Around the NFC North

Bears QB Kyle Orton will get to compete with essentially his college role model Thursday night when the Bears and Saints play a crucial game with heavy playoff implications. Plus, the Lions are getting frustrated with their losing ways and losing it while the Packers are defending position switches they have made.

CHICAGO BEARS

Kyle Orton followed Drew Brees to Purdue because he wanted to be just like him.

"He made a lot of stuff happen for the program and was a big reason why I went there," Orton said. "I wanted to throw for all those yards and put up the numbers that he did. No question he was a big influence and a reason why I went there."

Orton never put up the staggering numbers Brees did at Purdue, but not many have. Brees finished his stay in West Lafayette, Ind., ranked fourth in NCAA Division I history in total offense, completions and attempts. Brees totaled 12,692 yards of total offense, while Orton finished second in Purdue history with 9,653 yards.

Comparisons to the prolific passer didn't bother Orton, even though they were a constant throughout his career as a Boilermaker, which began after Brees was drafted 32nd overall by the Chargers in 2001.

"Every quarterback that goes through that place is going to be compared to Drew," Orton said. "He was a great quarterback in college, he's certainly an outstanding quarterback in the NFL and a good person to watch and try to model yourself after."

That's still the case.

"It's not like we talk on the phone every night or something," Orton said, "but whenever we get to see each other, it's always friendly and good. He's fun to talk football with. He's an extremely smart player. I remember my freshman year; if I ever needed to find out how to run a play or (attack) a certain look, I'd just go and pop on (film of) what he did and try to do that. It seemed to work out for him."

A little less than a year ago they squared off at Soldier Field in the 2007 season finale, and Brees put it up 60 times, completing 35 for 320 yards and three touchdowns but also had a pair of interceptions. Orton completed just 12 of 27 passes for 190 yards with two touchdowns and one pick, but the Bears won 33-25, and Orton's passer rating of 77.7 for the game was two points better than Brees'.

Thursday night at Soldier Field, Orton and the 7-6 Bears face Brees and the 7-6 Saints in a nationally televised game that each team needs to keep tenuous playoff hopes alive.

"I can't wait to play him," Orton said. "I've had fun playing him in the past, and I can't wait to do it this time."

Orton's teammates on the defensive side might not be so anxious to engage Brees, who leads the NFL with 4,100 passing yards, 52 completions of 20 yards or longer and 15 completions of 40 yards or longer, is tied for first with 26 TD passes and is fourth in passer rating (96.2).

"He's been playing great," Bears defensive end Adewale Ogunleye said. "One thing we've talked about this year is quarterbacks who get the ball out (quickly). We're going to have a little bit of a problem with that. He gets the ball out really fast. They're spreading us out a little bit, so our guys on the back end have got to cover these receivers really well. (We) have to either get our hands up or get some hits on him."

Orton doesn't get to throw nearly as much as Brees does in the pass-happy Saints offense, but he's established himself as the leader of the Bears offense and has a 15-8 TD-interception ratio and an 83.5 passer rating. He doesn't have to be as productive as Brees for the Bears to defeat the Saints. He just needs to be efficient, as he was Sunday in his best game in six weeks.

"I executed the offense, made pretty good decisions, and we made some plays," Orton said. "That's been our story for success all year."

NOTES

  • Kyle Orton's performance last Sunday, his best in six weeks, would have been even better had his receivers not dropped at least four catchable passes. But that's just football, according to the Bears quarterback, whose passer rating of 85.3 was his highest since Oct. 19, when he had a 114.5 rating against the Vikings.

    "It's certainly part of the game, especially when you get into December — cold weather and poor field conditions," Orton said. "So that's certainly going to happen. Drops are always going to happen. The day I don't miss a throw is the day I can complain when someone drops a football."

