For a team that supposedly, "gets off the bus running the football," according to coach Lovie Smith, the Bears seem to be stumbling quite a bit.
The Bears managed 83 rushing yards on 23 attempts in Sunday night's 21-14 loss to the Falcons, only because quarterback Jay Cutler had a 30-yard scramble that gave him 34 yards for the game and made him the Bears' and, for that matter, the game's leading rusher.
Matt Forte, the presumptive featured runner, had 23 yards on 15 carries, for a 1.5-yard average with a long gain of 5 yards. And that wasn't the worst of it. Forte fumbled on back-to-back carries from the Falcons' 1-yard line, losing the second one and contributing to one of the Bears' three red-zone trips that produced no points.
"You can't turn the ball over, and I turned it over," Forte said. "It was the goal line. They know you're going to run, and it's my job to hold on to the ball, and I didn't do that."
One of Jay Cutler's two interceptions killed another red-zone opportunity, when he was picked by Thomas DeCoud at the Falcons' 9 in the first quarter.
Cutler has often been spectacular, with 10 touchdown passes, but he's also been picked off seven times.
And the Bears also committed an uncharacteristic nine penalties.
Three penalties on the final drive, the last of the red-zone failures, killed a drive that reached just inside the Atlanta 5. But on fourth-and-1, 13-year veteran left tackle Orlando Pace was flagged for a false start before Cutler's last pass fell incomplete with 29 seconds left.
"Very disappointing," Smith said. "(Despite) all the (negative) things, we still put ourselves in a position at the end to tie the game and have a chance to win the game. But we kind of self-destructed there a little bit."
At 3-2, the Bears are already 2 1/2 games behind the NFC North-leading Vikings, and they're on the road again next week against a Bengals team that is far from a pushover, especially for a team that squanders scoring opportunities and beats itself.
"We had a lot of opportunities to win the football game," Smith said. "You can't make those type of mistakes on the road against a good football team. When you have the ball in the red zone you need to be able to get some points, and those turnovers offensively really hurt us a lot. You've got to be able to put points on the board in those situations."
TRENDING: The Bears are bad at running the football. Take away a 151-yard effort against the Lions, and they're awful. In their other four games, the Bears have failed to rush for more than 86 yards, and they've averaged less than 3.7 yards per carry in all four.
LINEUP WATCH: The addition of DE Gaines Adams, who was acquired for a 2010 second-round pick on Friday, adds another potentially effective pass rusher to the Bears' DE rotation. The fourth overall pick in 2007 had six sacks as a rookie and 6.5 last year, but he got just one in five games with Tampa this year.
The Lions need their upcoming bye week badly. Not only are they 1-5 — coming off the NFL's first 0-16 season, with a tough early schedule — they are bruised and battered.
At least they can lick their wounds before their next game, Nov. 1 against St. Louis.
"When you go into a bye week, a lot of times you want to go in with a good feeling," coach Jim Schwartz said after Sunday's 26-0 loss at Green Bay. "But sometimes it can be beneficial to go in with a bad feeling.
"We've got to set our jaw. We've got to be determined that this doesn't happen again. We need to get some players back on the field, and we're going to use that bye week to try to accomplish those goals."
Atop the long injury list are their top young offensive players. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and wide receiver Calvin Johnson both did not play Sunday because of right knee injuries.
Worse, general manager Martin Mayhew had to dismiss a report the team is worried Stafford might need knee surgery as "just gossip."
Stafford suffered a partially dislocated right kneecap Oct. 4 at Chicago, according to several reports. He didn't play Oct. 11 against Pittsburgh or Sunday against the Packers.
ESPN reported Stafford suffered more swelling in the knee after practicing Wednesday and underwent a new MRI that will be examined by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala.
The biggest concern, according to ESPN, is that Stafford's kneecap is loose enough to require surgery. But ESPN reported the Lions hope and believe more rest will be enough.
"I'm not going to comment on it," Mayhew said. "I'm not going to give it any credence or credibility by making a statement about it."
Asked if he was denying the report, Mayhew said: "What I said is what I just said."
Stafford had surgery after a similar injury before his senior year of high school. Asked if he was worried at all about surgery, Stafford said: "No."
Coach Jim Schwartz declined to give details when asked a similar question.
"I'm not going to discuss his prognosis or his status or anything else going forward," Schwartz said. "He has a knee (injury). He hasn't been able to play the last two weeks. He got where he wasn't able to warm up today. But we'll see if we can get him back on the field next week."
