NFC North news, notes and quotes

The Bears are expecting to get Jay Cutler back in the lineup. The Lions have a chance to tie a record they'd rather avoid, and its' a record that a past Lions team already owns. The normally sure-handed Packers were dropping passes and dropping a game because of it. Go in-depth with the Vikings' NFC North rivals as they continue to look for improvement or just survive.


CHICAGO BEARS

Quarterback Jay Cutler is expected back for Sunday's game, two weeks after suffering a concussion against the Giants.

According to a report from NFL Network, Cutler received clearance to resume practicing the team Wednesday. League rules require a concussed player to be cleared by an independent doctor, who will have to determine that he is asymptomatic after strenuous exercise, before he can get back on the field.

In Cutler's absence, Todd Collins threw four interceptions Sunday, but the Bears still beat the Panthers.

NOTES

  • Lovie Smith continued to juggle the lineup Sunday, especially along the offensive line.

    Rookie seventh-round pick J'Marcus Webb started his first NFL game at right tackle in place of nine-year veteran Kevin Shaffer, who had started the two previous games after Frank Omiyale moved over to left tackle following the hamstring injury to Chris Williams.

    At right guard, free-agent Edwin Williams, who was signed to the practice squad Sept. 5 and promoted to the 53-man roster on Sept. 27, started at right guard in place of Lance Louis. Louis missed practice time during the week with a knee injury that sidelined him in the second half of the Giants game last week.

    "I started out slow to be honest," Williams said, "and that's actually when we were doing pretty well. But after a while I got settled down and felt a little more comfortable being with the guys and the tempo of the game. My initial objective was just no stupid mental mistakes, no penalties, no holdings, and that's what I wanted to accomplish first.

    "As I get more comfortable I think I can be a lot more aggressive. I didn't feel as physical as I sometimes practice and that just comes with being out there more and being more involved. So hopefully I can keep building on it."

    There is sure to be more juggling in the future with Chris Williams expected back in the next week or two, which means Omiyale probably goes back to right tackle.

  • The Bears came into Sunday's game ranked 31st in rushing yards, but they piled up 218 yards on the Panthers, who were 17th in rushing yards but only managed 85 yards on the ground.

    "That was definitely old school," coach Lovie Smith said. "Bears ball right there for sure, where you ran the football, played great defense, got some turnovers, and special teams contributed. We know how to win games that way, and it was good to see that we can still do that. I'm not saying we're getting off the bus running the ball or anything. I'm just going to stay away from those comments, but today we needed to and we were able to."

  • There was no update on Jay Cutler's recovery from the Week 4 concussion that kept him out on Sunday, but Smith is hopeful.

    "We'll continue to evaluate Jay," the coach said. "Hopefully Jay will be able to go this week."

    Tight end Greg Olsen, Cutler's best friend on the team, shed some light on the situation.

    "He's feeling good," Olsen said. "I'm sure he feels good about (playing this week)."

  • The Bears are now 0-for-9 on plays from the opponents' one-yard line after they failed twice more Sunday with a run by Chester Taylor and an interception by Todd Collins.

  • RB Matt Forte jacked up his average per carry from 2.7 yards to 4.2 with just one game, his 166-yard effort in Week 5 on 22 carries. Forte has scored five of the Bears' nine touchdowns this season, including three as a receiver.

  • RB Chester Taylor is still averaging just 2.9 yards per carry, but he has assumed the role of short-yardage ball carrier. He still had a season-high 18 carries in Week 5, although he produced just 43 yards.

  • TE Greg Olsen was blanked in Week 5, but his lack of production was more the result of the struggles that backup QB Todd Collins experienced and the Bears' desire to keep the ball on the ground.

  • WR Devin Hester had five catches for a mere 16 yards in the past two games after netting zero on two receptions Sunday. But the struggles of backup QB Todd Collins have a lot to do with Hester's slump. And he is averaging 12.8 yards as a punt returner after a season-long 50-yarder last week.

