NFC North Notes

The Bears got a good performance and critical analysis from their best wide receiver in a loss, the Lions are left to stew over a questionable call by the officials, and the Packers are left wondering about phenom running back Samkon Gado. Get news, notes and quotes from across the NFC North.

CHICAGO BEARS

Muhsin Muhammad had his most productive game as a Bear on Sunday against Pittsburgh with season- and game-highs of eight catches and 91 yards. But it wasn't enough to prevent Chicago's first loss in more than two months.

"I made some plays on some balls that came my way," Muhammad said. "But I really don't care about the balls; it's all about wins in this game. You can catch a lot of balls, but if you don't win the game, the team doesn't really move forward.

"We took a step back today, and it's not really about what Muhsin Muhammad does out there on the field. At some point in time, we're going to have to have a little more offense to be able to come back in situations like this."

Despite Muhammad's efforts, the Bears were held to less than 21 points for the eighth straight week and 11th time in 13 games.

"I thought I played extremely hard," said Muhammad, who broke three tackles on a 16-yard reception in the second quarter. "I didn't make every single play, but I caught the balls that I should have caught, and that's what it's all about. You have to make plays when they're there. Sometimes we had certain plays called, and for one reason or another we didn't make the play."

That was just the latest in Muhammad's not-so-subtle swipes at rookie quarterback Kyle Orton, whom he has tossed under the bus at almost every opportunity.

Asked specifically about Orton, Muhammad was hardly effusive in his "praise."

"I thought he threw the ball better than he threw the ball last week," Muhammad said of the previous week's performance, which earned Orton a 23.7 passer rating. "He had more attempts this week, and generally when you throw the ball more, you have a tendency to get in a better rhythm. He was able to get in a better rhythm, but of course being a young guy, he missed some plays, too. You expect a young guy to make some mistakes in a game."

You just don't expect someone who's a veteran and a supposed team leader to point all of them out.

NOTES

  • The Bears forced four fumbles, including two by cornerback Charles Tillman, but the Steelers got all four back.

    "If we get a couple of those fumbles ... but none of them bounced to us," said linebacker Brian Urlacher, who had 10 tackles. "All year long they've been bouncing right to us, but that's the way it goes sometimes."

    Defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said he wasn't sure if it was just bad luck or something else, but he planned to find out.

    "Hopefully it's not guys not running to the ball," said Rivera, who stresses that. "If it is, it's something we're sure going to correct because we talk about that constantly as a coaching staff: running to the football and looking for the turnovers. If we break the film down and see that, then we most certainly are going to judge whether we were loafing or not."

  • Massive Steelers running back Jerome Bettis gashed Chicago for 101 yards on 17 carries but was impressed by the Bears.

    "Their defense is really good, but when they can't get after the quarterback, it puts more pressure on them," Bettis said. "They have a really good front four. But when you run the football at them, it makes it a little harder to get around guys. You try to negate their speed with a power game. We were able to consistently pound on them, and that made a difference in the second half."

    Bettis said he was aware it was Urlacher he was dragging across the goal line on his 5-yard TD run in the third quarter.

    "I was able to bang off of him and use his leverage against him," the 5-foot-11, 255-pound Bettis said. "I knew it was going to be a big hit. He didn't let go, but I've made a living off of carrying people — that's why they call me ‘The Bus.'"

  • Strong safety Mike Brown did not make the trip to Pittsburgh and could miss more games because of the calf injury that he suffered in Thursday's practice.

    Todd Johnson started in place of Brown on Sunday, but he suffered a shoulder injury and was unable to finish the game. Rookie Brandon McGowan was pressed into service and finished tied for the team lead with 11 tackles. Mike Green started at free safety for rookie Chris Harris, who sat out with a sprained MCL in his right knee.

    Fullback Bryan Johnson suffered a back injury and did not finish the game. Starting right guard Terrence Metcalf was inactive with a shoulder injury and was replaced by Roberto Garza. Running back Cedric Benson is expected to miss a fifth straight game this week, as his sprained right knee has not progressed as quickly as he hoped.

