NFC North Notes

The Lions are feeling better about themselves and their toughness after beating Baltimore, and the Packers are pleased with their ability to replace injured tight end Bubba Franks with solid backups while hoping other starters heal in time for the next matchup with the Vikings.


Four games into the season, the Lions might be finding an identity, and with it, something they can hang their hat on in the NFC North - physical toughness.

Recent Lions teams have not always exhibited that quality, but they emerged from their 35-17 victory over Baltimore feeling a little better about themselves in that particular category.

"The thing I'm most proud of these guys for would be two things - our physical toughness against a team whose reputation is just that, being a very physical, intimidating sort of team, with Pro Bowlers galore ... and I thought we brought a great physical toughness to that game," coach Steve Mariucci said.

"The other thing - probably more important - was our mental toughness in a game that could have gotten away from us, or from either team, for that matter."

The Lions felt the Ravens wanted to intimidate them, and when Detroit wouldn't be intimidated, the Ravens lost their composure. The result was 21 penalties against Baltimore and just seven against the Lions.

The Lions will have plenty of opportunities to show their toughness in the immediate future, with a game coming up Sunday against Carolina followed by a road game against the Cleveland Browns and a rematch with the Chicago Bears, who gave them a 38-6 thrashing in the Sept. 18 meeting at Soldier Field.

With the offense struggling and the defense having its ups and downs, it would be comforting to Mariucci to know he could count on his team to at least play tough.

"When we're going to play against a physical team our plan is not to out-finesse them," Mariucci said. "Our plan is to outhit them. So when you play the No. 1 and No. 2 defense in the league, we're going to run at them, we're going to see who's stronger."

They came close against the No. 1 defense in a 17-13 loss at Tampa Bay on Oct. 2 and pulled it off against the Ravens' No. 2 defense. At least, it's a start.


  • WR Roy Williams, the Lions second-leading receiver with 12 receptions for 187 yards and a touchdown in the first four games, will wait for results of an ultrasound on his strained left quadriceps muscle before determining whether he will be able to practice this week or whether he has any chance of playing Sunday against Carolina.

  • FB Cory Schlesinger will get more work in practice this week but Lions coach Steve Mariucci said Schlesinger would still be limited. He is coming off a broken left fibula in the season opener and might still be a week away from returning to game action.

  • PR/KOR Eddie Drummond has a bruised left shin and a hyperextended knee that make his availability questionable for the Lions' game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers. Drummond is off to a slow start, averaging just 4.5 yards on 11 punt returns and 21.4 yards on 10 kickoff returns.

  • QB Jeff Garcia will get more work in practice this week as he continues his recovery from a broken left fibula and badly sprained ankle. The Lions backup quarterback is not expected to play Sunday against Carolina, however.

  • DE James Hall is to see a specialist this week to determine the severity of the groin injury that has kept him all except a handful of plays in the past two games.

  • LS Don Muhlbach is wearing a brace while he recovers from a sprained knee and it appears unlikely he will be able to play in the Lions' game Sunday against the Carolina Panthers.

  • QB Joey Harrington will be coming off a season-low 10 completions in 23 pass attempts for 97 yards against the Baltimore Ravens when the Lions take on the Carolina Panthers next Sunday at Ford Field. For the season, Harrington has completed only 51.3 percent of his passes, has four touchdowns and seven interceptions, and has a passer rating of 52.7.

  • RB Kevin Jones has shown occasional flashes but little consistent production as the Lions continue to struggle to establish their running game. Jones is averaging less than 3 yards per carry with 205 yards on 71 rushes in four games. He has scored three rushing touchdowns, however.

  • RB Shawn Bryson, who struggled with a heel injury the previous two games, seems to have regained his speed and effectiveness. His 77-yard touchdown run on his only touch against Baltimore was the Lions' longest scoring play of the season.

  • WR Charles Rogers, who had just five receptions 77 yards in the Lions' first three games, has three games remaining on his four-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse program.

  • WR Kevin Johnson is the Lions' leading receiver with 13 catches for 110 yards in four games. He is also their only available healthy veteran receiver. Charles Rogers is serving a four-game suspension and Roy Williams has an injured quadriceps.