  • WR Johnny Knox had one catch for 14 yards last week in the Bears' conservative approach, but he's still averaging a team-best 20.9 yards on 13 receptions.

  • WR Devin Aromashodu saw more playing time last week than he has since the season opener, although he failed to catch a pass for the fourth straight game.

  • OLT Chris Williams should be back at practice this week as he continues to recover from the hamstring injury he suffered in Week 2, but he is probably no better than questionable for Sunday's game.

  • WR Earl Bennett is tied for the team lead among wideouts with 13 catches, but he's picked up just 80 yards for a 6.2-yard average.

  • QB Todd Collins could be demoted to No. 3 this week after a disastrous four-interception performance as the starter in Week 5.

  • QB Caleb Hanie could move past Todd Collins on the depth chart this week. He's played very little (5-of-7 passing for 55 yards), but he has been solid, while Collins was awful.


    DETROIT LIONS

    Here's the tricky part about trying to get over the proverbial hump. As the Lions are finding out this week, the hump always moves.

    If they thought they got over it by beating the Rams on Sunday, what do they call the challenge of trying to break their 23-game road losing streak against the Giants in the Meadowlands this week?

    It's an historic hump. One more road loss and they tie their own NFL record for road futility, which they set with 24 straight losses from 2001-2003.

    "I don't really pay attention to records because records are made to be broken," cornerback Chris Houston said.

    Positive records are made to be broken; the negative ones are best avoided. But coach Jim Schwartz isn't going anywhere near the road-kill angle this week.

    "Is that fair to put that on Shaun Hill or Julian Peterson or Kyle Vanden Bosch?" Schwartz said. "If we had the same team for all that time and we'd all been through it, then maybe it would be something we talk about.

    "But we're talking about stuff that we put on film in the first five weeks and how we need to improve. Writing what's happened in the last couple of years isn't part of that."

    To his point, only seven players remain from the Lions' last road win -- 16-7 in Chicago in 2007. They are starters Calvin Johnson, Jeff Backus, Dominic Raiola and Stephen Peterman, and specialists Jason Hanson, Nick Harris and Don Muhlbach.

    But Schwartz owns 11 of those losses. When it was brought to his attention that he could own half the record should they lose to the Giants, he snarkily retorted, "Is 12 a record?"

    He got it right though, when he was asked why the team has struggled to win on the road.

    "We haven't been a very good football team," he said. "We haven't won very many games at all. It's like I've said, you don't win on the road because you know how to pack a suitcase or you look good in a suit. You win on the road because you have good players and you have good schemes. We haven't done a good enough job there, and when we do, we will win on the road."

    NOTES

  • Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will never discuss it, but he had to thoroughly enjoy putting up 44 points on the Rams. Linehan was vilified in St. Louis after compiling an 11-25 record as head coach and getting fired four games into his third season in 2008.

    There were some raised eyebrows when Linehan called for a halfback option pass with 9:21 left and the Lions leading 34-6. Jahvid Best threw a wounded duck that a wide open Tony Scheffler couldn't flag down. But head coach Jim Schwartz the play had nothing to do with any revenge or bad blood with the Rams' staff.

    "No matter what play we're running, other than when we are taking a knee, we are trying to score," Schwartz said. "I didn't see any white flags being waived on their sideline. We had gotten the ball on an interception (by Ndamukong Suh) after they had thrown six straight passes. So we're still trying to score, trying to finish what we started."

    It would have hypocritical, Schwartz said, for him to pull back on the reins with nine minutes still left to play.

  • The Lions will take a 23-game road losing streak into the Meadowlands against the Giants Sunday, one shy of their own NFL record for road futility. But Schwartz adamantly said that would not be a topic of conversation for the team this week.

    "Is that fair to put that on Shaun Hill or Julian Peterson or Kyle Vanden Bosch?" Schwartz said. "If we had the same team for all that time and we'd all been through it, then maybe it would be something we talk about.

    "But we're talking about stuff that we put on film in the first five weeks and how we need to improve. Writing what's happened in the last couple of years isn't part of that."

