Rookie quarterback Kyle Orton played like a veteran in Sunday's rout of Detroit, giving the Bears hope for the future, especially since their defense played well for the second straight week.
The defense allowed just 234 total yards and only 29 on the ground. More important, the Bears intercepted Lions quarterback Joey Harrington five times.
"Last week (against Washington) we played well, but we didn't play well enough to win," said cornerback Nathan Vasher, who had two of the picks. "That's something we wanted to do this week and not even make it close. Great defenses feel like that."
The Bears believe they are capable of having a top-10 defense this season, and they relished the opportunity to prove it against a Lions offense that boasts five first-round draft picks just at the skill positions.
"We did what we said we were going to do," said middle linebacker Brian Urlacher, who had both of the Bears' sacks. "We got in (Harrington's) face, we got some pressure on him, we got him to throw the ball sometimes when he didn't want to and we got some takeaways. That's what we have to do every week."
Orton completed 14 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown. He did not turn the ball over and finished with a passer rating of 103.3, almost double of last week's 52.8.
"It felt great just being able to see the field and make a good read and deliver the ball," Orton said of his touchdown pass. "And Moose (Muhsin Muhammad) made a good catch on it. It was fun."
Orton credited the Bears' ability to establish the running game, and the defense's takeaways, with making his second start go more smoothly than his first. But Bears coach Lovie Smith said Orton's performance was a major factor, too.
"I thought he was in control of the football game and managed it very well," Smith said. "He made great reads and good throws. He did what a quarterback is supposed to do: lead his team to a win."
The Bears' plan is to not make their young quarterback responsible for winning the game, but he rejects the notion that the only thing he has to do to manage the game is avoid mistakes. Sometimes he needs to make a play.
"I don't think game management is being timid with the ball or being afraid to throw a pick; I don't think that's it at all," Orton said. "I think game management's knowing when to take a chance and knowing when not to take a chance, and I think I did a really good job of that today, and it's something I definitely concentrated on during the week."
If he focuses that well the rest of the season, the Bears could have a winning formula in what looks like a putrid NFC North this season.
It's not what some Lions would prefer but — after their shocking 38-6 loss Sunday to Chicago — a bye week might be the best thing that could happen to them.
With several players — and their collective pride — wounded, the Lions will have two weeks to rest on their 1-1 record, do what they can to purge the Bears game from their minds and prepare for their Oct. 2 game at Tampa Bay.
"It's going to sink in," guard Damien Woody said. "After a loss, it's bad enough that you've got to wait a week before you play again, but now we've got to wait two? That's going to eat at guys a little bit, but we can't control that. We've just got to do what we do."
If they are to deliver on the heightened expectations for 2005, however, the Lions are going to have to change the way they're doing what they did Sunday. And it wasn't just the players. It was also the coaches and their approach that deserve examination after the dismal showing at Soldier Field.
Most notably, the Lions have to show they can at least hold their own at the line of scrimmage, something they failed to do against the Bears.
They have to show offensively they can protect quarterback Joey Harrington and that they can open holes for running back Kevin Jones. Harrington was sacked only twice but he was hit and hurried repeatedly, a contributing factor in his five interceptions.
They have to give Jones some kind of running room if he is to give them the ground game that was to be an integral part of their move back to respectability. In two games, Jones has gained 109 yards on 33 carries, averaging just 3.3 yards per attempt.
Defensively, the front seven, which dominated Green Bay in the season opener a week earlier, has yet to prove that game wasn't a fluke after being shredded for 139 yards on 20 carries by Bears running back Thomas Jones and failing to put pressure on rookie quarterback Kyle Orton.
All things considered, the Lions might need more than a one-week bye to get their house back in order.
How bad was it?
Harrington was intercepted by a Chicago defensive lineman on the third play of the game.
Chicago running back Thomas Jones scored from 3 yards out on the 10th play of the game.
