Around the NFC North

The Bears had issues with their quarterback and turnovers in general in their first loss of the season, the Lions didn't have any trouble with their offense in an upset over Atlanta, but the Packers were haunted by miscommunications and turnovers. Get the news and notes from Sunday's games around the division.

CHICAGO BEARS

Coaches say not much thought was given to benching Rex Grossman after a first half in which he completed 7 of 15 passes for 119 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

"We were down (14-10), and I thought we were in pretty good shape," coach Lovie Smith said. "Our football team didn't play well, starting with the coaches and going all the way down. Rex was a part of that, but we had a lot of things that went wrong."

Once again, the Bears' running game was unimpressive (103 yards on 28 carries, 3.7-yard average), and neither starter Thomas Jones nor backup Cedric Benson had a gain of longer than 11 yards. The Bears lost three fumbles, including one by Grossman.

"It's not just one guy offensively," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "Putting the ball on the ground, not taking advantage of opportunities, and execution — we weren't very good today."

The NFL's No. 1 defense couldn't overcome another offensive meltdown this time, and a deluge of six turnovers washed away the Bears' perfect season.

For now, the Bears can only hope that the game is all they've lost, but there is concern that a left foot injury to Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Urlacher with just under two minutes left could be serious.

Just as he did in Arizona, Grossman figured prominently in the barrage of turnovers. He lost one fumble and was intercepted three times, while completing just 18 of 42 passes for 210 yards with one touchdown and a passer rating of 36.8.

"It was poor execution," Grossman said. "It was a combination of them playing really well and us playing not up to our capability. In this league, everyone is good, so if you make mistakes like that, bad things are going to happen.

"There were a couple of times where it was just a bad throw," Grossman said of his three interceptions. "The other one was miscommunication a little bit."

Grossman was asked which pick was the result of miscommunication.

"It doesn't matter," he said.

Statistically, Grossman's four-interception, two-fumble outing against the Cardinals was worse, as was his 10.7 passer rating, but Sunday's performance wasn't the kind that the Bears can tolerate, even from a still-inexperienced quarterback who was starting just his 15th NFL game.

"We never expect that or accept that," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We can't turn the ball over, plain and simple. If you don't turn the ball over in this league you have a chance to win. If you turn the ball over and don't give yourself a chance (to score), it's very, very difficult to win."

One of Grossman interceptions came when Pro Bowl defensive end Jason Taylor stretched out to steal an underthrown pass intended for tight end Desmond Clark and went 20 yards for the score.

"We have to execute better," Turner said. "We have to take care of the basics. We have to coach it better, we have to do everything better."

Miami's Andre Goodman said the Dolphins' secondary expected some interception opportunities if the pass rush pressured Grossman, who was sacked three times.

"We knew if we put pressure on him, he'd make his decisions quicker and put the ball in places it shouldn't have been," Goodman said. "It makes your job easier and you have more confidence when you know the ball has to come out quicker."

Grossman's third interception, a Renaldo Hill pick in the fourth quarter, also resulted in a Miami touchdown.

"We had opportunities to make some plays and didn't make them," Turner said. "And then you turn the ball over that many times, and you're not going to win in this league."

While no one was even hinting at it Sunday, it remains to be seen how much longer Bears coaches will put up with Grossman's inconsistency. In the narrow escape against the Cardinals three weeks ago and the loss to the Dolphins, he personally turned the ball over 10 times, by way of seven interceptions and three fumbles.

NOTES

  • RB Thomas Jones averaged just 3.5 yards per carry on 20 attempts (69 yards) and his longest run was just 11 yards.

  • RB Cedric Benson averaged a respectable 4.3 yards on eight carries (34 yards), but his longest run was just 10 yards.

  • QB Rex Grossman, who entered the game with the highest at-home passer rating in the NFL (124.0), was picked off three times and completed just 18 of 42 passes Sunday at Soldier Field for a passer rating of 36.8.

  • WR Bernard Berrian caught one pass for 10 yards on the Bears' first offensive play but suffered an injury to his ribs and did not return to the game.

  • PR Devin Hester, who led the NFL with a 14.6-yard punt return average, muffed a punt at his own six-yard line that was recovered by the Dolphins and converted for a touchdown.


    DETROIT LIONS

    Knowing the response he was likely to get, wide receiver Roy Williams included the appropriate disclaimer in his evaluation of the Lions.

    "I think guys are hungry, we know that we're not losers," Williams said. "Like I said, we're the best 2-6 team in this league. We have a chance to make it to the playoffs.

