This was a statement game, and the statement the Bears made is that they may well be the new team to beat in the NFC.
The Bears dominated throughout a 37-6 drubbing of the Seahawks, in a game matching the last two undefeated teams in the NFC. After three quarters, the Seahawks already trailed 34-6 and looked very little like the defending NFC champions, or even a team that came in at 3-0.
"This was big," said linebacker Lance Briggs, who was in on several of the big hits that the Bears laid on the Seahawks, while running their record to 4-0 with their most impressive victory of the season. "When you have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL, and we do, it makes it hard for the other offense."
It all starts up front for a Bears defense that had five sacks, two interceptions and allowed only 230 total yards. The Seahawks scored the first three points, but the Bears got the next 20 before allowing another three.
Seahawks Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck enjoyed some very early success, but was picked off twice by Ricky Manning Jr. in the second quarter, both of which set up Robbie Gould field goals. By then, and for most of the rest of the game, Hasselbeck was being pressured by a relentless Bears pass rush, even on short drops and quick passes.
Tommie Harris, a Pro Bowl player last season, played perhaps the best game of his outstanding young career, notching his fourth and fifth sacks of the season.
"I'd be hard-pressed to name a defensive tackle in the league that's playing as well as Tommie," Bears defensive coordinator Rob Rivera said. "He really is coming into his own."
For much of the evening, Harris was in the Seahawks' backfield, as he and the rest of the defensive line pressured Hasselbeck, even when they didn't sack him.
"When we get that kind of pressure from the front four," Rivera said, "we're able to drop seven into coverage, and that made Hasselbeck have to go away from his primary receiver and start looking for secondary targets."
Offensively, the Bears' running game was more effective than at any time this season, but a lot of that had to do with another exceptional effort by quarterback Rex Grossman, who easily outplayed Hasselbeck. Grossman completed 17 of 31 passes for 232 yards, including touchdown passes of nine yards to Muhsin Muhammad and 40 yards to Bernard Berrian. His passer rating of 100.5 was his third of over 100 in four games this season. His career passer rating before this season was 68.8 and his previous single-game high was 91.9.
On offense, too, the key for the Bears was the play up front, according to Grossman.
"It starts up there with our line," he said. "And our receivers are getting open and making plays. I had time to throw, and they separated from their defenders and caught the ball. Those are the two biggest reasons, and we've been converting third downs, which allow you to continue drives."
Grossman did have the advantage of the protection provided by the Bears' offensive line, though. He also had the continued sure-handed receiving of Muhammad (five catches, 45 yards) and the emergence of Berrian as a big-play deep threat (three catches, 108 yards). Berrian showed he was capable of providing a complement to Muhammad.
"To beat a team like this 37-6 shows what we're capable of," Grossman said. "But we may have to face them again down the road if we want to get to where we want to go."
WR Muhsin Muhammad ran his season total to 24 catches with five receptions for 45 yards Sunday, and more importantly, got into the end zone for the first time on a 9-yard touchdown.
WR Bernard Berrian caught his third touchdown of the season, a 46-yarder, and he finished with 108 yards on three receptions for his first 100-yard game.
DT Tommie Harris had two sacks, giving him five for the season, a team best and the best single-season total of his three-year career.
QB Rex Grossman had his third game with a passer rating of over 100. He completed 17 of 31 for 232 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 100.5.
PK Robbie Gould connected on field goals of 36, 20 and 41 yards and is now 13-for-13 this season. He has hit 15 straight field goals going back to last season.
If the Detroit Lions are starting to feel a little defensive these days, they might want to start showing it on the field.
In the last three games — all losses on their way to another dismal 0-4 start — they have given up 106 points. That's 34 to Chicago, 31 to Green Bay and 41 in the 41-34 shootout loss Sunday to the St. Louis Rams.
That clearly is not what coach Rod Marinelli anticipated when he started putting together a defense for the Lions shortly after his hiring last January. And it's certainly not what defensive coordinator Donnie Henderson had in mind when he talked about an aggressive, playmaking defense.
The Lions gave up 427 yards total offense, they sacked Rams quarterback Marc Bulger only once in 43 pass plays and they did not force a single turnover. Generally speaking, teams that lose the turnover battle don't do well in the won-loss column, either.
"We've got to stop them," Marinelli said. "(Make) turnovers and stop them. That's the job of the defense, to go in and do that. We've got to mix things up. When we do come, we've got to get there."
The offense is still not perfect, but coordinator Mike Martz seems to have his players moving in the right direction. They scored 58 points in the last two games, 24 against Green Bay and 34 against the Rams.
"I thought the offense did a heck of a job moving the ball — points, yards, all those things," Marinelli said. "That was gratifying. (We) got a little bit better on the special teams. (It) wasn't good enough on defense. It comes down to the three turnovers they get and we get zero. That's pressure, and we keep talking about this each and every week. That's the game in a nutshell."
