Around the NFC North

The Bears defense rebounded with a solid win against a bad team, the Lions dropped a winnable game against a formerly winless team, and the Packers have a lot of ground to make up in the division after their loss to the Vikings. Get those stories and many more note from around the NFC North.


At least the Bears' defense was able to regroup following the 45-10 loss to the Bengals in Week 7, but it's difficult to tell how much improvement was made in a 30-6 victory over the pathetic Browns.

The Bears put up their best numbers of the season: five takeaways and only 191 total yards allowed. But the offense continued to squander red-zone opportunities and the line did not do a good job of protecting quarterback Jay Cutler.

For the Bears' offense, it was as unsatisfying a 24-point victory as anyone could remember. Cutler was physically abused by the Browns' defense, which is arguably the NFL's worst. Cutler was sacked four times for 26 yards in losses, and he was hit with a vengeance several other times just as he released the ball. The Bears' offense, which was booed by the home crowd on several occasions, had to settle for field goals on its first three red-zone opportunities.

Fortunately, the defense kept giving them the ball back, which is what the Bears' defense does when its playing well, which hasn't been that often lately.

Safety Danieal Manning and cornerback Charles Tillman each had an interception and a fumble recovery, and defensive end Adewale Ogunleye recovered a fumble. Nick Roach, switched back to strong-side linebacker from the middle, forced two of the Browns' three fumbles, and Manning caused another.

"We were able to get some points when the defense got the takeaways," Bears coach Lovie Smith said. "Of course we'd like to be able to get touchdowns. And Jay got hit a few more times than we would like for him to today."

The flip-flop of jobs between Roach and Hunter Hillenmeyer was a success and it appears the Bears will continue to use Hillenmeyer, the more experienced player, in the middle, where he has the play-changing and alignment responsibilities.

As for the offense, coordinator Ron Turner was so frustrated after Sunday's inconsistent effort that he promised to take a hard look at scaling back the game plan.

"We'll come in (today) and look at it and make the corrections we need to make," Turner said. "I'll look at it, see what we need to do to give us a chance to get better and, if we're doing too much, we'll cut back. Obviously we are (doing too much) because we're making too many mistakes. We just have to figure out what we do well, and that's what we'll do."

LINEUP WATCH: The maligned offensive line was tweaked, with Josh Beekman, last year's 16-game starter, getting his job back at left guard in place of Frank Omiyale. But the production wasn't any better, as Beekman was often unable to handle Browns massive nose tackle Shaun Rogers, and Jay Cutler was sacked a season-high four times.

UNDER THE RADAR: Four-year veteran Danieal Manning is fighting his way back to where he was his first two years in the league - a starting spot. Manning started just one game last season, and he was not an opening day starter. But he has started the past five games at free safety after having been demoted to nickel back, which he still plays in passing situations. Manning had an interception, a forced fumble and a recovered fumble Sunday.


  • QB Jay Cutler failed to throw a TD pass for the first time this season, and he was sacked a season-high four times.

  • RB Matt Forte had his second-most productive game with 90 yards, but he averaged just 3.5 yards per carry with a long run of 12 yards.

  • CB Charles Tillman returned an interception 21 yards for the Bears' first defensive touchdown of the season.

  • P Brad Maynard averaged just 30.4 yards (gross and net), and he shanked a 12-yarder, but he allowed no return yards by league-leading punt returner Josh Cribbs and had three of his five punts downed inside the 20.

  • WR Devin Hester has 21 receptions in his past three games, second-best in the league behind Larry Fitzgerald, including seven catches for 81 yards against the Browns.


    This was supposed to be the weak part of the Lions' schedule. Three of the next four games were against teams with losing records - St. Louis, Seattle and Cleveland.

    But in the wake of a 17-10 loss to the Rams, the schedule doesn't seem weak. Only the Lions do. And it's fair to wonder if they have much of a chance Sunday at Seattle, a difficult place to play for even decent teams.

    The Rams were 0-7 and had lost 17 straight games before they beat the Lions, who snapped their own 19-game losing streak earlier this season. The Lions are 1-6.

    Coach Jim Schwartz said "determined" was the best word to describe his feelings.

    "There's urgency to get this done, and we're going to get it done," Schwartz said. "This is a hard-working team. They played hard. But we have to find ways to put them in position, and we can't switch courses. We can't make excuses. We need to go out and win."

    The Lions desperately need wide receiver Calvin Johnson back from a knee injury against the Seahawks. He missed his second straight game against the Rams, and the Lions' passing game struggled badly even though quarterback Matthew Stafford returned from a knee injury.

    "Calvin makes big plays for us," Schwartz said. "We were toothless today. We didn't have a chance. We didn't make plays down the field. We ran the ball fairly consistently in this game. But that's not enough."

    Stafford went 14-for-33 for 168 yards, thanks to a combination of off-target passes and dropped passes.

    The Lions dropped six passes in the first half. Stafford threw eight passes intended for wide receivers through the first three quarters, according to the official statistics, but didn't complete one to a wide receiver until the fourth quarter.

    "We didn't by game plan get conservative because of not having Calvin, but it's obvious he affects the game," Schwartz said. "It obviously affects the way that things open up for other people. It's no excuse. Our guys need to make those plays when they're given that opportunity."

    LINEUP WATCH: Running back Kevin Smith left Sunday's game. The official announcement was that he had a shoulder injury and was probable to return, but the coaches decided to stick with Maurice Morris the rest of the game.

    "We'll have to see where Kevin is," Schwartz said. "He got beat up a little bit in the game, a couple different things. It wasn't a situation where he was benched or anything. Mo was being effective. Kevin was limited. I think he probably could have gone back in the game, but the decision was made to keep him out."