    "I know you all can laugh at that, print what you want to, talk about it but this team has a good chance of making the playoffs, if we do the things we're supposed to do. It's that simple."

    Considering the Lions have suffered through five consecutive double-digit loss seasons and have not won more than two games in a row since 2000, it is hard to project them seriously as mid-season playoff contenders on the strength of their 2-6 record.

    But their 30-14 upset of the Atlanta Falcons provided support for what Williams has been saying since he and the rest of the Lions began getting the feel for Mike Martz's offense earlier in the season.

    "There's no stopping this offense," he said. "The only people that can stop this offense is ourselves and you saw that today."

    They scored three touchdowns — two by running back Kevin Jones and one by Williams — and Jason Hanson kicked three field goals but they ended two promising drives with back-to-back penalties.

    For much of the afternoon at Ford Field, however, they executed offensive coordinator Martz's game plan just the way it was drawn up. Quarterback Jon Kitna completed 20 of 32 passes for 321 yards and a touchdown; Williams caught six passes for 138 yards and a touchdown; Jones carried 26 times for 110 yards and two touchdowns, and he caught four passes for an additional 30 yards.

    The playoff possibilities might — as Williams suggested — bring a laugh, but there was nothing funny about the way the Lions moved the football against Atlanta.

    "I was telling Kevin Jones, if we would have been clicking the way that we're clicking right now, at the beginning of the season, you can put us in the category of the elite teams in this league," Williams said. "And I think that's a fair statement."

    Part of the problem, as Williams explained, was the time required for the Lions players to get a handle on Martz's offense.

    "In this offense, you have to know what you're doing, play in and play out," he said. "I don't know how many protections we have; I know we have well over 15 protections. You take that to an offensive lineman, with all the different looks a defense can give you. Now that's tough.

    "Then I have 13 different routes. One play, I might have five different routes that I can run. It's a tough offense and it's hard to cover, and that's what makes it so hard.

    "This is a really good team, just slow starting. Maybe the bye week should have come in week four; then we would have been alright. But we can turn this thing around."

    Whether they get it turned around or not is anybody's guess but they are going into what is probably the most favorable part of their schedule — home next Sunday against San Francisco followed by a road game against Arizona and the traditional Thanksgiving Day game against Miami.

    If they somehow can get close to .500 by the end of November, they will have to prove their mettle against some of the NFL's best teams with road games against New England, Green Bay and Dallas, sandwiched around home games with Minnesota and Chicago.

    NOTES

  • RB Kevin Jones is averaging a career-best 110 yards from scrimmage per game at the halfway mark of the season. With 110 yards rushing and 30 yards receiving in the 30-14 victory over Atlanta on Sunday, he pushed his season total to 880 yards from scrimmage. That includes 584 yards rushing (80 short of his season total in the disappointing 2005 season) and 296 yards receiving (already his career best). With six rushing touchdowns, Jones already has surpassed his career best of five in 2004 and 2005.

  • WR Roy Williams, who had four 100-yard receiving games total in his first two NFL seasons, has gone over the century mark receiving in four of the Lions' last six games under offensive coordinator Mike Martz this season. His latest was a 138-yard effort that included a 60-yard touchdown play in the 30-14 victory Sunday against Atlanta. With 719 receiving yards in eight games this season, Williams is only 98 yards short of his career best season.

  • QB Jon Kitna is on pace to break several Lions single-season passing records. Kitna has completed 187 of 296 attempts for 2,174 yards and 10 touchdowns in the first eight games. In his record-setting 1995 season, former Lion Scott Mitchell had 2,036 yards on 176 of 299 attempts through the first eight games on his way to team records of 583 attempts, 346 completions and 4,338 yards.

  • CB Dre' Bly, who had 16 interceptions in his first three seasons with the Lions, got his first of the 2006 season against Michael Vick in the 30-14 victory Sunday. Bly intercepted the pass at the Falcons' 10-yard line and returned it to the two, setting up Kevin Jones' two-yard touchdown run and a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.

  • LB Teddy Lehman got his first game action since Oct. 30, 2005, in the Lions' 30-14 victory Sunday against Atlanta. Lehman spent the first eight weeks of the season on the PUP list recovering from a foot injury. Playing off the bench at MLB against the Falcons, he had one tackle and one assist.


    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    The end to the Packers' first winning streak in two years was laced with ominous overtones.

    Egregious communication snafus, some amid loud crowd noise, were to blame for the 24-10 loss at Buffalo on Sunday. The Packers return to the road this weekend and pay their annual visit to Minnesota's Metrodome, where they've frequently been tripped up by a thunderous din.