The encouraging sign — if the Lions can find one in their worst start since the 2001 team went 0-12 before winning its first game under Marty Mornhinweg — is that there is no immediate indication of a divided locker room.
"It's Lions football," Marinelli said. "We win as a team and we lose as a team, and that's what it is. We just address it that way. Human nature is human nature. I address that, continue to address that."
It's still early in the season, but the Lions players seem to be taking his sermons to heart regarding the evils of finger-pointing.
"I play offense," said Roy Williams, who caught nine passes for 139 yards in the loss to St. Louis. "I can't worry about the defensive side. Like I said in Week 2 and Week 3, it's our job to outscore the opponent. If they score 41, we've got to score 42. That's the way I approach the game and I'm pretty sure everybody else does, too."
Whether it's the offense or the defense, there is another lesson Marinelli is hoping the Lions will learn soon — the necessity of making the one or two additional plays it takes to win a close game.
They lost by three to Seattle in the season opener (9-6), by seven to Green Bay (31-24) in the third game and by seven to the Rams (41-34). The defense gave up a late field-goal drive to the Seahawks and the offense stalled when it had a chance to send the Green Bay and St. Louis games into overtime.
"It's been talked about — how to win a close game," Marinelli said. "We've got to keep doing that and working at it. Pay attention to it more. Two-minute drill; whatever we do — just keep doing all the basic things and keep trying to work on that defense."
Against the Rams, the Lions had to rally from an early 13-3 deficit, but they did, with quarterback Jon Kitna throwing two touchdown passes to wide receiver Mike Furrey, running back Kevin Jones scoring on two touchdown runs and Jason Hanson kicking two field goals.
Eventually, the Lions built a 34-30 lead with 11:11 to play in the game. They did not score again and the defense gave up a 51-yard field goal drive, a 56-yard touchdown drive and a two-point play.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
William Henderson's numerous days as a Green Bay Packer could be numbered.
With concerns about the health of the 35-year-old fullback, who's clearly in the twilight of his pro career, coach Mike McCarthy made a bold move for the Monday night game at Philadelphia. Second-year fullback Brandon Miree, promoted from the practice squad just last week, jumped ahead of Henderson into the starting lineup.
McCarthy called the decision one of the toughest he's made so far in his first year as an NFL head coach.
"On a personal level, that's something that's not easy, because we do have a prior relationship," said McCarthy, who was with the Packers as their quarterbacks coach in 1999. "But, as you move forward, you've got to do what's in the best interests of the Green Bay Packers. He understands that, and that's the direction we're going."
Henderson, a Pro Bowl selection in 2004, called the demotion humbling. He has been a constant in the Green Bay backfield since his second season in the league in 1996, when the Packers won Super Bowl XXXI. Henderson and quarterback Brett Favre are the only remaining players from that championship season.
"Hopefully, it keeps me hungry," Henderson said. "I've got to take it as a challenge in some way, shape or form to get myself prepared to compete in whatever the situation may be."
Henderson admittedly hasn't been right physically since returning perhaps too soon from arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, which was performed late in the preseason. Henderson was sidelined for the season opener, only the third game he missed in his 12-year career. He started the next two games before Monday, but wasn't his same dependable self as a lead blocker in a running game that was next to nonexistent out of the gate.
Henderson alluded to the knee, which he reckoned to be 85 percent healed, as the culprit for his ineffectiveness.
"Coming back from injury and saying that I'm stable enough or strong enough is one thing," he said. "But, that extra explosiveness as a power blocker, it's a different amount of rehab and it's a different amount of responsibility of this knee, especially when we have been a right-handed (running) team and you ask me to plant off my right leg and drive downhill. Physically, I can do it, but am I the most effective at it right now? I don't know.
"I'm not one to use excuses for my performance. But, it's one of those things, I guess I haven't done enough, and I'm going to continue to work harder to get back to the form that I had before, to handle the responsibilities they've asked of me before."
The 6-foot, 236-pound Miree, a practice-squad member since Week 1, was an attractive fallback option because he's well-versed in the zone-blocking scheme that was implemented by McCarthy. Miree was immersed in the system for two-plus years with Denver, which drafted him in the seventh round out of Pittsburgh in 2004. The Broncos released him in the final roster cut-down this summer.
If Miree can prove he's more than capable of handling the job, the end of the line for Henderson in Green Bay might be sooner than later.
"I don't know if that's the end result of what's going on right now," said Henderson, who signed a two-year deal in the off-season to remain in Green Bay. "(But) I still can handle the job of fullback. I'm going to go out there and compete and do what I've got to do to get myself back out there on the field, whether it be (with) this organization or some other. Will Henderson is not done."