Coach Lovie Smith is fond of saying the Bears "get off the bus running the football," but maybe they should consider getting off the bus throwing the football.
Even without No. 1 wide receiver Brandon Lloyd, who sat out with a sprained knee, the offense met little resistance through the air in a lopsided 34-7 victory over the 0-4 Lions.
Coupled with the Packers' 27-24 loss at home to the Falcons, the Bears moved into first place in the NFC North at 3-2, one game ahead of the Packers. Next weekend the Bears head down to Atlanta to try their luck against the 3-2 Falcons, but they do so with an offense that might be a lot more balanced than most gave them credit for.
Quarterback Kyle Orton has found plenty of targets all season, and Sunday in Detroit was no different, as he spread the ball equitably while throwing for 334 yards, 66 more than he had thrown for in any of his previous 22 NFL starts. Orton's passer rating of 121.4 was also a career best, topping his 103.3, also against the Lions, in his rookie season of 2005. His two TD passes give him seven in the last three games.
"I think I played well today," Orton said. "I thought I saw the field well, (but) I didn't play perfect. I've got some room for improvement, just like the other four weeks. We were certainly in a good rhythm there for the middle part of the game. We had them on their heels and we kept at it."
Orton had completions of 30 yards or longer to four different receivers before the third quarter was five minutes old, by which time the Bears held a commanding 31-0 lead. In their first four games, the Bears had a total of just two 30-yard pass plays.
"The protection was good, the receivers ran great routes and I got the ball out," said Orton, who was sacked just once. "The play-calling was great."
Tight end Greg Olsen (three catches, 87 yards) got the aerial circus going with a career-long 52-yard reception in the first quarter. Orton's nine-yard touchdown pass to running back Matt Forte' gave the Bears a 10-0 lead with 5:27 left in the second quarter, and 3:31 later, he connected with Devin Hester for a 12-yard touchdown and a 17-0 halftime lead. Hester's score was set up by his own 32-yard reception, and one play later, a 34-yard pass to Rashied Davis that Orton placed perfectly deep down the sideline.
Davis had personal bests of six catches and 97 receiving yards.
Marty Booker's miraculous, one-handed catch of an Orton pass for 30 yards set up Forte's one-yard touchdown run early in the third quarter that gave the Bears a 24-0 lead.
The Bears used a team effort to make up for the absence of Lloyd, who was far and away their most productive receiver through the first four weeks with 249 receiving yards.
"We don't single out anybody as being the No. 1 guy," Booker said. "We all just go out there and do our part and do our thing as a group, and today guys stepped up and made plays. You have to have a lot of guys that are able to come in and, when their number's called, make plays. That's the key, and we've been doing a good job of that so far. We just have to keep it up."
Despite Orton's flashy numbers, offensive coordinator Ron Turner was more impressed with other aspects of his game.
"We don't get caught up in the numbers," Turner said. "I was just pleased that he was making the right reads, going where he's supposed to (with the ball). When we have opportunities to make plays, he's giving guys a chance to make plays and putting the ball on the money. The last couple weeks, he's seeing things really well and playing with a lot of confidence."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Rod Marinelli isn't looking for any mercy. He's a heck of a football coach. They had a tough day today. Believe me, he'll get the troops back." — Bears coach Lovie Smith, who was an assistant with Lions coach Rod Marinelli for five years in Tampa, when asked if there's no such thing as mercy for an opponent in the NFL.
UNDER THE RADAR: With leading receiver Brandon Lloyd out with a sprained knee, WR Rashied Davis put up career bests of six catches and 97 yards.
The news just keeps getting better for the Detroit Lions. Now they have to go to Minnesota, where they haven't won since 1997, as they recover from their latest shellacking.
The Lions are 0-4. They have fallen in a huge hole in each game — 21-0 at Atlanta, 21-0 against Green Bay, 21-3 at San Francisco and 31-0 against Chicago. They have lost by an average margin of 20.25 points.
President Matt Millen has been fired. But that doesn't do much for the team right now and only directs the heat onto coach Rod Marinelli, quarterback Jon Kitna and the rest of the staff and players.
Marinelli, whose record with the Lions has sunk to 10-26, continues to take responsibility for the state of the team. But if it's his fault, then why should he keep his job?
"I get up tomorrow and work," Marinelli responded. "That's me. I get up and go. I'm going to watch this tape and evaluate it. I don't look at anything further down the road."
Chief operating officer Tom Lewand attended the news conference after Sunday's 34-7 loss to the Bears. Does he believe Marinelli is the right man for the job and will turn around the franchise?
"I have tremendous, tremendous respect for Rod Marinelli," Lewand said. "Rod Marinelli is one of the best people, one of the best coaches I've been around, and you hear his message. You guys have heard it very consistently and very clearly over the time he's been here, and he's going to continue to do things right.