  • FS Chris Harris might not be back this week after missing Sunday's game with a sprained knee.

  • S Todd Johnson suffered a hip pointer in Sunday's game and is questionable for this week.

  • QB Kyle Orton will continue to get all the game reps according to coach Lovie Smith, who said the rookie showed improvement in the 21-9 loss to the Steelers.

  • DE Wale Ogunleye, the Bears' leading tackler among linemen, was unofficially credited with one tackle Sunday in the loss to the Steelers.


    DETROIT LIONS

    Dick Jauron didn't criticize referee Mike Carey and his crew. But the Lions' interim coach and his staff spent some time going over one particular play from their 16-13 overtime loss at Green Bay on Sunday night.

    The play involved an apparent safety on which the officiating crew changed the call and took the two points off the scoreboard with 6:59 to play in regulation time.

    The Lions tackled Packers running back Samkon Gado in the end zone but as he fell to the turf, the ball — accidentally or intentionally — left his hands and bounced just beyond the goalline.

    Carey's original call was that the Lions had a safety. The call he eventually made — and the call that stood — was that at the moment the ball left his hands, Gado became a passer. Instead of a fumble or a tackle for a safety, it became an incomplete pass and the Lions didn't get their two points.

    In addition, the officials ruled that a holding call — against Packers right tackle Mark Tauscher, who wrestled Lions defensive end Cory Redding out of the play — occurred outside the end zone, thereby denying the Lions the other possibility of a safety.

    "There were some things in that game that went against us that we have a lot of questions about," Jauron said Monday. "The play in the end zone, with them coming out of the end zone, we've reviewed that from a lot of different angles and we have serious questions about a number of things on that play."

    After studying the film from several angles, Jauron said he believes Gado was stretching the ball toward the goalline — trying to get it out of the end zone to avoid the safety — as he fell.

    "It looks to me more like a fumble than a pass," he said. "I was under the impression there was some kind of forward movement of his hands, flipping the ball out of the end zone but I don't see that. I just see a stretching and the ball comes out ... and the ball did not get to the line of scrimmage."

    The Lions also believe Tauscher's hold occurred in the end zone, which would have given the Lions a safety also.

    Jauron said the Lions will submit the play to the NFL for review but that he will not necessarily speak to director of officiating Mike Pereira personally regarding the play and he will not inform the media of communication he receives from the league.


    NOTES

  • If interim coach Dick Jauron and his staff had a chance to do it over, they probably would not call a quarterback sneak on the fourth-and-one play that failed to get them across the goal line in the fourth quarter of their 16-13 overtime loss Sunday at Green Bay.

    Quarterback Jeff Garcia lunged toward the goalline behind center Dominic Raiola and right guard Damien Woody but Packers defensive tackle Grady Jackson stuffed the ball short of the goal line.

    "In retrospect, whenever you fail, you'd like to go back and try it another way," Jauron said. "We had that time out and we talked about it; we talked about a lot of different things. We just felt we could get it in like that. It didn't work out, unfortunately.

    "We also thought that — like everybody — if we don't score, we've got them on the one-foot line and our defense will make a play."

    The Packers took over possession of the ball inside the one-yard line, were moved back by a false start penalty and running back Samkon Gado seemingly was tackled for a safety in the end zone. But the decision was reversed and the Packers moved off the goalline moments later on a Brett Favre completion to tight end David Martin.

    In retrospect, Jauron agreed the Lions might have been better off calling a play that got Garcia out of the pocket, allowing him to sprint out and create a play away from the strength of the Green Bay goalline defense.

  • Wide receiver Roy Williams was blaming himself for the Lions' loss after dropping a slant pass that he could have taken in stride, possibly for a touchdown or at least a sizeable gain late in regulation play.

    "Once again, I put that on me — that slant I dropped," Williams said. "I think that was a potential touchdown. That's what I was thinking, that's what I was running to — with no ball.

    "That's not me, I don't play that type of football. I catch the ball and do what I do."

