NFC North Notes

Despite facing defenses geared to stop the run, Chicago's Thomas Jones hit the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his career, but the Bears do have areas to mend. In Detroit, interim coach Dick Jauron was left to face questions regarding his decisions against the Vikings, and in Green Bay they are wondering if Brett Favre is healthy enough to play or should play even if his health permits. Get news and notes from around the NFC North.

CHICAGO BEARS

Thomas Jones' 93 rushing yards on 19 carries against Green Bay gave him a total of 1,005 yards on 236 carries, his first 1,000-yard season in his sixth year in the NFL.

"It's a great accomplishment for me and our offensive line, and the offense in general, to get 1,000 yards and still have four games left," said Jones, who rushed for 3,101 yards in his final two years at Virginia.

Because of the ineffectiveness of the Bears' passing game, Jones has faced defenses stacked to stop him, but he's still on pace for 1,340 yards, which would make him only the second player in franchise history to rush for more than 1,300 yards. Walter Payton did it nine times.

"For the most part, we know we're going to see eight or nine guys in the box every game, and that's going to leave one or two people unblocked," Jones said. "So I already know I'm going to have to make somebody miss if I'm going to have a big run. But the offensive line does a great job of adjusting to the defense that we see."

Jones was expected to lose playing time, if not his job entirely, to rookie Cedric Benson, but the veteran has played through a sprained knee and bruised ribs to emerge as a team leader, even though he's not a big talker.

"I've always been a leader on every football team I've played on," Jones said. "A lot of times I'm not really rah-rah and saying a lot, but I try to lead by actions on the field and try to be intense whether it's in the meeting room or the practice field or the game. I just try to lead by example, that's the kind of leader I've always been. As far as me being a leader, I think that's something that kind of comes natural."

NOTES

  • The Bears' troubles in the punt return game continued on Sunday.

    Rashied Davis replaced Bobby Wade but suffered from the same fumble problems that got Wade benched. Davis muffed his first opportunity, but teammate Charles Tillman recovered. Davis picked up 21 yards on his second try, helping set up the Bears' first field goal.

    Early in the third quarter, Davis fumbled another punt and recovered it, but not his job. He was replaced by Wade, who picked up 15 yards on his only return.

    "The punt returner can't be dropping the ball and play punt return," Davis said. "It's just something I have to work on. I haven't done it since college, so it's new to me. I have to catch more balls outside, focus a little more."

    Davis said neither the wind nor the sun had an effect on his drops.

    "That's not an excuse," he said. "What happened happened, and hopefully when I get another shot, I know I'll perform. I just have to stop thinking about making a play and just catch the ball."

  • Bears coach Lovie Smith said he didn't need to talk much about how important it was to end the Packers' 11-game win streak as visitors against the Bears.

    "When someone has beaten you 11 times in a row at home, you don't have to talk about it a lot because quite a few other people talk about it," Smith said. "We knew exactly how many time we had lost to them, but they were probably better than us most of those times. But we're a good football team, and we went into this game thinking we were going to win, and we came out with a big victory."

  • Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad was held without a catch for the first time since Nov. 24, 2002, a span of 51 games, including 47 in the regular season.

    Muhammad still leads the Bears by wide margins with 48 receptions and 561 receiving yards, but he's far off last year's pace, when he had 93 catches and 1,405 yards for the Panthers.

  • TE Desmond Clark was the Bears' second-leading receiver against Green Bay with two catches for 6 yards. QB Kyle Orton's only interception came on a ball that bounced off Clark's hands.

  • QB Kyle Orton completed just six of 17 passes for 68 yards against Green Bay. He was sacked three times for minus-19 yards, resulting in a net of 49 yards and a passer rating of 23.7.

  • MLB Brian Urlacher led the Bears with 16 tackles and also had two pass breakups.

  • CB Charles Tillman got his fourth interception of the season and returned it 95 yards from his own end zone to set up a field goal. He also had his first sack of the season, a crushing blindside hit on Brett Favre.

  • RB Adrian Peterson rushed for 48 yards on 11 carries against Green Bay, the fifth straight game in which he's averaged 4.4 yards per carry or better.