    Schwartz, though, does own 11 of the 23 road losses. When asked why he thinks the team has struggled to win on the road, he said, "We haven't been a very good football team. We haven't won very many games at all. It's like I've said, you don't win on the road because you know how to pack a suitcase or you look good in a suit. You win on the road because you have good players and you have good schemes. We haven't done a good enough job there and when we do, we will win on the road."

  • QB Matthew Stafford (shoulder) will throw three times this week but won't practice and will not play Sunday. He is believed to be on schedule to return Oct. 31 against the Redskins.

  • RB Jahvid Best does a lot of things well, but one thing he apparently needs to work on is his passing. Best, who is the quarterback in the Lions' once-used Wildcat package, threw a wobbly, nowhere-near-the-mark halfback option pass Sunday. He didn't run all that well, either, averaging 3.7 yards a carry.

  • RB Kevin Smith flashed some of his old, pre-knee-surgery form, breaking off a 15-yard run against the Rams. But he only gained 1 yard on his other two carries.

  • TE Tony Scheffler showed no ill-effects from the concussion that kept him out of practice last week. He and fellow TE Brandon Pettigrew each caught four passes for a combined 67 yards, as the Lions continue to supplement their weak running game with short passes to the tight ends.

  • WR Calvin Johnson (shoulder) had an MRI on Monday, the results of which won't be released until Wednesday. Coach Jim Schwartz said he was "very concerned" about the injury and that if the Lions would've practiced Monday, Johnson would have been unable to go.

  • WR Nate Burleson showed what the Lions offense was missing in his three-week absence caused by an ankle injury. His four catches for 56 yards and one touchdown posed enough of a threat to force the Rams to alter their defensive game plan -- which was to bracket Johnson.

  • DE Turk McBride played sparingly on Sunday with a foot or ankle injury. The Lions were left with just two active defensive ends, starters Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. Avril left the game in the fourth quarter with cramps. DT Andre Fluellen wound up play defensive end. McBride was in a boot Monday, but he thinks he'll be ready to play Sunday.

  • RB Maurice Morris was inactive for the first time this season. Morris was the Lions' leading rusher last season, but he hasn't shown the same quickness and power this season.

  • PK Jason Hanson, 40, keeps rolling along. He's booted nine of 11 field goals, with one of the misses being a 55-yarder. He has made seven straight.

  • QB Shaun Hill probably wishes he could play against the Rams every week. He used to kill them when he was a 49er, and he killed them again Sunday. He is 4-0 against them, beating them by a combined score of 79-6. His passer rating is well over 100 in each of those games.

  • CB Jonathan Wade, despite losing his starting job to Alphonso Smith, played a strong game Sunday. He played corner in the Lions' nickel and dime packages, while Smith played the nickel. Wade recovered two fumbles.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    The most uttered two words by Donald Driver after Sunday's 16-13 overtime loss at Washington were "slip away."

    Driver used the expression repeatedly with regard to how the Packers flopped in a winnable game, but it also was an apt phrase for the unusual performance by Driver.

    The dependable receiver dropped four passes, contributing mightily to an offense that sputtered in the lowest-scoring outing by the Packers since Aaron Rodgers took over as the starting quarterback at the outset of the 2008 season.

    "I dropped the balls that I know I normally make in my sleep," Driver lamented.

    Green Bay had six drops in the game, an alarming revelation for an offense that devotes time each day in practice to drills for catching and securing the football.

    "I'm sure they will emphasize it more this week, and we'll spend a little more time on the things we need to correct," coach Mike McCarthy said. "We need to catch the football better after (Sunday's) performance."

    Wideouts James Jones and Jordy Nelson had one drop apiece in the ragged effort by the supposedly potent offense, which also had two turnovers on pass plays and lost tight ends Jermichael Finley and Donald Lee to early injuries.

    "When it rains, it pours," offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said. "We had a lot of uncharacteristic things that we typically execute a little better. We just weren't sharp. We weren't very detailed, and it showed."

