Around the NFC North

The Bears won in sloppy – and fortunate – fashion Sunday against the Lions. Detroit was concerned about another loss, too, as QB Matthew Stafford hurt his shoulder. With the Packers, it was about their defensive stars, Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, who were shining bright. Go around the NFC North to get caught up on the division's opening weekend of football.


CHICAGO BEARS

The Bears probably will not be able to enjoy a victorious trip to Dallas next week if they turn the ball over four times as they did in a sloppy 19-14 victory over the Lions in the season opener.

Quarterback Jay Cutler was intercepted once and lost a fumble on one of the four times he was sacked. He also threw a pair of TD passes to running back Matt Forte, but Forte also lost a fumble, as did tight end Greg Olsen.

"It's a turnover game, and the turnover ratio is always big on who wins the game," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "That hurt us quite a bit early on. But I saw Jay make play after play distributing the ball around."

Cutler threw for 372 yards with a passer rating of 108.3 and the Bears rolled up 463 yards of total offense but scored just two touchdowns. More often than not, it was the Bears who stopped themselves on offense.

"It was the turnovers, and I think all the guys in the huddle knew it," Cutler said. "We're on the verge of becoming a very good offense. We've just got to clean some things up."

Both of the Lions' touchdowns were the result of Bears turnovers, the first one after Cutler's interception and the second after Forte's fumble. Forte had a spectacular game

With 201 total yards from scrimmage, including seven receptions for 151 yards, but he knows the turnovers will be too much to overcome if they continue.

"When you turn the ball over like that, it's hard to win games, and we got lucky today," Forte said. "We've got to control the ball, control the clock and have minimal turnovers — actually none at all."

LINEUP WATCH: Rookie Major Wright got some playing time at free safety at the expense of Chris Harris, while strong safety Danieal Manning played the entire game. Wright got his first snaps during the Lions' third possession, and he was also on the field for the game's final possession.

"The plan was to rotate the guys," coach Lovie Smith said. "We feel good about all three of our safeties."

Wright probably would already be a starter, but he suffered a fractured finger in the preseason opener that necessitated the insertion of a surgical pin. Wright wasn't cleared for contact until the week before the regular-season opener. The Bears have been impressed by his range in pass defense and his willingness to hit and support against the run.

BY THE NUMBERS: The Bears' defense allowed just 168 total yards vs. the Lions, the fewest yards they have permitted since Oct. 8, 2006, when they held the Bills to 145. Prior to the Lions' last-ditch scoring effort on their final possession, the Bears had permitted just 110 yards on the eight possessions before that final drive, the Lions went three plays-and-punt five times and turned the ball over on the other three possessions. The leaders of the defense were linebackers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, who combined for a press box total of 19 tackles. Urlacher had three tackles for loss, while Briggs forced and recovered a fumble.

NOTES

  • QB Jay Cutler completed 23 of 32 passes for 372 yards, and wasn't concerned about the controversial ending. "A win's a win," he said. "We're going to take it any way we can get it."

  • RB Matt Forte's 201 yards from scrimmage was the most by a Bears player since Neal Anderson's 209 against Green Bay in 1989. Forte had 151 receiving yards, the second-most ever by a Bears running back. "I felt better than my rookie year," Forte said. "I just feel really healthy. I thank God that I'm able to feel that healthy and go out there and play."

  • OLB Lance Briggs had a strip-sack of Lions QB Shaun Hill in the fourth quarter that gave the Bears the ball at Detroit's 1-yard line. "Lance is a Pro Bowl player," said coach Lovie Smith. "He plays like that always. My seven years here I've seen him make play-after-play like that. That was a big play in the game."


    DETROIT LIONS

    In all probability, the Lions will be marching into their home opener Sunday against Philadelphia without starting quarterback Matthew Stafford.

    Late in the second quarter of their disheartening 19-14 loss at Chicago, Julius Peppers ripped past tackle Jeff Backus and crushed Stafford. The ball was lost and so was Stafford. He and the nearly 300-pound Peppers landed on Stafford's right shoulder.

    It was clear fairly quickly that Stafford was badly injured. He came off the field and immediately removed his jersey and shoulder pads. He was visibly frustrated, walking away from the trainers and teammates at one point. He came out in the second half with his right arm in a sling.

    "It's not fun," Stafford said. "I worked hard to come back from the other injuries (left shoulder and knee) and I felt we were doing pretty good on offense. It's not exactly what you want on opening day."