    DETROIT LIONS

    One game into his tenure as the Lions' interim coach, Dick Jauron was busy Monday fielding questions, most of them on the same two subjects:

    No. 1 — Why is he so deeply committed to veteran Jeff Garcia as the Lions' starting quarterback, despite four lackluster appearances by the former Pro Bowler?

    No. 2 — Why was wide receiver Charles Rogers inactive for the 21-16 loss to Minnesota, and is there any chance he will get meaningful playing time in any of the remaining four games?

    In response to questions from the media during his Monday morning press conference at the Lions headquarters in Allen Park, Mich., Jauron said he is not opposed to making lineup changes.

    "I would answer generally and say, yeah, we'll look at everything," Jauron said. "We'll try to look at every situation and think of what we can do to make us a better team next Sunday than we were this last Sunday. If the answer is yes, then we'll make any switch that we can if we think that will help our chances to win."

    Having said that, however, Jauron seemed to be staunch in his belief that Garcia gives the Lions a better chance of winning that four-year veteran Joey Harrington. And he does not appear to be eager to provide some of the younger players — including Rogers — with what boils down to an audition for next season.

    Jauron said the major factors in choosing Garcia over Harrington were Garcia's experience, his previous success in the NFL and his courage both on and off the field.

    "In terms of handling the game, there are so many things in the course of a game — in game plan — a lot of them are not apparent," Jauron said. "The decisions made on the line of scrimmage, depending on what the defense does, when they do it and how they do it. How you control the game clock, the huddle. All of those issues.

    "Obviously, (Sunday) he did not play the way he would have wanted to play, he didn't play the way we wanted him to play in all situations."

    The fact that Garcia didn't play well but still had the Lions within striking distance until his ill-fated interception throw with 52 seconds remaining apparently was significant to Jauron.

    It was a surprise to many that Rogers was not even in uniform Sunday, after comments by president Matt Millen during the firing of former coach Steve Mariucci that he felt the Lions had to do a better job of developing their young players.

    Jauron admitted to a lack of familiarity with Rogers, in part because of his focus on the defensive players during his 1 1/2 seasons as the Lions' defensive coordinator. But he added that Rogers has to be prepared to take advantage of the limited opportunities he has in practice and — if he ever gets another chance — in games.

    "He's got to fight his way back, and how he gets there, he's got to get through the active lineup," Jauron said. "I wouldn't necessarily stand here and tell you he's doing anything wrong, but we only have four (wide receiver) spots, so the guys in front of him have consistently played, in our opinion."

    NOTES

  • The Lions got an unexpected and unusual response from their Ford Field crowd during the 21-16 loss to Minnesota on Sunday.

    Many in the sellout crowd of more than 60,000 apparently anticipated a change in the team's approach after the firing of Steve Mariucci and the appointment of Dick Jauron as the team's interim coach for the final five games of the season.

    When the team — and quarterback Jeff Garcia, in particular — started slowly, falling behind 21-9 in the third quarter, the fans did not hesitate to show their displeasure.

    Garcia was the primary target for the boo-birds, and there were chants of "Joey, Joey," referring to Joey Harrington, the quarterback who had been booed until he was benched by Mariucci late in the first half of the Thanksgiving Day loss to Atlanta.

    The fans also targeted Lions president Matt Millen, who was watching from the team's management box on the press box level.

    There were chants of "Fire Millen" and several fans brought out homemade signs with the same message. One particularly ambitious fan carried a small "Fire Millen" sign and ran through the stands, trying to stay one step ahead of pursuing stadium security personnel.

    Fox television picked up the chase and showed the fan eventually being tackled and escorted from the stadium.

    Fullback Cory Schlesinger was asked Monday about the team's response to the rambunctious crowd.

    "It was loud, but I don't think it was a positive loud," Schlesinger said, laughing.

  • Garcia, back in the starting role he obviously craved since the day last spring he signed a contract with the Lions, said at least part of the Lions' problems stems from bad work habits that seem to have become engrained in the franchise.

    "It's been the same old story since I got here," Garcia said.

    Although Garcia said he does not blame Mariucci for the situation, it is something Jauron has to deal with.

    "I think he's working to address that," Garcia said. "I think he's really trying to force accountability upon everybody within this locker room. I think he's trying to do the best that he can do, given the circumstances of where this team is at right now and where we are in the season.

