Bears keep pace; Pepp could start for Lions

The Chicago Bears are hitting their stride with Jay Cutler at quarterback and an improving defensive line, moving to 3-1 with a win over the Lions. Former Viking Daunte Culpepper could end up starting for the Lions on Sunday. A look at the other teams in the NFC North.

CHICAGO BEARS

Heading into their bye week, the Bears are clearly showing the effects of having Rod Marinelli as their defensive line/assistant head coach, especially when it comes to the pass rush.

The Bears already have 14 sacks after getting just 28 all of last season.

Adewale Ogunleye leads the Bears with 4.5 sacks and is on pace to surpass his personal best of 15 sacks in 2003, when he was with the Dolphins. The nine-year veteran credits Marinelli with his early success.

"My career has been up and down up and down," said Ogunleye, who had just five sacks last year. "I think I finally got a guy (Marinelli) who's helped me forget about each play. Even after the sacks, I don't think about it. I go and try to get another one or just try to play for the now. I credit Coach Marinelli. He's helping the whole defensive line."

Marinelli was fired as the Lions' head coach after going 0-16 last season, but he never made this week personal. The Bears wound up crushing the Lions 48-24 but were tied at halftime 21-21.

"He didn't say one word about Detroit the whole week," Ogunleye said. "But we knew going in this was a game we had to get: one, because of our division; and two, because of him. The way he puts his heart and soul into coaching us, I'm glad we came out with our highest sack total (five) in this game."

On the Bears' fifth sack, Lions rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford suffered a knee injury. ESPN reported Sunday that Stafford had a dislocated kneecap that popped back in while he was on the sideline.

The concern among Bears defenders is not how they finish, but how they start. They allowed the Lions to pile up 273 yards of total offense in the first half, including Stafford's 221 passing yards, as Calvin Johnson scorched the secondary with five catches for 119 yards before intermission.
"I guess we've got to get punched in the face a couple times to realize we're in a fight," said Ogunleye, who had 2.5 sacks. "The first half, I don't know. It takes us a minute."

Actually 30 minutes.

"Defensively, we did not start the way we wanted to," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "You have to give them a lot of credit. Detroit did a good job, especially Stafford throwing to Johnson. We weren't able to stop that the first half. In the second half the guys did a lot better job, made a couple adjustments, did a lot better job with it."

TRENDING: Slow starts and strong finishes are becoming a trend with the 2009 Bears. They're 3-1 but have trailed at some point in all four games and in the fourth quarter in three of them. They've been outscored 31-7 in the first quarter but have a 68-27 scoring edge after halftime.

BY THE NUMBERS: 7.6 — The Bears finally got their dormant running game going against the Lions. After averaging 2.8 yards per carry in the first three games, including a 2.5-yard average from featured runner Matt Forte, the Bears averaged 7.6 yards on 20 carries for 151 yards. Forte had 121 yards on 12 carries, but 98 of those yards came on two carries.

NOTES

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye had 2.5 sacks Sunday and leads the NFC with 4.5 sacks heading into the Monday night game.

  • RB Matt Forte, who came in averaging just 2.5 yards per carry, had a 61-yard scamper and a 37-yard TD jaunt to finish with 121 yards on 12 carries.

  • WR Devin Hester left the game early in the second quarter with what the Bears called a "shoulder injury," and he was also wearing a neck brace when he left Soldier Field.

  • WR Johnny Knox had a 102-yard kickoff return for a TD and led the Bears with five catches for 31 yards. He left in the fourth quarter with a lower-leg injury that did not appear serious, although he did not return.

  • QB Jay Cutler had his third straight game with a passer rating over 100. He completed 18 of 28 passes for just 141 yards, but had two touchdowns with no interceptions and a passer rating of 100.4.


    DETROIT LIONS

    Daunte Culpepper turned down a chance to be Pittsburgh's backup quarterback last season. He came out of retirement because he had a chance to start with the Lions. Then he lost the quarterback competition this season to rookie Matthew Stafford, the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft.

    Now Culpepper might start Sunday against the Steelers. Stafford suffered a right knee injury Sunday in a 48-24 loss at Chicago.

    "He twisted his knee a little bit," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Obviously we'll have to do a lot of tests and those kind of things. He wasn't able to really get it warmed back up again, and we didn't want to put him back in the game."

    Asked if he thought he could play against Pittsburgh, Stafford said: "I don't know. We'll see."

    Stafford was injured in the fourth quarter when defensive end Adewale Ogunleye sacked him and spun him to the turf. Replays showed Stafford yelling and grabbing his knee immediately, but Stafford, in a relatively upbeat mood after the game, said he didn't remember that.

    "It was a silent yell," Stafford said. "I don't know. Just a reaction, I guess."

    Stafford limped off the field and sat on the bench. He was surrounded by medical personnel, coaches and teammates.

    Asked if he tried to return, Stafford said: "I tried. I'm sure if I was feeling a little better they probably would have let me come back in."

    Stafford spent most of the rest of the game standing on the sideline in a coat with ice wrapped on his knee. He finished 24-for-36 for 296 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Culpepper went 6-for-11 for 54 yards; he declined to comment.

    In three years at Georgia, Stafford never missed a game because of injury. But before his senior season in high school, Stafford injured the same knee and missed a couple of games. He suffered a dislocated right kneecap and needed surgery after a horseplay incident in preseason training. A teammate tackled him while the players were using a slip-and-slide to cool off after running.

    Asked if this injury was similar, Stafford said: "I don't know. We'll see. They've got to check it all out."

    LINEUP WATCH: Julian Peterson played both outside linebacker and defensive end Sunday at Chicago. It isn't unusual for Peterson to put his hand in the dirt, but he played more defensive end than usual because the Lions had a logjam at linebacker and were thin at defensive end. Ernie Sims returned from a shoulder injury, and the Lions wanted DeAndre Levy on the field. Dewayne White was out with a hamstring injury, and Cliff Avril was limited by a hamstring.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 17.7 — Average yards per kickoff return produced by rookie Aaron Brown over the past three games after he busted an 87-yard return in the opener at New Orleans. Brown muffed two kickoffs Sunday at Chicago and was replaced, but then Adam Jennings muffed one and suffered a leg injury. "To be in a situation where our average start was after a kickoff, obviously changes need to be made, and we're not afraid to make them," coach Jim Schwartz said.

    NOTES

  • WR Calvin Johnson suffered a quad injury. He said afterward he was fine.

  • LB Ernie Sims aggravated a shoulder injury, the one that kept him out of the previous game against Washington. He said he felt a sharp pain after taking a direct hit.

  • WR Adam Jennings was on crutches in the locker room after suffering a left leg injury.

  • S Ko Simpson had his left thigh wrapped late in the game.

  • DE Cliff Avril returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury.

  • S Kalvin Pearson was inactive with a quad injury.

  • DE Dewayne White was inactive with a hamstring injury.

  • DT Sammie Hill was inactive with an ankle injury.



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