  • NT Dusty Dvoracek was placed on injured reserve Tuesday after suffering a ruptured biceps on the second play of the Week 12 game against the Vikings. At the time, Dvoracek led all Bears linemen with 40 tackles, but backups Israel Idonije and Anthony Adams have more than picked up the slack.

    DETROIT LIONS

    The Lions' losing keeps getting worse. The fans' abuse keeps getting worse. And center Dominic Raiola snapped during Sunday's 20-16 loss to Minnesota.

    Raiola has mixed it up with fans many times before. But he drew attention this time when he flipped off some fans at Ford Field, and asked if he regretted giving fans the business, he said no.

    "I don't take one thing back," Raiola said. "I'll say the same thing to a fan that I see in the street. I wish I could give my address out to some fans. I'll do that. But, you know, I can't. Nobody plays with fists. Everybody wants to play with metal. So I can't.

    "I'm so frustrated. I'm tired of being a doormat for people to just talk to us how they want to talk to us. I'm just not going to put up with it anymore."

    The NFL reportedly is looking into Sunday's incident, while the Lions fined Raiola $7,500.

    "We have tremendous respect and appreciation for all of our fans, and we believe Dominic's behavior this past Sunday was not consistent with what we expect from members of our team," Lions executive vice president and COO Tom Lewand said in a statement.

    Fans have responded to the Lions' losing for years, but frustration is reaching a new level. The Lions asked a fan to leave during training camp when he yelled at wide receiver Roy Williams, who is now with Dallas. A fan got ahold of left tackle Jeff Backus' cell-phone number and left him messages.

    The Lions have not sold out Ford Field for four of their past five home games. In a way, that has made the problem worse.

    "Over the last five weeks, I've definitely heard things that I've never heard before," Backus said. "Part of it is how quiet the stadium is. Seriously, you can hear individuals yelling at you. It doesn't all blend into just a roar."

    Backus takes the heckling in stride. Raiola has a harder time with it.

    "Dom's a lot more emotional guy," Backus said. "I've always been a pretty quiet, reserved guy. For guys with emotions like Dominic, it's even harder to not get into it."

    Raiola acknowledged the fans are paying customers and the Lions' job is to give them something to cheer. But he said is not going to put up with fans counting them out from the beginning of the game and telling them how bad they are.

    "Yeah, it's gotten worse, and that's expected," Raiola said. "But when you don't know what you're talking about and you're yelling at a particular person, I'm going to fire back. You can call me ‘rabbit ears' or whatever you want to call me, but I'm going to fire back and I'm going to still play my game on the field."

    NOTES

  • QB Daunte Culpepper went for an MRI exam on his injured right shoulder Monday. It is unclear whether he would be able to practice Wednesday or play Sunday at Indianapolis.

  • QB Dan Orlovsky said he would try to throw again this week after missing five games with a broken right thumb. He is hopeful he will be able to play Sunday.

  • QB Drew Stanton said he would be able to practice fully this week. He missed practice time last week because of lingering effects of a concussion and served as only the third quarterback against Minnesota.

  • RB Kevin Smith played against the Vikings despite missing some practice time last week because of shoulder and ankle issues.

  • TE John Owens caught two passes for 29 yards against the Vikings.

  • WR Calvin Johnson continues to shine despite not getting the ball much. He had only three catches against the Vikings, but one was a 70-yard touchdown. He has surpassed the 1,000-yard mark for the first time in his two-year career, and he became the first Lions wide receiver to catch nine TD passes since Herman Moore in 1996.

  • CB Brian Kelly was cut Tuesday. He dressed but didn't play Sunday for the second time this season. He was supposed to be a big free agent addition and a starting corner.

    GREEN BAY PACKERS

    On the same day he remained in the corner of under-fire defensive coordinator Bob Sanders, head coach Mike McCarthy on Monday further endorsed the decision made two games ago to move Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson to safety.