    Stafford was 11 for 15 for 83 yards and had engineered two scoring drives before he went out. The Lions won't know the full extent of the injury until more tests are run on Monday. But with it being his throwing shoulder, he could be out for a while.

    "We did all the tests and the injury was significant enough that we didn't put him back into the game," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's too soon to know if or how long he will be out."

    Backus was sick about it afterward.

    "It's your worst nightmare as an offensive lineman," said Backus. "You don't ever want to get your quarterback hurt. It's our job to keep him upright and I didn't do that today."

    Actually, Backus and right tackle Gosder Cherilus did a good job on Peppers. The sack on Stafford was his only tackle. But, as every tackle knows, one bad play can cost you a quarterback.

    "He (Peppers) made a good move, a kind of drift-and-rip," Backus said. "I didn't get much on him. He kind of made himself small and got around the corner."

    Veteran Shaun Hill is the backup quarterback.

    "My job is to step in and pick up where Matt left off," he said. "That's the job of a back-up quarterback and I feel I am very qualified for that."

    He didn't immediately show that, however. He was 9 for 19 for 88 yards, and the Lions had just 72 total yards in the second half. He was picked off once (by Charles Tillman) and he was sacked and fumbled on the Lions' 1 by Lance Briggs.

    The Lions had six three-and-outs and the one-play turnover in Hill's first seven possessions.

    "We have a diverse offense and there are some throws each quarterback makes a little better than the other and we know those things about Shaun," Schwartz said. "But there is a reason Shaun Hill is on this team. He's an experienced quarterback and he can lead us to wins. If Matt's not able to go, we have a lot of believe in Shaun."

    TRENDING: The Lions consider themselves a diverse and balanced offensive team. But they managed just 20 yards rushing against the Bears. Rookie Jahvid Best had two touchdown runs, but only had 20 yards in 14 carries. The longest run from scrimmage was eight yards.

    LINEUP WATCH: As expected, running back Kevin Smith was inactive for the opener. He is eight months removed from major knee surgery and hasn't shown the same quickness or power. It will be interesting now, with Stafford possibly out and the team's inability to run against the Bears, if they try to rush him back for the Eagles.

    NOTES

  • WR Calvin Johnson had an apparent game-winning touchdown catch waived off with 24 seconds left. He appeared to catch the ball with one hand, but it bounced free when he laid the hand on the ground. The officials ruled, and video replay confirmed, that Johnson did not complete the catch.

  • CB Aaron Berry, the rookie, started at nickel back and had three tackles and an interception. But he injured his right shoulder in the second quarter. He is expected to miss Sunday's game. Alphonso Smith replaced him.

  • DE Cliff Avril sprained his knee during an extra point conversion in the second quarter. He continued to play, but pulled himself out in the fourth quarter after it stiffened. The Lions de-activated defensive ends Lawrence Jackson and Willie Young and had only one backup (Turk McBride).

  • OLB Julian Peterson wore No. 98 at Michigan State and during his best seasons in Seattle. He wore No. 59 for the Lions until Sunday. He was able to get No. 98 back after the Lions waived DT Landon Cohen. Peterson had six tackles and one pass deflection,

  • MLB DeAndre Levy (groin) did not dress and hasn't practiced since the third preseason game. Landon Johnson started in his place and struggled. The Lions are being very tight-lipped about Levy's status for Sunday.

  • S Louis Delmas (groin) played and said he had no limitations. But the rust was evident. His pursuit was slow throughout the game, particularly on a game-changing screen pass that Matt Forte turned into an 89-yard score.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    Even when they're not healthy, having cornerback Charles Woodson and linebacker Clay Matthews on the field is paramount for the Packers' defense.

    The dynamic duo is back to its old tricks of tormenting offenses, picking up in Sunday's season-opening victory at the Philadelphia Eagles where the pair left off in a signature 2009 season.

    Matthews capped a big performance after he missed all but the first week of the preseason because of a hamstring injury by stopping Michael Vick on a fourth-down sneak late in the game. That preserved Green Bay's 27-20 win after the Packers nearly squandered a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter.

    "Clay's one of those guys I don't think it takes (much practice time)," defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. "Clay can see the big picture."

    The athletic and versatile Matthews is playing on the left side in the Packers' 3-4 scheme this season. Matthews, a 2009 first-round draft pick, also played some at his former spot on the right side and lined up in the middle a handful of snaps Sunday.

    Besides the clutch takedown of Vick, Matthews had two sacks, a forced fumble and knocked Eagles starting quarterback Kevin Kolb out of the game at halftime with a concussion.

