NFC North Notes

The Bears will live with the decision they made in pulling their rookie quarterback, the Lions say good riddance to playing in the Millendome for the rest of this season, and the Packers are downright embarrassed by their Monday night debacle.

CHICAGO BEARS

Bears wide receiver Muhsin Muhammad called the decision to switch quarterbacks a difficult one, but coach Lovie Smith disagreed - sort of.

"I wouldn't say (it was) a hard decision," Smith said. "It was a decision that had to be made. It's not easy, and you don't feel good about making decisions on Kyle (Orton), who has led us to nine wins. To make that move is tough; it's tough for him, but this gives us our best chance to win right now."

Rex Grossman's promotion to starting quarterback drops Orton to No. 2 and Jeff Blake to No. 3 on the depth chart. Smith said that, despite the demotion, Orton accomplished a great deal for a rookie who wasn't expected to play at all this season.

"Most rookies, if you look at how they played this year, Kyle can definitely hold his head up," Smith said. "He's led us to (10) wins. We feel real good about that. As Rex's rehab came along and he got better physically, we talked about our quarterback position improving, getting stronger. It's a lot stronger today."

During his four-month rehabilitation from surgery on his fractured ankle to playing the second half in Sunday night's victory, Grossman had his doubts, but only about his health.

"I really didn't doubt my talent, that I could go out and play," he said. "It was more of, 'Is my ankle going to be healthy? Am I going to feel 100 percent when I get out there, or am I always going to have a little limp for a while, at least for this season? There was some uncertainty (whether) I was going to feel as good as I feel now.

"It's just unbelievable the rehab I did with (Bears trainer) Tim Bream. I had a great surgeon in Dr. (Armen) Kelikian and Dr. (Mark) Bowen. They did an unbelievable job with doing the surgery, and from there it just all kind of clicked. I felt good. And then I'm out there warming up for Pittsburgh, running around feeling better than I did before I got hurt. It was fun to feel healthy and then to get the accuracy back and all that, it all just came together pretty quickly."


DETROIT LIONS

After experiences with ugliness in their last two home games, the Lions might not be blamed for feeling good about finishing the season on the road.

They meet the New Orleans Saints in a Saturday game at San Antonio this week and play the season finale on New Year's Day at Pittsburgh.

Although the Lions might not be able to improve on their 4-10 record, at least they won't be subjected to the unpleasantness they experienced in home games Dec. 4 against Minnesota and last Sunday against Cincinnati.

During the Dec. 4 game, fans expressed their displeasure with "Fire Millen" chants, aimed at team president Matt Millen. Two weeks later, many of the fans attending the game wore Cincinnati orange, again to show their impatience with the Lions' lack of success in five years under Millen.

They might not get any better treatment in San Antonio and Pittsburgh, but at least they won't be getting it from the hometown crowd.

"It's almost a relief to go on the road and play football," guard Damien Woody said, laughing. "At least, on the road, you know why they hate you.

"It is what it is. We've got two games left and our focus is finishing the season strong - try to have some kind of momentum going into the off-season."

Woody said he had never seen anything like the Ford Field crowd for the Cincinnati game. Many of the orange-and-black-clad fans were truly Cincinnati fans that had purchased tickets from disgruntled Lions fans and made the relatively short trip to Detroit from Ohio. But many wearing orange were simply angry Lions fans showing their displeasure.

"It was crazy, but the fans pay good money and they have every right to do what they want to do," Woody said.

Interim coach Dick Jauron said he'd still prefer finishing the season at home, rather than traveling for the final two games.

"I would never choose the road over playing at home, playing in front of your fans, passionate, however they are," Jauron said. "Right now, we know how they are and right now we know that the reason they are that way is because of our performance."


GREEN BAY PACKERS

Ted Thompson may have spoken too soon.

The first-year general manager told the Packers' radio network before the game Monday night at Baltimore that he would assess Mike Sherman's entire body of work, not just one season, in deciding whether to retain him as head coach.

Although that could have been construed as a vote of confidence for Sherman, who has come under fire this year, the Packers' subsequent performance on the field further advanced the speculation that a change will be in the offing in a few weeks.

As much as Sherman has been credited for keeping an injury-depleted team together and competitive for much of its abysmal season, the first signs of him losing the players were manifested in the 48-3 drubbing inflicted by the Ravens.

The Packers showed no motivation to play from the get-go against a similarly subpar team and endured the franchise's most lopsided defeat since a 61-7 rout imposed by Chicago 25 years ago.

Green Bay's fifth-rated defense gave up a season-high 435 yards as the offensively challenged Ravens set a team record for points.

"All season, we haven't given in to the adversity. (Monday), at times, we gave in to all of the negatives," defensive end Aaron Kampman said.

Added cornerback Ahmad Carroll: "We got behind and just kind of laid down. Defensively, we were horrible. I don't even want to watch this film."

Fullback William Henderson, one of only a handful of long-tenured veterans on the team, shared Kampman and Carroll's frustration and went so far as to call out teammates afterward for quitting.

Worse yet, the humiliation unfolded in front of a national TV audience.

"We normally play on 'Monday Night Football' pretty good and have a show," veteran receiver Donald Driver said. "But, instead, the Baltimore Ravens had a show, and we were just there."

At 3-11, the Packers are in danger of finishing with their worst record since the 1958 team went 1-10-1. They wind up the season playing host to Chicago on Christmas Day and Seattle on New Year's Day - a pair of division-leading teams vying for home-field advantage in the NFC playoffs.

Thompson has been noncommittal about Sherman's future, other than the sign of good faith shown just before the regular season by extending his contract two years through the 2007 season.

Since then, however, Sherman's solid track record as a head coach has taken a big hit. He went 53-27 in the regular season his first five years with the Packers, including three straight NFC North titles from 2002-04.

While those are redeeming credentials that invariably work in Sherman's favor, his resume is pocked by a 2-4 record in the postseason, as well as a dubious 12-13 mark at once-inhospitable Lambeau Field since the end of the 2002 season.

The unequivocal embarrassment of Monday night left the Packers with a 1-7 road record this season, their poorest in 26 years.

Even though Thompson says it's a full body of work from which he'll base his decision with regard to Sherman's future, the old adage that "you're only as good (or bad) as your last game" may not be discounted so quickly.


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