    The position switch was called into question after Woodson's starting replacement at cornerback, Tramon Williams, gave up a few big pass plays in the Houston Texans' 24-21 win over the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field.
    Kevin Walter did most of the damage on a huge passing day for the Texans, finishing with six catches for 146 yards. Walter beat Williams for a 58-yard touchdown on the third play of the game.

    McCarthy was quick to not put all of the blame on Williams for the Packers' inability to defend the pass Sunday. Texans quarterback Matt Schaub, who was rarely pressured, threw for a franchise-record 414 yards and two touchdowns.

    "Tramon did some really good things. He did some things he needs to do better," McCarthy said. "But, the ability (for Schaub) to full fake and go back and sit in the pocket with throwing lanes, that's not the way we want to play defense. I thought Matt Schaub had way too much time to throw the ball (Sunday)."

    At the time Woodson agreed to go to strong safety leading up to the Packers' loss to the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 30, Green Bay was short-handed at the position because of injuries to starter Atari Bigby and top backup Aaron Rouse. The rationale used by McCarthy and echoed by assistants was they felt moving Woodson to safety and plugging in emerging nickel back Williams in the starting lineup would allow the secondary to have its best players on the field.

    Although critical of the defense's inconsistency in winning one-on-one coverage routes Sunday, McCarthy scoffed at the suggestion that the unit might be better served to have Woodson, arguably its top cover corner, back at his natural position.

    "I would say really Charles' ability to be back there (at safety) has put him in a position to be around the ball more. That's what I like about his move to safety," McCarthy said. "And, just the fact that he is playing safety doesn't mean that you can't still bring him down to cover down on a receiver. But, not having Charles as a corner by no means means that we can't still have him line up on a certain receiver."

    NOTES

  • RT Mark Tauscher suffered a season-ending torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Sunday in the 24-21 loss to the Houston Texans. Tauscher is expected to undergo surgery in the next week. Tony Moll, who replaced Tauscher in the game, is the top candidate to fill the void at the position the rest of the season.

  • FS Nick Collins suffered a bruised shin late in the game Sunday and will be iffy to be ready to practice Wednesday. Collins doesn't think the injury will keep him from playing in the next game, however.

  • LB Brandon Chillar will be tested Wednesday to gauge where he's at with a strained groin he suffered in practice last week. Chillar was deactivated Sunday and replaced by Desmond Bishop at weakside linebacker.

  • RB Ryan Grant wasn't hindered by a sprained right thumb he sustained in the previous game and had one of his more productive outings of the season Sunday with 19 carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. Grant has only three 100-yard rushing games this season and four touchdowns on the ground. He is 20 yards shy of attaining 1,000 rushing yards for the second straight year.

  • QB Aaron Rodgers on Sunday registered just his second passer rating of at least 100 in the past six games, during which the Packers have gone 1-5. Rodgers' efficiency mark against the Texans was 104.2. He completed 19 of 30 passes for 295 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Rodgers has had at least one pass picked off in a season-high four consecutive games.

  • WR Greg Jennings was held to a season-low two catches Sunday, but he had 74 receiving yards on the strength of pulling down a 63-yard deep ball from Aaron Rodgers between two defenders to end the third quarter. It was Green Bay's longest pass play of the season. Jennings had a streak of three games with a touchdown catch snapped.

  • WR Donald Driver had three receptions for a team-high 75 yards against Houston, highlighted by a 59-yard catch-and-run play late in the game. Driver enters the final three games of the regular season with 773 receiving yards. He is bidding for a fifth straight season with 1,000 yards.

  • TE Donald Lee has become a touchdown machine of late. Lee had three catches for a season-high 48 yards Sunday, including a 20-yard touchdown. Lee has three TD grabs in the last four games and five for the season, one short of his career high set last season.

  • CB Tramon Williams picked off a pass from the Texans' Matt Schaub in the second quarter. Williams forged a three-way tie for the team lead at five interceptions with FS Nick Collins and cornerback-turned-safety Charles Woodson.


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