The Lions need a lot of players back on the field.
Safety Ko Simpson (hamstring) and defensive linemen Dewayne White (hamstring), Jason Hunter (ankle) and Sammie Hill (ankle) also did not play Sunday because of injuries.
Several other Lions left portions of the game because of injuries, including wide receiver Bryant Johnson, cornerback Phillip Buchanon, safety Louis Delmas and defensive linemen Cliff Avril, Copeland Bryan and Turk McBride.
"I don't want to make excuses, but that's a problem right now," linebacker Larry Foote said. "A lot of us are banged-up. Offense, too. But the bye week, we've got to get healthy."
UNDER THE RADAR: Turk McBride started his second straight game at defensive end after being claimed on waivers from Kansas City last month. He also moved inside at times, even though he weighs only 253 pounds, having lost weight while trying to move to outside linebacker in the Chiefs' new 3-4 scheme. He had five tackles, 1.5 sacks, a tackle for a loss and two quarterback hurries against the Packers.
BY THE NUMBERS: 28 — Losses for the Lions in their past 30 games. Their next game is against St. Louis, which is 0-6. While Lions fans likely will look at this as a winnable game, so will Rams fans.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Donald Driver feels there's many more catches to come in his standard-bearing arsenal.
Driver, 34, has a goal of playing until he's 40, and he's already wished his younger teammates in Green Bay's receiving corps good luck in trying to catch him in the team record book.
"It is going to take them a while," Driver said. "When they finally run me out of here, then maybe they can take a run at it. (But) as long as I'm here and they're here, it is going to be a battle."
Driver set himself apart as the most prolific pass catcher in the Packers' 91-year history during their 26-0 win over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
Driver's first of a season-high seven receptions (for 107 yards) broke a tie with Sterling Sharpe for the all-time lead.
Driver has 602 catches, adding to a legacy that even he acknowledged has been improbable.
Then-Packers general manager Ron Wolf took a late-round flier on the wiry Driver in the 1999 draft. Driver, from tiny Alcorn State, was a seventh-round selection (No. 213 overall) and the last of Green Bay's 12 draft picks that year.
If the odds weren't made long enough, Driver went to the Packers as a rookie having to try to distinguish himself from 12 other receivers on the roster.
"Ron Wolf gave me the opportunity. That's the best thing you can ever ask for," Driver said. "He didn't have to do it, but he did it. He took a gamble on me, and it worked out."
Driver, who had overcome a rough childhood during which his family was homeless for a time in Houston, played his way onto the team from the start of his first season. His staying power as the highest-tenured player on the league's youngest team this season has been something to behold.
Driver leads the 3-2 Packers, who will play at the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, with 25 catches for 395 yards.
"The tradition and the history of the Green Bay Packers, the players that have played before, the players that are here, I think it speaks volumes about Donald's performance and even more so as a person the way he goes about his business," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said.
Driver's big gains as an overachiever — he's on pace to topple Hall of Famer James Lofton's team record of 9,656 receiving yards next season — have been fueled by an undying desire to prove naysayers wrong.
"I love to be already on the bottom and climb to the top," Driver said. "That's kind of how I've grown up. I've always been on the bottom, and I'm just going to keep climbing that ladder. My mama always said, ‘You never want to go back down it, you want to stay on top of it.'"
LINEUP WATCH: Clay Matthews, one of Green Bay's two first-round draft picks this year, made his second straight start Sunday but had a full-time role at right outside linebacker for the first time as a pro. Matthews, who was a situational starter in the Oct. 5 loss at the Minnesota Vikings, replaced Brady Poppinga in the rout of the Detroit Lions. Matthews, the 26th overall pick in the draft out of USC, made an immediate impact Sunday. He had two first-half sacks of the Lions' Daunte Culpepper and also had three tackles for loss on running back Kevin Smith, including a fourth-and-1 stop deep in Green Bay territory. Matthews' promotion to the starting lineup had been put on hold because he missed chunks of the offseason and the preseason with a recurring hamstring injury. His performance Sunday came on the heels of stripping Vikings running back Adrian Peterson and returning the football 42 yards for a touchdown.
BY THE NUMBERS: 5 — Consecutive losses by the Packers against teams from the AFC North. Green Bay's last win over an AFC North team was 30-7 over the Cleveland Browns on Dec. 23, 2001, at Lambeau Field. The Packers play the Browns in Cleveland on Sunday.