    Earlier in the game, Williams made an exceptional end zone catch on a four-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Garcia. He got one hand on the ball, then got control of it in time to get both feet down in the end zone for a touchdown.

    Garcia was less harsh on Williams than Williams was on himself.

    "I think he had an opportunity to be one-on-one with the safety if he makes the catch," Garcia said, "but that's just one play in 60-plus minutes of football. There are other times in the game where I'm sure we can pinpoint each one of us being accountable for making a mistake that cost us an opportunity to get the ball in the end zone.

    "So it's just one of those things. We win as a team, lose as a team and I know he'd love to have that one back but that's just one play of many that we had the opportunity to make and, unfortunately, didn't make them."

  • Unlike wide receiver Roy Williams, who accepted responsibility for dropping a pass that might have changed the outcome of the game, Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers wouldn't even talk about his role in Green Bay's overtime drive that won the game.

    Packers running back Samkon Gado ran wide for a four-yard gain that got the ball to the 50-yard line. Rogers chased him, caught him as they approached the sideline and then — approximately two steps out of bounds — Rogers gave Gado a final shove that sent him flying and sent the officials reaching for their yellow flags.

    Rogers, who has rarely spoken with the media all season, declined to discuss the play after the game.

    A day later, interim coach Dick Jauron was asked what he said to Rogers after the play.

    "You've got to tell him it's a dumb thing to do, obviously, and it's borne out of frustration," Jauron said. "And there's a lot of frustration going around.

    "I thought he made a terrific play to get there. I was kind of behind the play, looking at it. We had some guys fall off tackles and Shaun is such a talented, such a giant man that when he hit (Gado) it was different. You knew he was stopped and he was coming back at you.

    "To me, it is frustration. He hit him, he hit him in the field of play, he drove him out of bounds and he was disengaging but — instead of just letting him up — he gave him one final shove. I've seen a lot more violent shoves than that. He didn't throw him to the ground. He pushed him away but he went down.

    "It was a penalty, although I was arguing against it at the time."

    With the 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness moving the ball to the Lions' 35, the Packers ran five more plays to set up Ryan Longwell's game-winning 28-yard field goal.

  • MLB Earl Holmes suffered a quadriceps injury in the overtime period of the Lions' 16-13 loss Sunday at Green Bay and it is uncertain if he will be able to play next week in the final home game of the season against Cincinnati.

  • RB Kevin Jones, who had a 40-yard run (his longest of the season) on his first touch Sunday night against Green Bay, suffered a severely hyper-extended elbow a few plays later. Interim coach Dick Jauron was uncertain Monday whether Jones will be able to play against Cincinnati in the Lions' final home game of the season.

  • WR Charles Rogers, who sat out the Lions' game against Minnesota last week as a healthy inactive, played Sunday night at Green Bay but didn't catch a pass. In fact, only two balls were thrown his way. He drew a defensive holding call against Packers cornerback Ahmad Carroll on the first throw. The second was thrown too high and out of bounds on a sideline route.

  • WR Roy Williams has moved to the top of the Lions' receiving corps in receptions, reception yardage and touchdowns with four catches for 53 yards in the Lions' 16-13 overtime loss to Green Bay. Although he missed three games with a quadriceps injury, he has 35 catches for 518 yards and six touchdowns. RB Shawn Bryson also has 35 catches.

  • OLB Boss Bailey sat out the Lions' game at Green Bay with an ankle injury. Interim coach Dick Jauron was uncertain Monday whether Bailey will be able to play next week against Cincinnati.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    Samkon Gado admittedly had no rhyme or reason for flipping his first NFL pass at a critical juncture Sunday night. That the rookie running back apparently knows how to run the football is all that matters.

    Gado answered lingering questions about his legitimacy as a full-time featured back by running into the Packers record book during a 16-13 overtime victory over Detroit. He turned 29 carries into 171 yards, the most by a Green Bay rookie and the seventh-highest output in team annals.