    Driver had a critical drop late in the third quarter Sunday. He was open on a deep slant on third-and-1 but let the football glance off his hands, prompting McCarthy to send out Mason Crosby for a 48-yard field goal that missed wide right and kept the Redskins in the game down 13-3.

    "If you come up with that play, you continue the drive and you score instead of leaving it up to our kicker to make a kick," Driver said. "We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make plays, and we feel like this is one game that we let an opportunity slip away from us."

    NOTES

  • It's conceivable the Packers won't have any of the six players they lost to injury in the 16-13 overtime loss at Washington on Sunday available this week.

    For sure, tight ends Jermichael Finley (torn meniscus) and Donald Lee (chest sprain) and safety Derrick Martin (knee sprain) will be out as the reeling Packers prepare to host the Dolphins.

    Finley, the team's top receiving threat, will undergo surgery on his right knee Tuesday. His recovery has been placed at three to six weeks.

    "I would be surprised if it's season-ending," coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "But anytime you go in for surgery, obviously it's something you have to take the time to evaluate. Once (team doctor Pat) McKenzie does the surgery, we'll have more information on the time frame."

    McCarthy called Martin's injury, which occurred on special teams, "pretty significant" and he believes Martin will be lost for more than two weeks.

    Lee also could miss at least two weeks.

    The jury is out on whether quarterback Aaron Rodgers (concussion), linebacker Clay Matthews (hamstring strain) and defensive end Ryan Pickett (ankle sprain) can make a speedy recovery in the coming days to practice by the end of the week and play Sunday against the Dolphins.

    Neither Matthews nor Pickett finished Sunday's game. Matthews, who has a league-leading 8.5 sacks, aggravated an injury that kept him out most of the preseason.

    "I can't really tell you right now," McCarthy said of the prospects for Matthews and Pickett for the next game.

    Rodgers was hurt on a helmet-to-helmet hit on an intercepted pass on what turned out to be the Packers' final offensive play. He wouldn't have gone back into the game had Green Bay taken possession of the football again.

  • The Packers went into Sunday's game without several key players because of injury.

    Starting inside linebacker Nick Barnett suffered serious damage to his right wrist in the previous game. After getting a second opinion on the injury during a visit to an Indianapolis specialist Friday, Barnett decided to get the recommended surgery done now rather than wait until possibly after the season was over.

    The operation is scheduled for Wednesday.

    "When you're dealing with his particular injury, they really won't know (the extent of it) until they get in there," said McCarthy, who added the team is "holding out hope" that Barnett won't miss the rest of the season.

  • McCarthy refused to say Monday whether a penalty should have been called on Redskins defensive end Jeremy Jarmon for what the coach earlier called "a helmet-to-helmet blow" on the game-turning play in which Rodgers was hurt in overtime.

    "I'm not going to answer those questions," McCarthy said. "I don't comment on officiating."

  • RB Brandon Jackson rushed for a career-high 115 yards on only 10 carries Sunday, buoyed by a personal-best 71-yard run early in the game. It was the longest run by a Packer since DeShawn Wynn had a 73-yard touchdown in the 2008 season finale. Jackson came into Sunday's game with all of 74 yards in 27 carries in the previous three games as the starting replacement for an injured Ryan Grant. Jackson also led the Packers on Sunday with five catches, amounting to 25 yards.

  • WR Donald Driver jumped ahead of the injured Finley as the team's top receiver with 25 catches for 276 yards, but the veteran had an uncharacteristic four drops Sunday. Driver also was kept out of the end zone for only the second time in the first five games.

  • WR Greg Jennings continues to have a bit part in the passing game as the team's supposed No. 1 wideout. Jennings had just two receptions (for 22 yards) for the third straight game. His season totals are a lackluster 14 catches for 183 yards, though he is tied with Driver for the team high with three touchdown receptions.

  • RB John Kuhn continued to split time at halfback with Jackson but was limited to three carries for 12 yards. The converted fullback had 24 rushes for 106 yards in the previous three games.


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