    Phillip Buchanon started at cornerback instead of Anthony Henry, who was inactive. Demarcus Faggins replaced him in the third quarter, with Schwartz calling it part of a rotation. But Faggins left the game with a groin injury, and Buchanon came back in.

    Jon Jansen started at left guard. Daniel Loper and Manny Ramirez, who rotated as the starters the first six games, were inactive.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 2-29 — The Lions' record in their past 31 games. They are the first NFL team to go through such a stretch since the 1982-84 Houston Oilers.


  • QB Matthew Stafford returned Sunday against St. Louis after missing two games with a right knee injury. He said he felt fine.

  • WR Calvin Johnson missed his second straight game because of a right knee injury. Coach Jim Schwartz said the decision was made before the game and he wasn't sure of Johnson's status for the next game.

  • OL Jon Jansen started at left guard for the first time in his career, while Daniel Loper and Manny Ramirez were inactive. He took back-to-back holding penalties on the Lions' last drive.

  • CB Anthony Henry was inactive. Henry started earlier this season but is deep in the doghouse. Schwartz said he didn't dress partly because of his special teams value.

  • DE Jason Hunter missed his third straight game with an ankle injury.


    Facing the league's only winless team in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the road this weekend is of little consolation to the Packers.

    "We've got our work cut out for us to get back to where we want to be. We put ourselves in this hole, and we've got to dig out of it," linebacker Aaron Kampman said after the 38-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

    The Packers' inability for the second time in a month to harness former teammate Brett Favre in his highly watched return to Lambeau Field, where he was revered wearing green and gold for 16 years from 1992-2007, doesn't bode well for Green Bay.

    The first-place Vikings (7-1) are two up on the Packers (4-3) in the loss column in the NFC North, but Minnesota technically has a cushion of three games on Green Bay because it would hold the tiebreaker for sweeping the season series.

    "There's a lot of people that really wanted this game," Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said. "So we let a lot of people down (Sunday)."

    The majority of the Lambeau regular-season record crowd of 71,213 showered Favre with loud boos early and often, but the fans wound up channeling their angst toward the Packers as they fell behind 24-3 early in the third quarter.

    Although Green Bay mounted a big comeback behind the play of Favre's successor, Aaron Rodgers, to get within 24-20, the onetime king of Wisconsin avenged his bitter departure from the Packers last year by directing two final touchdown drives down the stretch.

    Like the previous meeting Oct. 5 at the Metrodome, which the Vikings won 30-23, Favre wasn't sacked and didn't throw an interception. He had a season-high four touchdown passes Sunday.

    "If you have a quarterback and you're never getting pressure on him, you're never getting to him, any quarterback's going to be pretty successful in this league. And we didn't get to him," Woodson lamented.

    Players feel Sunday's matchup with the 0-7 Bucs will have to be a jumping-off point for a strong second half of the season as the Packers strive to return to the playoffs after a one-year hiatus.

    While overtaking the Vikings for division supremacy seems remote, Green Bay would love a third shot at Favre and Co. by season's end.

    "I wish we can play ‘em again in the playoffs," said nose tackle Ryan Pickett, who isn't convinced Minnesota is the better team. "They beat us twice, so we have more improvement to do than they do."

    LINEUP WATCH: With Jason Spitz beset by recurring back spasms, Scott Wells has been entrenched as the starting center after he lost the job to Spitz in the preseason. Wells held the job the previous three seasons but was cast aside as the Packers looked to get bigger and more physical on the line. The dependable Wells didn't take the news well when Spitz was moved from guard, but Wells wasn't long for the bench. Injury-related changes on the line had Wells back in the starting lineup by Week 3, and he's stayed there the last five games.

    BY THE NUMBERS: 70 — Projected season total sacks of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has absorbed a league-high 31 after only seven games. The Vikings have 14 sacks in two games, including six in a 38-26 road win Sunday to complete a season sweep of the NFC North rival Packers. Green Bay's single-season record for sacks allowed is 47 in 1989, when Don Majkowski was quarterback.


  • LB Brandon Chillar suffered a broken hand Sunday in the second quarter of the 38-26 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. The prognosis for Chillar wasn't immediately known, but losing him for a lengthy period of time could be detrimental. Chillar has been a regular contributor in Green Bay's sub packages and was second on the team with 39 tackles before Sunday.

  • LT T.J. Lang, a rookie, made his second straight start, although veteran Chad Clifton was activated for Sunday's game. Clifton has been bothered by a recurring ankle sprain, which kept him out of three of the previous four games.

  • TE Jermichael Finley was out with a knee sprain he suffered in the previous game. Finley still was under consideration to play Sunday, even though he hadn't practiced all week. Finley had career highs of six catches, 128 receiving yards and a 62-yard touchdown reception in the Packers' 30-23 loss at Minnesota on Oct. 5.

  • RB Ahman Green was activated for the first time since he rejoined the Packers two weeks ago. Green, who last played for Green Bay in 2006 before signing with the Houston Texans as a free agent, served as a situational back behind Ryan Grant and also handled kickoff returns Sunday.

  • RT Mark Tauscher was in uniform for the first time in the three games he's been back with the team after re-signing as a free agent in early October. Tauscher, who underwent major reconstructive knee surgery in January, was available for emergency duty behind starter Allen Barbre.

  • FB Korey Hall missed a third straight game because of a calf injury. He remains out indefinitely.

  • WR Jordy Nelson was out for a second straight game because of a knee sprain. He also will remain sidelined indefinitely.

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