    "Fortunately for me, missing practice isn't the worst thing," said Matthews, who led the Packers with 10 sacks and earned a Pro Bowl spot as a rookie.

    Woodson dropped out of practice Friday with a jammed toe, which raised questions about how effective the 13-year veteran would be on opening day.

    "When you've got guys like Charles, you want to keep him healthy and keep him playing," Capers said. "I know last year he played the most plays of any defensive player, which is always an indication of being able to stay healthy."

    Woodson overcame the recurring injury to create a turnover with a third-quarter strip, leading to a Packers touchdown. He also nearly picked off a pass.

    Those types of plays were routine for Woodson in 2009, when he had career highs of nine interceptions and four forced fumbles to win the NFL Defensive Player of the Year award.

    The Packers rewarded Woodson last week with a two-year contract extension that will keep him in Green Bay through 2014 and could pay him more than $55 million.

    Woodson's biggest incentive this season is to help the Packers, who host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, get to Super Bowl XLV.

    "We've got the players to get it done. We've got the coaching staff to get it done," Woodson said. "It's all going to rest on our shoulders, on the players to go out there and get it done. Our mission as a team is to get there, and I think we can do it."

    LINEUP WATCH: Undrafted rookie cornerback Sam Shields had a full-time role in Week 1. The Packers went predominantly with their nickel package against the Eagles, lining up Tramon Williams and Shields on the left and right sides, respectively, and Woodson in the slot. Shields was moved up Green Bay's depth chart with Brandon Underwood sidelined indefinitely because of a shoulder injury.

    BY THE NUMBERS: Mason Crosby's 56-yard field goal that ended the first half Sunday was a team record. The previous record was 54 yards, attained by three players - Chris Jacke (1994), Ryan Longwell (2001) and Dave Rayner (2006). Crosby's previous long was 53 yards.

    NOTES

  • RB Ryan Grant suffered a right ankle sprain late in the first half of Sunday's 27-20 season-opening win at the Philadelphia Eagles, and his condition will be closely monitored throughout the week. Grant didn't play the rest of the game after the team initially announced he would return. The featured back was hurt on an 18-yard run and had eight carries for 45 yards.

  • DE Justin Harrell may have suffered a season-ending injury to his left knee early in the second quarter. Harrell, the Packers' only backup defensive lineman activated for the game, said afterward he believes the extent of the injury is the dreaded tear of the anterior-cruciate ligament. Harrell was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on the knee Monday. It's the latest of several medical setbacks for Harrell, the team's first-round draft pick in 2007, who missed the entire 2009 season because of a chronic back injury.

  • DE Cullen Jenkins sustained a broken left hand in the first quarter. He managed to finish the game, but required a big club-like cast on the hand. Jenkins returned to practice on a full-time basis last week after missing the final two preseason games because of a calf injury.

  • FS Nick Collins suffered bruised ribs in the game but stayed in until the end. There was no indication the injury is serious.

  • OLB Clay Matthews starred in his first game action of 2010. Matthews, a Pro Bowl player as a rookie who led the Packers with 10 sacks last season, showed no ill effects from a hamstring injury that kept him out most of training camp. He had a co-game-high seven tackles with two sacks, forced a fumble and stopped Eagles quarterback Michael Vick on a fourth-down sneak in Packers territory late in the game to seal the victory.

  • QB Aaron Rodgers had a shaky season debut on the heels of a superb preseason. Rodgers finished 19 of 31 for 188 yards and two touchdowns - six yards to Donald Driver and 32 yards to Greg Jennings - but he also had two interceptions on badly thrown passes and was sacked three times. Rodgers threw only seven interceptions in 2009 and didn't have his first until Week 4.

  • RB Brandon Jackson ably filled the void after Ryan Grant left the game and rushed for 63 yards in 18 carries, including a long of 18 yards.

  • ILB A.J. Hawk didn't log a start for only the third time in his five-year pro career. In fact, the team's first-round draft pick in 2006 was conspicuously absent on defense, as backup Brandon Chillar worked alongside Nick Barnett on the inside with the Packers going exclusively with their sub packages throughout the game.

  • OLB Brad Jones made the start on the right side after he missed most of the preseason because of back and shoulder injuries. Jones, who was fitted with a harness to protect his injured right shoulder, held up for the entire game.

  • DE Mike Neal, counted on to be a regular contributor as a rookie in the defensive-line rotation at the start of the season, was an injury scratch Sunday. Neal, a second-round draft pick out of Purdue, suffered an abdominal strain in practice Wednesday.


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