    "It is difficult because once you create bad habits, those habits are hard to break. It's just important that everybody — somewhat, somehow — tries to find new focuses within themselves and try to do the right thing for this team to compete at a high level."

  • One of the things that has been missing from the Lions offense all season has been the threat of the big play or the so-called chunk play in which quarterbacks can get yardage in chunks of 15-20 yards or more.

    Garcia said that chunk plays were a major part of the West Coast offense when he played for Mariucci in San Francisco.

    "When I was playing in this system in San Francisco, we had a guy who could get down the field and make those plays. And it wasn't just one guy, we had a few guys who basically you could count on in that type of situation," Garcia said.

    "I think right now we're trying to still find that within this team. Unfortunately, if you don't try, you're never going to know. If we're in a game and we don't take those shots down the field, you're never really seeing if you truly can make those plays down the field because we haven't given ourselves the opportunity."

    Although Lions wide receiver Roy Williams is highly regarded, he has not established himself as a premier, big-play NFL receiver, such as the two Garcia had in San Francisco — Jerry Rice and Terrell Owens.

    "When it came to being on the field and running by people, whether Jerry Rice just plain and simple knew how to do it on game day, he found a way to do it," Garcia said. "He found a way to get on top of defensive backs and use his leverage to shield them away from the football.

    "Terrell Owens just flat out ran by people. You go out and you time them in the 40-yard dash and they may not be the 4.4s or the 4.3s, but when it came to game day, they ran by people, and you knew you could count on that."

  • QB Jeff Garcia has a passer rating of 66.8 after three starts and one relief appearance, but he apparently is in no danger of losing the Lions' starting job back to Joey Harrington as long as he can stay healthy. Coach Dick Jauron likes Garcia's experience and game management skills, although Garcia has thrown just one touchdown pass and three interceptions.

  • RB Kevin Jones got a long weekend to rest his pulled quadriceps muscle, but the Lions won't know until at least Wednesday whether he has a chance to play in their Sunday night game at Green Bay. Jones practiced two days last week but felt tightness in the leg when he reported for the Minnesota game, so interim coach Dick Jauron told him not to even try to test it. Instead, he rested it and will try again this week.

  • WR Roy Williams was the intended receiver on two broken-play throws that did not pan out for Lions quarterback Jeff Garcia in the Lions' 21-16 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. On both plays, Williams improvised on the route to run it deeper than the playbook calls for. On the first play, Garcia's throw was low and short; on the second, he was intercepted at the Minnesota 2-yard line with less than a minute left in the game. Garcia said he felt Williams should have run the play as it was outlined, but Williams said he would do the same thing again because of the potential for a big play.

  • WR Charles Rogers apparently will have to convince Lions coaches on the practice field that he deserves a chance to be one of the three receivers — in addition to kick returner Eddie Drummond — to be active in the three remaining games. Interim coach Dick Jauron did not activate Rogers for the Minnesota game Sunday and could not guarantee he will be active for the Green Bay game this week if he doesn't show more than Scottie Vines or Mike Williams in practice.

  • OLB Boss Bailey missed a big part of the Lions' loss to Minnesota with a sprained ankle. It is uncertain how serious the injury is and whether he will have a chance to play in the Sunday night game at Green Bay.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    A season like no other in Brett Favre's 14 years as Packers quarterback had a long list of injuries added to it Sunday.

    By the 36-year-old's count in the aftermath of a 19-7 loss at Chicago, he sustained a lacerated right hand, a bruised right forearm, a blister on his left foot, sore ribs and back and an aching right shin. For good measure, he took a fall on his head.

    "You kind of find out how tough you are after games like that," Favre said.

    Early indications are the indefatigable warrior will pick himself back up after a few days of rest this week and start his league-record 238th straight game Sunday night against Detroit.

    "I anticipate he'll be able to play at this point," coach Mike Sherman said Monday.

    Nevertheless, many of Favre's teammates were aghast over the unrelenting punishment he absorbed from the Bears' top-rated defense.

    "It's not the Brett we're used to seeing. That's the sad part," veteran receiver Robert Ferguson said. "He's always been able to fight through the nicks and bruises, but the nicks and bruises are more evident when you're losing.

