie Derrick Williams on kickoff returns.

Schwartz said personnel was a problem against the Bears. Safety Kalvin Pearson, a special-teams stalwart, didn't play because of a quad injury.

But he also said there were no excuses – not the weather, not "the dog ate my homework." He said that "coaching bears the brunt of it," but asked about Kwan specifically, he took the blame himself.

"I think Stan did a good job last year," said Schwartz, who kept Kwan from the previous coaching staff after taking over in January. "I don't want to pin this all on one person.

"When I say coaching, I point to myself with that. I don't point to an assistant coach. This is my job. This is my responsibility. Everything that goes on that field is ultimately my responsibility to make sure that it gets done."

The Lions had a laundry list of problems on special teams Sunday.

They allowed Johnny Knox to return the opening kickoff of the second half 102 yards for a touchdown. They allowed the Bears more yards on returns (277) than offense (276), and the Bears' average starting field position was the Detroit 46. Schwartz said players weren't in good position and didn't get off blocks.

But the Lions couldn't muster much on returns themselves. After Brown muffed two kickoffs, Adam Jennings took over – and muffed his only opportunity before suffering an ankle injury. Dennis Northcutt never got to return a punt, because the Bears' Brad Maynard dropped all four of his punts out of bounds inside the Lions' 20.

A Detroit offside penalty wiped out a Chicago field-goal attempt, giving the Bears a fourth-and-goal at the 1 that they converted into a touchdown.

Punter Nick Harris and kicker Jason Hanson struggled at times, too. When Hanson booted a kickoff out of bounds near the end of the first half, giving the Bears the ball at their 40 with 26 seconds left, Schwartz was visibly upset on the sideline. He said he was even more upset than he looked.

"I hope there weren't many lip-readers out there," Schwartz said.

Green Bay Packers

If it wasn't clear to them after three games, the Packers definitely know after four outings what their top priority will be in the upcoming bye week.


OT Daryn Colledge
Getty Images: Jonathan Daniel

QB Aaron Rodgers' league-worst sacks total went from an alarming 12 to an appalling 20 in a few hours Monday night at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

Rodgers was dumped for a career-high eight sacks by the Minnesota Vikings in their 30-23 win over Green Bay in the early-season NFC North showdown.

"It's obviously an issue," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It's gone on for four weeks. You can't play this way. We're playing way too up and down. It's hurting us because of the big plays we're able to generate. We're too much of a big little offense right now."

Vikings All-Pro defensive end Jared Allen led the all-out assault on Rodgers with a career-high 4.5 sacks.

The Packers (2-2) wound up using two left tackles opposite Allen, but the speedy pass rusher had his way with both of them. Allen forced a fumble by Rodgers in the game-opening series and later sacked him in the end zone for a safety.

Converted left guard Daryn Colledge started in place of an injured Chad Clifton for the second straight game. Colledge suffered a sprained right knee early in the fourth quarter and was replaced by rookie T.J. Lang.

"We had some leakage late in some protections, and that can't happen. We've got to finish better than that," Colledge said. "We pride ourselves on being able to finish. We're an extremely athletic and well-conditioned offensive line, and we need to have it there at the end of plays."

Colledge didn't think he would have to miss any game action because of the injury. The Packers' next game isn't until Oct. 18, when they play host to the Detroit Lions.

The Packers should have Clifton available by then. He suffered an ankle sprain in the Week 2 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, who sacked Rodgers a then-personal-high six times – five by Antwan Odom.

Rodgers accepted some of the blame for the myriad breakdowns that occurred behind the line of scrimmage Monday.

"They did a good job, they had a good scheme, they covered up a lot of our guys and got after me a little bit," Rodgers said of the Vikings. "It's a combination of maybe extra effort on their part and nobody being open and me not getting [the football] out of my hands as quick as I probably could've."

Minnesota Vikings

Brett Favre continues to provide exactly what the Vikings wanted and expected from him when they finally lured the quarterback out of his latest attempt at retirement on Aug. 18.


QB Brett Favre
Getty Images: Jamie Squire

Favre's heroics continued on Monday night as he guided the Vikings to a 30-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers at the Metrodome.

That, of course, would be the same Packers franchise that Favre spent 16 seasons building a Hall of Fame resume with before he found himself not welcomed back in the summer of 2008 after he decided his first shot at retirement wasn't going to stick.

Favre completed 24 of 31 passes for 271 yards with three touchdowns and a 135.3 passer rating in helping the Vikings remain perfect (4-0) with a quarter of the season gone.

"I was about as nervous as I've ever been before a game, going into this one," Favre said. "I didn't think I would be. As the week progressed, I felt fine. But when I got to the hotel [Sunday], it kind of dawned on me."

The Vikings' chances to extend their successful start this coming Sunday would seem pretty good considering Minnesota will be playing the winless St. Louis Rams.

"Anytime you're 4-0, it's a blast," Favre said. "I really like this group of guys. We have a lot of fun. We work hard, and I told them when I talked with them weeks ago how good I felt this football team could be. I thank them for giving me a chance to be a part of it, because I know it's been pretty crazy."

Make no mistake, though. No one associated with the Vikings is complaining about Favre's presence these days.


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