    Green Bay has won only four of 14 encounters against the Vikings under the Teflon roof with Brett Favre at quarterback since 1992. To say the venue is a haunted house for Favre and the Packers might be putting it mildly.

    The self-inflicted letdown against the Bills was reminiscent of Green Bay's struggles in Minneapolis. The Packers had a season-high four turnovers, all involving Favre, who threw two interceptions and lost the football twice on faulty exchanges with hurried center Scott Wells.

    "It's getting too late in the year to let these type of opportunities slip away," head coach Mike McCarthy lamented.

    The Packers thoroughly outgained Buffalo 427-184 in total yardage, 26-11 in first downs and 34:21 to 25:39 in time of possession. Yet, they prevented themselves from winning a third straight game and reaching the midway point of the season at a respectable 4-4 because of the numerous giveaways.

    "It's been a reoccurring theme for us all year. Until we get it fixed, it's going to keep us from winning football games," McCarthy said.

    Favre hadn't thrown an interception in three straight games and was sitting pretty with only five in the first seven games — a notable about-face from last season's league-leading 29.

    The offensively challenged Bills turned both picks into touchdowns, however. The first score came directly on a 17-yard return by linebacker London Fletcher-Baker. The second score was set up by a back-breaking play for the Packers, who were a yard away from tying the score at 17-17 late in the fourth quarter only to have a tipped pass from Favre intercepted by safety Ko Simpson in the end zone.

    "As I said after the Miami game (a 34-24 Packers victory Oct. 22), not to knock our team, but we're not good enough to overcome a lot of mistakes," said Favre, who's surrounded by a league-high 17 rookies.

    Getting on the same page hasn't been easy for such a youthful team.

    The miscommunication issues involving the defensive backs that were in abundance the first month of the season apparently haven't been ironed out. The Bills' one and only big pass play of the game went for a 43-yard touchdown from J.P. Losman to Lee Evans, who was left open behind cornerback Al Harris, that snapped a 10-10 tie midway through the final period.

    "I hate to keep saying the same thing, but it's what happened — a breakdown in communication. We had two guys playing two different coverages there," McCarthy said of Harris and rookie safety Tyrone Culver.

    The oral messages or otherwise that have been getting lost in translation rubbed off on the offense. First-year starter Wells' hasty snaps to Favre — the second hit the unsuspecting quarterback's face mask while in shotgun formation with the Packers at the Bills' 5 late in the first half — don't bode well for the incursion into Minnesota.

    To Favre's chagrin, the Packers eschewed going with a silent count, which they've typically employed at the raucous Metrodome, when noise was an issue in the end-zone areas at Buffalo. The cadences barked out by Favre subsequently fell on deaf ears.

    "I can see where that happens," Favre said of the bungled snaps. "That's my reasoning for wanting to go with a silent snap count at that particular time because, as (former Packers coach) Mike Holmgren used to say, you don't hear ghosts."

    The incriminating nature of the loss overshadowed Ahman Green attaining a third consecutive 100-yard game with 23 carries for 122 yards, along with another superb effort by the Packers' pass rush.

    Green Bay registered a season-high five sacks. Defensive tackle Corey Williams had a career-best three, while end Aaron Kampman had one to assume sole possession of the league lead with 9.5. The Packers have 13 sacks in the last three games and 27 for the season, putting them on pace to eclipse the franchise record of 52 in 2001.

    NOTES

  • FS Nick Collins left Sunday's game in the third quarter with a bruised back. Collins was checked for potential kidney damage after the game. Rookie Tyrone Culver replaced Collins for the remainder of the game.

  • WR Greg Jennings aggravated a sprained right ankle in the second quarter but returned a short time later and finished the game. Jennings had five catches for 69 yards but came out of the game sore. He was cleared to play after missing the last game because of the injury, which was diagnosed as a mid-ankle sprain.

  • CB Charles Woodson made the start and played the entire game despite having a bruised left knee. Woodson was doubtful for the game most of last week before being upgraded to questionable after he practiced for the first time Friday.

  • DT Cullen Jenkins returned to action after a two-game absence because of a bruised ankle and had one of the team's five sacks of Bills quarterback J.P. Losman.

  • RB Vernand Morency was out Sunday because of a lower back injury sustained in the previous game. Morency isn't expected to play next Sunday against Minnesota.

  • FB Brandon Miree was deactivated after suffering a hyperextended left elbow in the last game. Miree's status for this week is up in the air. William Henderson started in his place.

  • LB Abdul Hodge missed his fourth straight game. The team erred on the side of caution in holding the backup rookie out Sunday after he returned to practice last week following a lengthy absence because of a knee injury.


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