NFC North News, Notes and Quotes

Chicago's passing game continues to mature, Detroit's progress is called into question, and Green Bay's ball security is an issue despite the Packers getting their first win of the season. Get news, notes and quotes from around the NFC North as the season begins to take shape.

CHICAGO BEARS

Muhsin Muhammad had game bests of nine catches and 118 receiving yards, and after three games he leads the Bears with 19 catches for 279 yards, which is on pace for 101 catches and 1,488 yards.

But Muhammad isn't the only receiving threat in the Bears' offense. He hasn't caught a touchdown pass yet, while wide receiver Bernard Berrian (12 catches, 208 yards) and tight end John Gilmore have two apiece, and tight end Desmond Clark (12 catches, 193 yards) and wide receiver Rashied Davis (5 catches, 87 yards) each have one touchdown.

"I think it does a lot for the confidence of the guys on the offense, the other receivers, the running backs, the tight ends," Muhammad said. "Everybody knows that the ball can come to them on any given occasion, and that makes you play harder."

Berrian had six catches for 70 yards against the Vikings, and Davis caught the game-winning 24-yard touchdown.

"Eventually there's going to be some games where they may not be able to get the ball to me the way they want to," Muhammad said. "Just like today, I could be the decoy, and Rashied could make the big touchdown, or Bernard. It really makes it hard to defense me when you're balanced, and that's what we're trying to accomplish."

According to coach Lovie Smith, it worked on Davis' first NFL touchdown, which gave the Bears a 19-16 victory.

"I think they were definitely thinking about the ball going to elsewhere," Smith said. "Moose had (118) yards, but that's why you need a third receiver to step up at this point."

NOTES

  • Having outscored their first two opponents 60-7, the Bears weren't really battle tested until Sunday.

    "I told them last (Saturday) night in our meeting that we hadn't had any adversity yet, but it's going to come," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "I said, ‘Hopefully not (Sunday), but if it does come, we'll see how we handle it,' and we had a lot of it."

    The results were inconclusive, quarterback Rex Grossman threw two interceptions and the Bears committed 10 penalties for 82 yards. But the bottom line is an unblemished record, and Grossman (23 of 41 for 278 yards) threw for more than 260 yards for the third week in a row, something he hadn't accomplished in his first three NFL seasons.

    "At times we did some good things," Turner said. "But we did some things execution-wise that if we continue to do, we're not going to win. We've got to clean all that up. The positive on it is we've got guys making plays. We can correct the mental errors and the execution errors as long as we've got guys making plays. They've got a lot of heart, obviously, to keep battling, keep fighting. It's what we've been saying all along to stay the course, and stick with it."

  • The Bears drove to the Vikings' 24-yard line on the final play of the first half but, with no timeouts left, were unable to get the field-goal unit on the field and the ball snapped before time expired.

    The Bears frittered away a timeout prior to Robbie Gould's 41-yard first-quarter field goal, when left tackle John Tait, who missed a couple snaps with a shoulder injury, was late getting on the field.

    "We didn't know (his condition) for sure," coach Lovie Smith said. "He came back out a little bit later on. Those are some of the things we have to clean up. We didn't handle that well."

  • Backup running back Cedric Benson didn't play one snap Sunday after carrying 21 times for 59 yards the first two weeks, but offensive coordinator Ron Turner doesn't believe he'll have a problem keeping the anxious second-year player motivated.

    "He knows he'll get his turn, and he's practicing really well," Turner said of the fourth overall pick in the 2005 draft. "He's had good weeks of practice and he knows we're going to go to him."

    Starter Thomas Jones had another sub-par game, rushing for 54 yards on 18 carries as the Bears' run game continues to struggle. Jones has 181 yards for 60 carries (3.0-yard average) on the season and, as a team, the Bears are averaging just 2.7 yards per carry (249 yards on 91 attempts), while their opponents have averaged 4.0 yards per carry. The Vikings rushed for 97 yards on 24 attempts (a 4.0-yard average).

  • DT Tommie Harris, in addition to forcing the fumble that set up the winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter, had his third sack in the past two weeks, the only one the Bears had all day.

  • QB Rex Grossman threw for 278 yards, the third straight week he's thrown for more than 260, although he had never reached that mark in his first three seasons. He also threw the first fourth-quarter touchdown of his four-year career.

  • P Brad Maynard had a gross average of 50.7 yards and a net of 45.3.


    DETROIT LIONS

    The Lions' slow start — 0-3 with two road games next on the schedule — cannot be considered a surprise. Even team executives were suggesting during the summer that the Lions would need time to get in sync with coach Rod Marinelli's new offensive and defensive systems.

