It was a good news-bad news day for the Bears' defensive line Sunday.
The 192 rushing yards the Bears allowed represented their worst performance of the season, and it was the third time in five games they've been gouged for 150 yards or more on the ground. But the linemen sacked Vikings backup quarterback Brooks Bollinger three times and pressured starter Brad Johnson into a career-worst-tying four interceptions.
"Unfortunately, we missed some tackles," defensive coordinator Ron Rivera said. "We have to figure out how come and why. We have to address that when we watch the film."
It was the Bears' first three-sack game since Oct. 8, and the line had come in for criticism after getting just four sacks in the past four games. Tank Johnson, Alex Brown and Adewale Ogunleye each got to Bollinger once.
"If anything, they blamed themselves for what happened the last few weeks," Rivera said. "They took ownership of the situation and really wanted to step up and show they're a quality football group."
Brown had just two sacks in the past six games, and Ogunleye only one in the past four. Both declined to speak to the media afterward.
"They were upset with themselves," Rivera said. "Until they play well, they're not going to say anything."
Tank Johnson said the criticism might have helped the defensive line produce its most consistent pass rush in several weeks.
"It really motivates us any time that we are tested," Johnson said. "Any time someone wants to put our backs against the wall, we're going to come out fighting, and that's all 11 guys and all the guys on this team. If they want to push our backs against the wall, we're going to come out fighting."
Manning returned his team-best and career-high fifth interception of the season 54 yards for a touchdown and a 14-6 lead in the third quarter. The Vikings' 38-year-old quarterback, Brad Johnson, had the best chance to keep Manning from scoring but didn't have enough speed to cut him off as the nickel back sprinted down the east sideline.
"I thought I was going to get into the end zone," Manning said. "I was thinking about the cutback, though. I was worried because of that (Matt) Hasselbeck play (against the Seahawks). "I was like, ‘Oh, I've got to cut back with this. I can't let another quarterback run me down, especially Brad Johnson.' He's a little older. Hasselbeck is younger. But I was able to outrun him."
The interception was special for Manning because it kicked in a bonus clause in his contract and it came in front of his son, Ricky III, who was born Nov. 14.
"It was his first game," Manning said. "They were in the family room, him and my wife Tasha. That ball is definitely going in his crib."
For most of the game, the Bears were pounded by the Vikings' running game, which produced 192 yards on 35 attempts. But on the third play of the fourth quarter, nose tackle Tank Johnson and strong safety Chris Harris stuffed running back Ciatrick Fason in the end zone for a safety, giving the Bears a 23-6 lead.
"We smelled blood in the water, and we went for it," Johnson said. "It's a big deal any time we can stop those guys. If they get back that close to the end zone, it's going to be trouble for them unless they have a really good trick play."
Of the 210 running plays against the Vikings this season, 37 had resulted in lost yardage (17.6 percent). The Bears' defense had stopped 40 of the 240 running plays against it for negative yardage (16.7 percent).
Early in the third quarter, Pro Bowl defensive tackle Tommie Harris was helped off the field after suffering what the Bears called a sprained left knee.
Harris did not return to the game and left the locker room on crutches.
"I was definitely concerned," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "We all know what Tommie means to us."
Harris could miss the remainder of the regular season even if his injury isn't more serious than a sprain. Pro Bowl cornerback Nate Vasher was sidelined in the fourth quarter with a hamstring injury and did not return, but his injury isn't considered as serious.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Coach Mike McCarthy got down to the dirty business of cleaning house Monday, but he didn't go to the late-season extreme of discarding personnel in the wake of the team's latest of a handful of humiliating defeats this season.
McCarthy was no less peeved less than 24 hours later about the Packers' showing in the first half Sunday against the Jets, who turned the home team into a laughingstock before its Lambeau Field fans. New York moved the ball at will against a hapless defense and scored on all five of its possessions to forge a 31-0 halftime lead.
The Packers fell 38-10 to the Jets, suffering their season-high third straight loss.
Stopping short of announcing any lineup changes or even taking the drastic measure of dismissing a coach, McCarthy spent a good portion of Monday in individual meetings with players and coaches alike.
"We're not having no fire sale. We're not having a big drama meeting," McCarthy said. "We need to get better at what we're doing. We have a plan; there's a foundation of our plan. We need to get back to that foundation. It has worked (in the past). If I didn't think it worked, trust me, I would have changed it a long time ago.
"So, we need to get back, we need to clean our house up here. Our performance on game day was a mess yesterday in the first 30 minutes."
McCarthy stressed that lack of effort wasn't in play for the frequent coverage breakdowns at the outset against the Jets' continually shifting, fast-break offense or a sluggish start by the offense, which had a fumble in its first series.
Yet, McCarthy suggested that some changes from a role standpoint would be in the offing later this week as the Packers turn their attention to a game Sunday at San Francisco.
"I never said I'm changing starters," McCarthy said. "(But) it's all about opportunities. It's about creating opportunities for people that deserve to have opportunities, and it's about opportunities created that people haven't taken full advantage of their opportunities."
The Packers have played uninspired football in two of their last three games, both incidentally at home. They were throttled 35-0 by New England two weeks ago.
With a 4-8 record, the Packers won't have a winning record for the second straight season and have just about taken themselves out of contention for a wild-card spot in the muddled NFC playoff race.
When asked Monday whether a coaching shakeup was on the horizon, McCarthy responded, "No, we're not changing. We're in the middle of a job right now. We just finished the third quarter of our season. It's not gone very well, particularly the last three weeks. So, we need to roll up our sleeves a little more, get a little more dirty. We need to get the thing fixed. We have work to do."
McCarthy said he hadn't met with Favre on Monday. The team was back to work after the 38-10 drubbing inflicted by the Jets at Lambeau Field.
Asked whether he will start to lobby Favre for a 17th NFL season next year, McCarthy said, "It's an off-season issue."
McCarthy said the right tackle was to undergo an MRI and other tests on the pulled groin that has kept him out of the last three games.
"I know we were hopeful for (Sunday's game at) San Francisco, but he's still a long shot," McCarthy said.
The Packers have gone with three rookie linemen in the last three games, with inconsistent Tony Moll holding down Tauscher's spot.
Martin has missed two straight games because of an unspecified ribs injury.
"We're going to work him out (Tuesday), see how his ribs are," said McCarthy, adding though, "but he's not getting much better."