  • TE Marcus Pollard has become one of the Lions' most productive receivers with nine receptions for 94 yards and a touchdown but he has had at least one drop in three of the team's four games this season.

  • DE Kalimba Edwards has a team-leading four quarterback sacks, just a half sack less than he had in the entire 2004 season. Edwards has had three sacks in the past two games while filling in for injured RDE James Hall.

  • CB R.W. McQuarters, the nickel back in the Lions' defensive packages, took over the punt and kick return duties when Eddie Drummond was injured Sunday against Baltimore. McQuarters also volunteered to help out as a WR while the team is shorthanded in that area due to injuries and the substance abuse suspension of WR Charles Rogers.


    Thought to be a big loss, the knee injury that has kept Bubba Franks on the sideline for essentially three games could prove to be the best thing that happened to an offense that's finally gotten on track.

    David Martin and Donald Lee have emerged the past two weeks as more than just stopgap tight ends filling the void with three-time Pro Bowler Franks out. In each of the last two games, both Martin and Lee have caught touchdown passes.

    Those four touchdowns are more than half of what last year's tight end trio of Franks (seven), Martin (zero) and Ben Steele (zero) mustered the entire season.

    "I think we have three pretty good tight ends," coach Mike Sherman said. "Obviously, a Pro Bowl tight end in Bubba, who really hasn't been available to us this year, and the other two guys have come on. It's a strong group of guys."

    So encouraged is Sherman about the early-season production that it's possible he will unveil some three-tight-end formations following the bye this week. The Packers occasionally used that package in 2003, when veteran Wesley Walls was on the team along with Franks and Martin.

    Reverting to such an unorthodox scheme hinges, however, on the health of Franks.

    He's coping with a torn MCL in his left knee, sustained during the Week 2 loss to Cleveland. The injury initially was classified as a bruised knee, but Franks conceded Monday that he's still not 100 percent and needs more time to recover. He was activated for Sunday's 52-3 win over New Orleans merely for emergency duty as the third tight end. He was on the field for two plays in the second quarter in a blocking capacity.

    The team is hopeful Franks will be ready for a full-time role in its next game, Oct. 23 at Minnesota. However, typical recovery time for an MCL injury is four to six weeks, which leaves Franks questionable for that game.

    Nevertheless, Martin and Lee have sufficiently eased not only Franks' absence but also the double whammy of losing top receiver Javon Walker and promising rookie receiver Terrence Murphy to season-ending injuries. Martin and Lee, both of whom are 2 inches shorter than the 6-foot-6 Franks, are better suited as pass catchers than blockers and have given quarterback Brett Favre a couple downfield options to complement receivers Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson and Antonio Chatman.

    Martin, a wide receiver coming out of college at Tennessee, has been dogged by injuries most of his five-year pro career and consequently hasn't come close to fulfilling his potential. He seemed to turn the corner in a 32-29 loss at Carolina in Week 4, though, posting career highs of five receptions for 53 yards, including a 21-yard touchdown.

    Martin grabbed a 1-yard TD throw from Favre in Sunday's game.

    "He's getting his chance, and he's taking advantage of every single snap," Franks said.

    Meanwhile, the Packers feel they may have unearthed a diamond in the rough with Lee, whom they signed five days before the start of the season after he played the previous two years with Miami.

    It's taken him some time to get acclimated in a new offense, and he has only two catches thus far. Yet both receptions were fairly significant. Lee showed off his athleticism to pull down touchdown throws of 16 yards in a furious fourth-quarter rally at Carolina and 26 yards on Sunday.

    "I don't know how fast he is, but he's fast," Sherman said. "He's quick out of his cuts ... (and) has pretty good instincts as a tight end. He knows how to put a move on a guy. Sometimes, he might do it too early but instinctively reacts well."

    Being relegated to the sideline the past few weeks has given Franks a perspective about the tight end situation that has him enthused for what lies ahead the rest of the season.

    "It's just a matter of time before I get back, and it'll be interesting then," he said.


  • RB Najeh Davenport was placed on season-ending injured reserve Monday, the same day he underwent surgery to repair a broken right ankle sustained in the 52-3 win over New Orleans on Sunday. Davenport rushed for 54 yards - three more than his total through the first four games - and a career-high two touchdowns before suffering the injury late in the first half. Davenport made the second start of his career in place of an injured Ahman Green.