    But the question now is whether the Lions are making any real progress or whether sporadic flashes of offense and defense are just that — sporadic flashes — and nothing more.

    In the season opener against Seattle, they played solid defense but very little offense.

    In game two at Chicago, they were demolished on both sides of the ball.

    In game three at home against a struggling Green Bay team, they showed a solid balance of running and passing but never came close to reeling in veteran quarterback Brett Favre.

    Cornerback Dre' Bly says he is optimistic, that the first win could set off a chain reaction to start the Lions out of a five-year stay in the NFL doldrums.

    "Winning is contagious," Bly said. "So, hopefully, we just have to find that one win. Once we find that win, we'll be fine. There's a lot of football left to be played and it's frustrating but we have to move forward."

    Perhaps the biggest surprise — and disappointment — is that the Lions' defense has not been better than it has, considering Marinelli's background as a defensive line coach and a disciple of Indianapolis coach Tony Dungy.

    In the last two weeks, they have given up 34 points to Chicago and 31 to Green Bay, which makes them one of the most generous defenses in the NFL.

    "It's very tough," Bly said. "We're better than we played the last two weeks. We have a very talented defense. We probably have the most dominate guy up front (Pro Bowl defensive tackle Shaun Rogers) and then on the back end if you give me the opportunity to make plays, I'll make plays.

    "And then we have the guys in the middle. We also have other guys who play well. We just have to stay focused and eliminate the big plays."

    NOTES

  • It seems that just about all of Detroit is rooting for the Tigers in the final days of the American League baseball season, but it's doubtful anybody is rooting harder than Lions executive vice president and COO Tom Lewand.

    For one thing, Lewand is a baseball fan. For the second, it would make life considerably less complicated for the Lions if the Tigers outlasted the Minnesota Twins in the race for the AL Central Division title.

    It seems if the Twins win the AL Central, there is a possibility they will be hosting game five of the ALDS at the Metrodome in Minneapolis on Oct. 8, the day the Lions and Vikings are scheduled to meet in an NFL North division game.

    Because the Twins have precedence, it means the Lions-Vikings game would have to be rescheduled. Either the game would be moved to Monday night, Oct. 9, or the Lions and Vikings would have to swap home dates. They would move the Oct. 8 game to Detroit and they would play Dec. 10 in Minneapolis.

    "We've prepared ourselves for several different contingencies," Lewand said.

    The Lions would strongly oppose an exchange of home dates, however, because it would mean they would be playing four of their final five games on the road.

    More likely, the game would be played on Monday night, on short notice. It would still be an inconvenience but it would seem to be the lesser of two evils."

    Lewand's first choice?

    "I'm still rooting hard for the Tigers," Lewand said, with a grin.

  • It's not often that a 12-year veteran tight end finds himself playing on the special teams punt coverage unit, but that's where Marcus Pollard found himself Sunday, and he made the best of it.

    When the Lions were forced to punt early in the fourth quarter, it was Pollard who made the stop with a perfectly executed open field tackle on Packers punt returner Charles Woodson.

    "It was a pretty good pop," Pollard said. "It's better popping somebody than getting popped for a change. It felt good. It was nice to get a chance to hit somebody and not get hit."

    Pollard said the best part of the play was the reception he got from other special teams players when he got back to the sidelines. Fellow tight end Casey FitzSimmons was the first to greet Pollard as he left the field.

    "He's always watching me and I'm always watching him; we're always pulling for one another," Pollard said. "He's the first person I saw when I got to the sideline."

    Donte' Curry, the special teams captain, and linebacker Alex Lewis, another special teams regular, also congratulated Pollard.

    "To get a compliment from somebody like that is very much appreciated," he said.

  • LG Ross Verba got his first start of the season in the Lions' game Sunday against his former Green Bay teammates, but he didn't make it through the first offensive series before leaving with the recurring hamstring injury that has bothered him since midway through the preseason schedule. Coach Rod Marinelli said his return now is week-to-week.

  • SS Kenoy Kennedy missed the Lions' game against Green Bay with a foot injury suffered a week earlier. Coach Rod Marinelli said Kennedy's return is listed as week-to-week.

  • OL Brandon Stokes sat out the Green Bay game with a hamstring injury but he might have a chance of playing at either LG or RT in the Lions game at St. Louis next Sunday. Coach Rod Marinelli said Stokes return is day-to-day.