    "I'm a fan of his and a fan of the game, and I hate to see that, especially after a loss. But, he took some big shots, some shots I haven't seen him take since I've been here. I don't ever want to see him come off the field like that again."

    Given all the abuse his aging body was exposed to at Soldier Field, one has to wonder whether it was the final straw in persuading Favre to call it a career after he plays the last four games of the season, which will go down as one of the worst in Green Bay's celebrated history.

    Sherman reiterated Monday that playing to win is paramount the rest of the way, so he'll stick with Favre and not turn to rookie Aaron Rodgers, unless the Packers (2-10) find themselves in a lopsided game.

    Favre was bloodied with the cut on the index finger of his throwing hand after he hit the helmet of a Bears lineman while following through on a 27-yard completion to tight end Donald Lee late in the third quarter. That wasn't the biggest jolt to course through Favre, however.

    Earlier in the second half, safety Mike Brown broke off the left edge untouched on a blitz and drilled Favre in the ribs, resulting in a fumble that the Packers recovered.

    "I hadn't worn my rib pads in about a year and a half. I thought I was going to get away with not getting smacked anymore. But I got caught good," Favre said.

    In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, Lee failed to pick up blitzing cornerback Charles Tillman, who cracked Favre from the backside and forced his second lost fumble of the game.

    "He took a lot of unnecessary hits," running back Tony Fisher said. "He's a franchise player, and we let him get hit far too many times. We can't let everything fall on his shoulders. We all have to stand up and be accountable."

    Perhaps more so than the physical lumps he's taken, what may convince Favre to walk away under his own power is an apparent erosion of skills. In the last six games, he's completed only 58.2 percent of his passes for 1,420 yards and five touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

    For the season, he has a league-leading 21 interceptions with just 19 touchdowns and a modest passer rating of 75.9.

    He prolonged a theme of recent weeks with two costly interceptions Sunday, the latter of which was returned 45 yards for a clinching touchdown by Nathan Vasher late in the game.

    Favre's first miscue smacked of his stubborn insistence to try to make something out of nothing. The Bears' blitz convinced him not to throw an intended shovel pass near the goal line, and Favre flung the ball into the end zone, putting enough air under it for Tillman to pick it off and race 95 yards the other way to get Chicago in position for a go-ahead field goal before halftime.

    "I was trying to throw it away," Favre said. "As I was throwing, I got hit, and I couldn't put enough on it. A huge play in the game, obviously."

    NOTES

  • Tight end Bubba Franks underwent an MRI on Monday afternoon to determine the severity of his second injury in as many weeks.

    Franks, who sustained a mild concussion and back pain on a hit by Philadelphia's Brian Dawkins on Nov. 27, took the brunt of a collision with Chicago's Lance Briggs in the first series of the 19-7 loss Sunday. Coach Mike Sherman said Monday the initial diagnosis was Franks, who didn't play the remainder of the game, suffered neck and back injuries.

    "The way he was torqued was a little bit different (from the Dawkins hit). It almost looked, when you look at it on tape and play it back, worse than (that) hit," Sherman said. "So his availability is very suspect at this present time."

  • Wide receiver Donald Driver sustained a hip pointer in the game Sunday and was experiencing swelling Monday.

    Sherman said Driver probably will be held out of practice Wednesday.

    Driver finished the game and led both teams with eight catches for 64 yards.

  • RT Mark Tauscher aggravated a strained arch that has plagued him since early in the season. He isn't expected to practice Wednesday.

  • NT Grady Jackson suffered a strained hip in the Chicago game. His availability for the rest of the week hasn't been determined.

  • OLB Robert Thomas, who had returned to action after a three-game absence, experienced a setback with his strained quadriceps. He will be further evaluated, and his status for the game Sunday against Detroit will be determined at the end of the week.

  • OLB Paris Lenon will have his injured right finger set in a cast for practice Wednesday. Lenon smashed the finger while tackling Chicago's Thomas Jones on the second play of the second half. Lenon didn't return.

  • OLB Na'il Diggs, who didn't play at Chicago and was replaced by Paris Lenon at the strong-side position, is expected to have a better shot of playing in the next game. Diggs last week experienced soreness in his knees — he tore the MCL in both this year and has missed six games.


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