    The highlight of the singular performance by Gado, who topped Brett Favre's passing total of 170 yards, was a 64-yard dash to the end zone in the second quarter. It was Gado's sixth rushing touchdown of an abbreviated season, an unprecedented achievement for a Packers rookie.

    "It's hard to believe," the modest Gado said.

    Since being promoted to the 53-man roster in late October after a two-week stint on the practice squad, Gado has racked up 537 yards on 137 carries. He has three 100-yard games in the past five outings.

    "Samkon has improved week by week. I think he's beginning to prove he's not a one-time wonder," coach Mike Sherman said.

    Sherman has been careful not to project Gado, who wasn't drafted coming out of Division I-AA Liberty, as next year's successor to Ahman Green.

    Green suffered a season-ending thigh injury at Minnesota on Oct. 23 and will be a free agent.

    "It's no indictment against him. He's a rookie; it's still early in his career," Sherman said. "He's not Ahman Green right now, but he certainly has shown some tremendous qualities. His durability, the awareness, his growth all are very big pluses on his behalf."

    Moreover, Gado seems to have licked his initial ball-handling problems. After having four fumbles in three games, Gado hasn't put the ball on the ground once in the past two contests.

    He even showed some of the improvisatorial wiliness for which Favre is known. As he was being tackled in the end zone with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter and the score tied at 13-13, Gado tossed the ball past the line of scrimmage at the 1.

    The officials initially called an intentional-grounding penalty on Gado, which meant a go-ahead safety for the Lions. However, the officials huddled up for a few minutes and determined that Gado made the impromptu throw outside the tackle box and changed the ruling to an incomplete pass.

    "I wasn't thinking," conceded Gado, on what compelled him to flip the ball forward. "I had to do something. Either way you look at it, it probably was not the best decision to make."

    Said Favre: "I obviously can't fault him for that. There's several different ways to look at it. But, he had the wherewithal to know that he was being tackled in the end zone. I'm sure he was probably thinking (about) fumbling it across (the goal line). I don't know if he was thinking that's a pass.

    "He's a bright guy with a lot of talent. He says and does all of the right things."

    A holding penalty on right tackle Mark Tauscher on the same play also was determined to have been committed near the line of scrimmage, though TV replays clearly showed Tauscher's infraction was in the end zone, which should have upheld the safety. Instead, the Packers retained possession, were able to take the game into overtime and prevailed on a Ryan Longwell field goal.

    NOTES

  • Quarterback Brett Favre insisted a deep cut on his right hand wasn't a factor when he threw for a season-low 170 yards in the 16-13 overtime win against Detroit on Sunday night.

    Favre completed 21 of 31 passes, mostly of the short to intermediate variety, but didn't have a touchdown for the second straight game. He endured an interception for the seventh contest in a row, bumping his league-high total to 22, and also fumbled the ball away on his first pass play of the game.

    "Toward the end, it was real sore," Favre said of the hand injury, which he sustained in the previous game at Chicago. "This is probably one of those things that's going to hurt until the season's over. Plus, the little gash I have probably won't heal until after the season. But, one of the good things about playing in cold like that is you just don't really feel it until the end."

    Temperature at kickoff at Lambeau Field was 14 degrees, with a wind chill of 5.

  • Coach Mike Sherman announced Monday that OLB Brady Poppinga will miss the rest of the season because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.

    Poppinga, a rookie making his first NFL start Sunday, sustained the injury while covering a kickoff early in the fourth quarter.

    The fourth-round draft pick leads the team with 21 special teams tackles.

    Poppinga is the team's third drafted rookie to incur a season-ending injury. Linebacker Kurt Campbell suffered a torn ACL early in the preseason. Wide receiver Terrence Murphy sustained a bruised spinal cord in the Oct. 3 loss at Carolina.

  • Fellow rookie Roy Manning took over for Poppinga at the strong-side spot for the rest of the game, though veteran Na'il Diggs got in for a few plays in a goal-line situation. Diggs stopped Lions quarterback Jeff Garcia on a fourth-down sneak from the 1-yard line.

    A decision on who starts in the game next Monday at Baltimore will be made later in the week.


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