  • RB Ahman Green was deactivated Sunday because of a bruised right knee and a strained quadriceps tendon in the same leg, injuries sustained in the Oct. 3 loss at Carolina. Green is questionable for the Packers' next game, Oct. 23 at Minnesota, though he's hopeful he will be ready to return to action then. If Green can't play, the Packers are planning to start third-down specialist Tony Fisher, who has only one start in his four-year career, and spell him with ReShard Lee, signed last week as a free agent.

  • TE Bubba Franks isn't fully recovered from a torn MCL in his left knee, sustained in the Sept. 18 loss to Cleveland. He didn't play in the next two games, then was activated Sunday but strictly for emergency purposes as the No. 3 tight end. Franks got on the field for two plays in the second quarter in a blocking capacity. He is questionable for the Oct. 23 game.

  • C Mike Flanagan didn't play Sunday after undergoing surgery last Wednesday for a sports hernia. Flanagan can't do any physical activity until later this week and is questionable for the next game. Although Flanagan has struggled early in the season, head coach Mike Sherman said the 10th-year pro will regain his starting spot when he's cleared to play again, ahead of young prospect Scott Wells.

  • LT Chad Clifton won't practice during a shortened bye week to allow his sprained left ankle to heal. Clifton gamely played with the injury Sunday after there was doubt that he would be able to make the start.

  • RT Mark Tauscher will be given the week off as he continues to recover from a sprained left arch. The injury didn't keep Tauscher out of the last game.

  • QB Brett Favre, who turned 36 on Monday, won't do much in practice this week before the players are excused Thursday for four days. Favre is coming off his best game of the season, completing 19 of 27 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns without an interception in a 52-3 rout of New Orleans. His passer rating was an exceptional 130.9. Favre also wasn't sacked.

  • WR Robert Ferguson on Sunday made up with Brett Favre, who had a heated sideline exchange with the young receiver during the previous game after letting a pass get ripped out of his arms for an interception. Ferguson caught a 25-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter, then improvised to reel in a 51-yard heave from Favre in the third quarter - the longest reception of Ferguson's five-year career.

  • WR Donald Driver led the wide receivers Sunday with five catches for 48 yards, including first-half gains of 14 and 13 yards. Driver had a 20-yard reception to start the second quarter nullified by a holding penalty on Chad Clifton.

  • WR Antonio Chatman didn't have a catch for the first time this season. The diminutive Chatman, elevated to No. 3 at the position with Javon Walker out for the season, has been a favorite target for Favre in third-down situations. Chatman had a touchdown catch in each of the previous two games.

  • CB Al Harris spurred a big game by the defense, which produced five takeaways, by intercepting two passes from Aaron Brooks late in the first quarter. The first resulted in a 22-yard touchdown for Harris. The eighth-year veteran has four interception returns for touchdowns, three since the Packers acquired him in a trade with Philadelphia in 2003.

  • MLB Nick Barnett, who leads the team with 66 tackles, scored the first touchdown of his three-year career Sunday. Barnett intercepted a pass from Saints backup Todd Bouman about midway through the fourth quarter and returned it 95 yards to complete the scoring for the day.

  • NT Grady Jackson, playing against his former team, had what Sherman termed his best game of the season. The mammoth Jackson occasionally penetrated the backfield with hardly any resistance from the middle of the Saints' offensive line and helped the Packers hold Deuce McAllister to 31 yards in 11 carries before he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the third quarter. Jackson had a season-high four tackles.

  • PK Ryan Longwell tied his career high with seven extra points in Sunday's outburst. Longwell also connected on seven point-after tries against Arizona on Jan. 2, 2000. Longwell converted his only field-goal attempt Sunday, of 26 yards.

  • QB Aaron Rodgers, the team's first-round draft pick this year, made his pro debut Sunday. Rodgers relieved Favre with the Packers ahead 45-3 early in the fourth quarter and ran the offense for three three-and-out series. Rodgers handed the ball off eight times. He completed his only pass, to fullback Vonta Leach, though it was for no gain.

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