"The fact that the product hasn't been what any of us want it to be on the field..."
A reporter told Lewand he was not answering the question. Can Marinelli win with better talent?
"That's very speculative, guys," Lewand said. "All we can deal with is in the here and now, and that's all I'm going to deal with."
Lewand said he has respect for Marinelli. But does he have confidence in him?
"Yes," Lewand said.
So Marinelli won't be fired imminently?
"I think what Rod said is exactly right," Lewand said. "We all get up tomorrow morning and we go to work."
Marinelli said again that he will not change his offensive or defensive coordinators.
"My handprint's all over that, just like I said to you last time," Marinelli said. "It's on me to get it right, and it's being taught exactly how I want it. Now, are we executing it? No. We're not executing it. Part of execution is coaches and players both. That's how it is. The last thing these guys need is just more change and more change and more panic and more change. I'm not going to do that."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The type of people we have, I wouldn't sense that, that they're going to quit. I would sense that they're going to keep fighting." — Coach Rod Marinelli, on if the players have given up on him or will with 12 games to go.
LINEUP WATCH: Quarterback Jon Kitna was replaced by backup Dan Orlovsky to start the second half Sunday, but Marinelli said that was only because Kitna had back spasms — not because he went 8-for-16 for 74 yards and was sacked three times. Orlovsky suffered a high ankle sprain. No. 3 Drew Stanton just returned from a sprained thumb.
Rookie Kevin Smith started at running back despite reports veteran Rudi Johnson would. Smith was quoted last week saying he had been told he was no longer the starter, and other players also said a change had been made. But after the game, Smith denied he had said that. Johnson said no one had told him anything and he never thought he was starting.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
The last time the Packers were saddled with a sub-.500 record, they responded in a profoundly positive manner.
Green Bay won its final four games in 2006 to take some solace with an 8-8 record and turn that into a building block for a rousing season last year, when it won the NFC North with a 13-3 record and nearly reached the Super Bowl.
A three-game losing streak preceded the victory flurry of two years ago, and that's what has befallen the Packers (2-3) again after they were stunned 27-24 by the visiting Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
"What happens is when you lose, things get magnified. Now that we've had three in a row, we've got an electron microscope on us right now," defensive end Aaron Kampman said.
The Packers will be under the gun to get things righted in a hurry, starting Sunday in a notoriously hostile environment at Seattle. Green Bay then will play host to Indianapolis on Oct. 19 before entering the bye week, out of which the Packers will be confronted by three road trips in four games.
Having relinquished the NFC North lead to Chicago, the Green Bay players realize they can't let this three-game slide snowball.
"We've got to dig deep," receiver Greg Jennings said. "I hate to say it's critical, but it's vital that we turn it around. If we continue to play this way, we're going to continue to head in this direction. We're a better team than that, and I know that we're going to be able to pull together and figure this out."
Incumbent upon the Packers is straightening out a weekly occurrence of discipline issues.
The Packers were penalized nine times for 97 yards Sunday. They have committed 44 penalties for a league-high 419 yards this season.
Some players were outspoken after Sunday's game about what they feel is unjust treatment by the officials.
"The calls, they get a little more iffy every week," cornerback Charles Woodson said.
Woodson, among others, was irate about a questionable pass-interference call against rookie dime back Pat Lee that spurred a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that put Atlanta ahead 17-7 at halftime.
"You've got a young guy that's out there giving us quality minutes and makes a big play and all of a sudden, it's negated by a penalty on a competitive play. That sucks," Woodson said. "Receivers get away with murder. That's the bottom line."
The Packers also had a field goal taken away on a holding penalty against rookie tight end Jermichael Finley.
"Anytime something happens five weeks in a row, that's a problem, and penalties have definitely been a problem throughout these first five games," Green Bay head coach Mike McCarthy said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I knew it was hard for him. He was in a lot of pain. He needs to be commended for what he did. He was able to fight through that. He put us in position to win the game. He's a true leader." — Packers running back Ryan Grant, on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who managed to play the entire game Sunday with a sprained right (throwing) shoulder. Rodgers was 25 of 37 for 313 yards and a career-high-tying three touchdowns in Green Bay's 27-24 loss to Atlanta.
TRENDING: The Packers' injury-maligned defense can't get to the quarterback. After racking up nine sacks in its first three games, Green Bay failed to bring down Tampa Bay's Brian Griese and Atlanta rookie Matt Ryan the last two outings. As they try to compensate for a host of lineup changes in the secondary, the Packers have all but abandoned the blitz and are relying on the front four to get home. The season-ending loss of disruptive end/tackle Cullen Jenkins to a torn pectoral muscle in the Week 4 game at Tampa Bay has left a huge void in the pass rush.