And that's the way it went for three hours and five minutes Sunday, as the Lions absorbed every breakdown imaginable on their way to a 38-6 loss, dropping them to 1-1 for the season.
A few of the lowlights included a career-high five interceptions against Harrington, a blocked extra point by interim kicker Remy Hamilton, a backfield collision between Harrington and running back Kevin Jones resulting in a 5-yard loss, and an offensive pass interference against rookie Mike Williams, negating a 44-yard reception on a throw from Harrington when the game was still in reach.
The Lions got their only touchdown on Harrington's 51-yard pass to wide receiver Roy Williams five minutes into the game.
To make matters worse, the Lions suffered a number of injuries — cornerback Fernando Bryant (separated left shoulder), defensive end James Hall (groin), safety Vernon Fox (groin), running back Shawn Bryson (heel) and tight end Marcus Pollard (concussion).
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The Packers have never lost four straight games since quarterback Brett Favre began his mind-boggling streak of starts, 227 and counting, on Sept. 27, 1992.
The reigning three-time NFC North champion will attempt to keep that streak alive Sunday when Tampa Bay comes to Lambeau Field. Counting an embarrassing home loss to division rival Minnesota in a wild-card playoff game to end last season and an equally miserable two defeats to start this season, the Packers are in the midst of a three-game skid.
Worse yet, they've lost their last three home openers at Lambeau Field, the hallowed shrine where not long ago a victory was virtually automatic for the home team.
The mood in once-formidable Green Bay certainly isn't sunny and cheerful.
"It's no fun practicing when you're losing. (Winning) sure makes things go by a little bit easier," Favre said after the latest disheartening defeat, 26-24 to Cleveland at Lambeau last Sunday. "I've been fortunate through my career to have won most of the games. This is not very fun."
Not since Mike Sherman's first year as head coach, in 2000, have the Packers opened a season 0-2. Slow starts have been more the rule than the exception on Sherman's watch. However, he's been able to steer the team to a worthwhile finish in every instance, including division titles in 2003 and ‘04 after 1-2 and 1-4 records out of the gate, respectively.
This wretched beginning, though, could be the death knell to a wondrous, unmatched winning legacy during the Favre era in Green Bay. The Packers have the unkind combination of youth and inexperience working against them at several key positions and will have to continue to live or die with a number of players in need of seasoning as the schedule gets appreciably tougher the rest of the way.
In the wake of losing dynamic receiver Javon Walker to a season-ending knee injury in the opener at Detroit on Sept. 11, the Packers have only one proven wideout in fellow Pro Bowler Donald Driver. Robert Ferguson, elevated to starter in Walker's absence, is in his fifth pro year but has caught no more than 38 passes in a season.
Diminutive Antonio Chatman, who's marginal at his top position as a punt returner, and raw rookie Terrence Murphy constitute the backups Favre has at his disposal right now.
The receiving corps was further decimated when Pro Bowl tight end Bubba Franks was lost midway through the fourth quarter Sunday to a hip injury.
Little wonder Favre made this almost-desperate plea in the aftermath of another not-so-fun loss, "We have to find somebody who can come in and help us right away."
If help doesn't come soon and the newfound losing track record isn't stemmed, it probably isn't long before Favre gives retirement serious consideration and walks away with the fond memories of how it felt to win on a consistent basis.
"I hope our younger guys, even our older guys, don't accept losing, home or away," he said. "It makes for a long season. Good things are not written about you. Good things are not said about you."
The team retired the No. 92 worn for six years in the 1990s by defensive end Reggie White, who died at age 43 last Dec. 26 from complications of sleep apnea and sarcoidosis. White is only the fifth Packers great to have his number put out of commission, joining the likes of fullback Tony Canadeo (3), wide receiver Don Hutson (14), quarterback Bart Starr (15) and linebacker Ray Nitschke (66).
A moving halftime ceremony that included White's widow and their two children, however, was overshadowed by the Packers' second straight dismal performance in as many games this season.