  • RT Rex Tucker, who suffered a relapse of his knee injury in practice last week and did not play against Green Bay, is now being listed as week-to-week, an indication he is not likely to start Sunday at St. Louis.

  • OT Jonathan Scott, a rookie drafted in the sixth round last April, got his first NFL start Sunday in the Lions' 31-24 loss to Green Bay. Coach Rod Marinelli said Scott played "good but not great" against the Packers. It appears he might start next Sunday at St. Louis if Rex Tucker is still hampered by a recurring knee injury.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    A greater emphasis will be placed on ball security when practice resumes Wednesday in the wake of running backs Ahman Green and Noah Herron losing two fumbles in the Packers' 31-24 victory at Detroit on Sunday.

    "Just have to keep emphasizing it," head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday. "Those are two critical plays in the game that could have really factored into the football game."

    Herron cost the Packers potentially at least three points and maybe a touchdown when he had the ball stripped after catching a shovel pass inside the Lions' 10-yard line late in the first half. The Packers led 17-14 at the time.

    Then, with Green Bay protecting a 31-24 lead and the game clock inside of a minute in the fourth quarter, Green had the ball jarred out of his left arm on a run to the outside. Detroit, though, couldn't capitalize with a last-ditch touchdown that would have forced overtime.

    Green has had two fourth-quarter fumbles in the last two games. A turnover in Week 2 against New Orleans set up Deuce McAllister for a 23-yard touchdown run that proved to be the deciding points in the Saints' 34-27 win.

    Green, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, has a history of early-season fumbling problems.

    "(Running backs coach) Edgar Bennett does a good job with his individuals; he stresses (ball security) every day. We just have to keep emphasizing," McCarthy said. "That's our job — teach and demand. We need to get it corrected."

    NOTES

  • Rookie Daryn Colledge might have won back a permanent starting spot at left guard.

    A week after head coach Mike McCarthy said Colledge played "just OK" in his starting debut in Week 2, McCarthy praised the second-round draft pick Monday, a day after the Packers prevailed 31-24 at Detroit.

    "He played much better this week," McCarthy assessed. "I feel like Daryn is really improving. I see a player who's starting to get more comfortable. He had an excellent challenge (Sunday); their defensive line was a good challenge for us."

    Colledge again started in place of rookie Jason Spitz, who's been sidelined since suffering a thigh injury in the season opener.

    Spitz could be back this week, which is a long one since the Packers don't play until Monday at Philadelphia. Rookie Tony Moll has started the first three games at right guard.

    "We'll play the best two of the three, whoever is playing the best at that time," McCarthy said. "Their level of experience is all very similar, so we're just going to keep looking for the right combinations in there with those guys."

    Colledge was demoted from the starting job at left guard after he struggled in the first preseason game. Spitz moved from right guard to left guard, and Moll took over at right guard.

    The line had its finest performance of the young season Sunday, holding off Pro Bowl tackle Shaun Rogers and not permitting one sack of Brett Favre.

  • McCarthy indicated that a platoon system involving Brady Poppinga and Ben Taylor at strong-side linebacker probably will continue.

    Taylor was inserted in the base package for a series late in the first quarter after Poppinga continued to struggle in pass coverage. Taylor also relieved Poppinga for a few plays in the second half.

    "I liked it. I thought Ben went in and did a nice job," McCarthy said. "You never have enough good players. He gave Brady a little relief; his reps have been up the last two weeks. So, that's something we may do more of."

  • DT Ryan Pickett hurt his right ankle in the second quarter of the 31-24 win at Detroit on Sunday. The starter was out the final six minutes of the first half, then returned for the start of the second half.

  • DT Kenderick Allen was the only other player to come out of the game with an injury. Allen hurt a foot but managed to finish the game.

  • FS Nick Collins suffered leg cramps toward the end of the game and required intravenous fluids in the locker room afterward.

  • WR Koren Robinson, for the first time in two games with the team, had a cameo appearance at receiver in the second half Sunday. Robinson was on the field for five plays. The veteran's only reception went for 24 yards on third-and-7, leading to a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brett Favre to Donald Driver to bump the lead to 24-14. Robinson's time at receiver should increase in the coming weeks. He was the No. 4 receiver ahead of Ruvell Martin, who was deactivated.

  • DT Colin Cole was deactivated Sunday for the first time since the end of the 2004 season. Cole started in the season opener beside Pickett but apparently fell out of favor with coaches after he missed a tackle on a decisive 23-yard touchdown run by Deuce McAllister in the Packers' 34-27 loss to New Orleans in Week 2.

  • Viking Update Top Stories