The Bears don't appear to have a go-to receiver — or to need one.
Devin Aromashodu was the leading wide receiver in the opener with five catches for 71 yards, while running back Matt Forte caught seven balls for 151 yards. Against the Cowboys, wide receivers led the way. Johnny Knox had four catches for 86 yards and Devin Hester had four receptions for 77 yards and a TD. Aromashodu did not catch a pass vs. the Cowboys. Hester was targeted just once in the opener. It didn't matter. The offense flourished in both games.
"(Since) Mike (Martz) got here with this offense, I don't think you need a No. 1," said quarterback Jay Cutler, who has thrown five TD passes and just one interception this season. "I don't think you need that guy because the ball is going in so many directions."
Tight end Greg Olsen had four catches in the opener, for just 37 yards, but against the Cowboys his only catch was for a 39-yard TD. So, not only are the Bears utilizing different receivers, they're deploying them in different roles.
Cutler believes that, in Martz's offense, it may well be an advantage to have a variety of viable options, rather than a clear-cut, go-to guy.
"I think it's almost even a bigger advantage to have what we have," Cutler said, "a lot of weapons. We're creating so many match-ups for guys. It keeps teams off balance. They don't know where we're going or where we are headed or what we're doing in some of these formations, so it's working out to our advantage. We have a guy like Mike Martz who knows how to take advantage of all that."
Greg Olsen was not supposed to have much of a role in Martz's offense. Conventional thinking said the tight end was just an afterthought in his scheme, but Olsen had the catch that turned around the fortunes of the offense on Sunday. That pass was designed for him in that specific situation, and it worked to perfection.
"If you just execute and do exactly what he says to do, most times we're going to be in a pretty good position to succeed," Olsen said of Martz's system. "I think that play was a great example of that."
That game was also a great example of the offense adapting to a difficult situation. The Cowboys were bringing all kinds of pressure in passing situations on the Bears' first three possessions. Some teams and some coordinators would have gone conservative at that point, trying to stop the blitzing by running the ball. But Martz kept throwing it; he just called for quicker throws that attacked the area left vulnerable by the blitzers.
"That goes back to our playbook," Cutler said, "of having all these plays and carrying all this stuff just for circumstances like (that). Whenever some of the stuff isn't working, we can rely on some stuff that we practiced down the road. (Martz) can dial it up, and the guys know exactly what's going on. We did a little of that, we changed some stuff on the run, made some adjustments up front, and everyone reacted to it properly.
"I have all the confidence in Mike and his play-calling ability, giving us the right plays and making the proper adjustments, which we did."
No one gave the Bears' offensive line much credit heading into this season and, although there's still a long way to go, that unit has made strides toward respectability. If the group can handle blitz pressure as well as it did after the first three series, it will force defenses to think twice before coming after Cutler.
"I think people think that our offensive line can't handle it," said Cutler, who was sacked just once Sunday. "I think they can. I think they're going to do that, and we're going to hit some stuff quick. We're going to get the ball in some of our play-makers' hands, and you saw what we could do."
Same story, different year; and we're not talking about the Lions' 0-2 start.
Regardless of the offensive output — and on Sunday against the Eagles the Lions scored 32 points and rolled up 444 yards — the focus always seems to be on wide receiver Calvin Johnson's catch count.
It wasn't bountiful. He had four catches for 50 yards and a touchdown. But three of the catches came on the second to last drive when the Eagles were deployed in a loose prevent. He's had eight catches on the year, not exactly a total befitting an elite receiver.
The Lions' response: So what?
And that comes from coach Jim Schwartz, Johnson and every other offensive player.
"Look, we still got the ball up and down the field," receiver Nate Burleson said. "We have played two teams (Chicago and Philadelphia) that play a lot of hawk coverage; meaning they like to keep the receivers in front of them. When we face single coverage, we tend to expose that. So we're not going to see a lot of it. We're going to do a lot of blocking and we've got to take advantage of the nickel and dime (defensive packages).
"Then, as soon as we get single coverage we will make some plays."
To be fair, the Lions targeted Johnson 11 times on Sunday. Only running back Jahvid Best (14) was thrown to more.
"The key is to win," Schwartz said. "If he had two catches in the first two games and we were 2-0, I'd be happy. If he had 20 catches and we were 0-2, I would not be happy. We're 0-2 and I am not happy about anything. But our objective is to score points, not favor a particular position or player."
The point isn't to keep running your head into a wall; it's to find another way over or around it. And that is exactly what the Lions did by getting Best or tight end Brandon Pettigrew in favorable matchups with either slower linebackers or smaller defensive backs.
"They did a lot of two-man coverages that they hadn't shown except in two-minute situations," quarterback Shaun Hill said. "They had a man on (Johnson) jamming him at the line and they had deep safety to help over the top. That's kind of tough to contend with, but it gave us good match ups with our tight end and running back."
Brandon Pettigrew caught seven passes for 108 yards and Best caught nine for 154.
"We go into every game wanting to get everybody involved, but when you are out there you have to take what the defense is doing and take advantage of that," Hill said. "I think we did that. But Calvin is a big part of our offense and we are always trying to get the ball to him. That's not going to change."
GREEN BAY PACKERS
A day after abruptly pulling veteran left tackle Chad Clifton from the Packers' 34-7 win over the Buffalo Bills, head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Clifton remains the starter at the position.
Yet, given the team's concerns about the health of Clifton, the in-game insertion of rookie Bryan Bulaga on Sunday could spell an indefinite change in the starting lineup.
"The medical staff has a lot of history with Chad, and when we get him to the point where we feel he's ready to go, he'll go," McCarthy said. "He's our starting left tackle. (But) he's battling through a rough spot right now medically. We have Bryan Bulaga getting ready."
The 34-year-old Clifton has protected the back sides of first Brett Favre and now Aaron Rodgers with the Packers since his rookie season in 2000. While regarded as one of the league's top left tackles — Clifton earned a Pro Bowl spot in 2007 — he has been hampered by knee problems the last few years.
Clifton needed both knees and also his shoulders surgically repaired in the 2009 offseason.
He avoided any more procedures this year. Yet, swelling and soreness in one knee set in recently, and McCarthy alluded to Clifton's physical condition as to why he struggled in the first four series Sunday before being yanked in favor of Bulaga for the rest of the game.
"He didn't look healthy," McCarthy said. "Chad has been having an issue with his knee, and we need to get him healthy. I thought it was affecting the way he was playing."
McCarthy added that the team is hopeful Clifton, with an extra day of recovery and rest this week, will get well enough to play against the Chicago Bears next Monday night.
Otherwise, the Packers have what they feel is a starter-ready insurance policy in Bulaga, their first-round draft pick this year out of Iowa.
Bulaga was challenging incumbent Daryn Colledge for the job at left guard until suffering a hip injury that kept him out most of the latter part of the preseason.
The coaches were encouraged by Bulaga's relief effort at tackle Sunday. He committed a false-start penalty late in the game.
"I'm sure Bryan will take a lot of the practice reps this week," McCarthy said. "We'll make sure Bryan's ready (for Monday's game), and we'll do what we need to do to get Chad ready."