NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears are getting it done by spreading the ball around in the passing game without an elite receiver. The Lions aren't going to force feed the ball to star receiver Calvin Johnson. The Packers have a temporary change at left tackle with more injury issues. Get all the news and notes around the NFC North.


CHICAGO BEARS

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."

NOTES

  • PK Robbie Gould had touchbacks on two of his six kickoffs Sunday at Cowboys Stadium.

  • QB Jay Cutler has four straight 100-plus passer ratings. Staring in Week 16 last year, they are, in order, 108.4 vs. the Vikings, 122.0 vs. the Lions, 108.3 against the Lions (2010 opener) and 136.7 vs. the Cowboys.

  • WR Earl Bennett, who missed all of the preseason and the season opener with a hamstring injury, caught five passes in Week 2, but they totaled just 29 yards with a long gain of eight yards.

  • P Brad Maynard has a net average of just 25.3 yards after Dez Bryant's 62-yard TD return in Week 2. But five of Maynard's 11 punts have been downed inside the 20.

  • RB Chester Taylor is averaging just 2.7 yards per carry (35 yards on 13 carries), but he has caught five passes for 53 yards, a 10.6-yard average.


    DETROIT LIONS

    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."

    NOTES

  • WR Nate Burleson (right ankle) said there is a chance he could play Sunday at Minnesota. "We will make an assessment on Wednesday," he said. "It's possible (that he could play) but I don't want to put my pride away and go out and do something stupid and hurt the team. But I am definitely going to see how it feels. I will go out and try to run and the key with ankles, if I can cut than I can go out and play."

  • QB Matthew Stafford (right shoulder) is still doubtful. "He will play quarterback for us again when he's healthy and he's able to do all the things he needs to do," Schwartz said.

  • DT Ndamukong Suh's eight tackles were the second most made by an interior defensive lineman last Sunday, and the most by one who also played two downs as a fullback. Suh was a blocking back on back-to-back short-yardage runs in the fourth quarter. Net yardage — zero.

  • QB Shaun Hill completed 25 of 45 passes for 335 yards and two touchdowns in his Lions' debut, but he had two costly interceptions that lowered his rating to 75.7. The Lions were in scoring position on both. The first interception, by rookie Nate Allen in the end zone, wasn't his fault. TE Tony Scheffler and WR Calvin Johnson ran the same route and ended up in the same spot.

  • MLB Landon Johnson, subbing for DeAndre Levy (groin), had two tackles Sunday. The starting linebackers combined had eight tackles, the same as DT Ndamukong Suh.


    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."

    NOTES

  • FS Nick Collins could get some time off when the Packers reconvene for practice Thursday after aggravating a hip flexor toward the end of Sunday's game. The injury isn't considered serious, so Collins with some extra rest should be OK to play in the next game.

  • OLB Brad Jones may be limited in practice Thursday. He suffered a knee injury on the first series Sunday and later returned to the game, only to drop out again in the second half. The injury isn't considered serious.

  • NT B.J. Raji is expected to be fine this week after he came out of Sunday's game in the second half for a brief time because of a knee injury.

  • FB Korey Hall may be questionable to return this week and play Monday as he recovers from a hip injury that kept him out Sunday.

  • Viking Update Top Stories