Around the NFC North

The Bears desperately need a win but are preparing for a shootout with the Eagles, the Lions will focus on better protection for Matthew Stafford, and the Packers finally parted ways with second-round QB Brian Brohm. Get those stories and more as the NFC North prepares for a full slate of games.


The Eagles are one of the league's best examples of a team that can be productive on offense without the benefit of a strong running game. The Eagles are 23rd in rushing yards but 13th in total yards and fifth in points. Andy Reid's version of the West Coast Offense works well in Philadelphia, where the pass sets up the run, but Bears coach Lovie Smith isn't eager to use the same formula.

"We're a running football team, but we'll do what we need to do to win football games," said Smith, whose team has won just one of its last five. "If that's passing to help our running game, I think they go hand in hand on what you do. I still think this time of year you need to have a running game."

The Bears' run game has been absent since the bye week. While losing four of five games since then, they averaged just 58 rushing yards in the defeats but had 170 yards on the ground in the victory over the Browns.

"It's a lot easier preparing when you know a team's going to come out throwing the football," said Smith, speaking as a defensive play-caller. "It's a lot easier than defending a team able to do both. We would like to be able to do both. We need to do both to win games."

The Bears weren't all that good running the football last season, finishing 24th in yards and 27th in average gain per carry, but at least they did it well enough and frequently enough to have a balanced attack.

In only three games last season did the Bears fail to run fewer than 22 times. This season they've already rushed fewer than 22 times in five games, and they're 30th in rushing yards, 31st in rushing attempts and 27th in average gain per run.

"We have to execute better," offensive coordinator Ron Turner said. "We have to cut down on mistakes. We've done some good things all year. (But) what I'm looking for — and I've been saying this every week — is the consistency, for us to eliminate mistakes, whether it's a turnover or a mental mistake or a penalty. Things like that, we're hurting ourselves, and we talk about it all the time.

"We have to give each play a chance, and when we do we're successful. We've done that very well at times, but we have to get all 11 doing the right thing, and it has to come very quickly."

If not, the Bears can kiss away their already-slim playoff chances.


  • C Olin Kreutz (back) practiced Thursday without limitation and will start his 112th consecutive game Sunday night barring any unforeseen setbacks.

  • TE Desmond Clark (back), the Bears' best blocker at the position, has not practiced at all this week and appears doubtful for Sunday.

  • WR/KR Johnny Knox, who led the league in kickoff-return average after five weeks, has averaged just 21.0 yards on his last 11 returns over four games.

  • WR/PR Devin Hester has just six yards on his last four punt returns.

  • DT Tommie Harris (knee), who had his first sack of the season last week, went through a full practice Thursday and will start Sunday.


    To give rookie quarterback Matthew Stafford a chance Sunday against Cleveland, the Lions must help him on both ends of the equation. They must give him more time to throw, and they must catch the ball better.

    In their last game, a 27-10 loss at Minnesota, they allowed him to be hit 16 times and dropped four or five passes.

    The pass protection issues had a lot to do with the circumstances. The Vikings have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL — front sevens, for that matter — and the Metrodome is one of the loudest buildings in the league. The Lions had a lot of communication problems.

    "We've got to do a better job of communicating some of the pressure looks so we can deliver the ball without being under duress," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said.

    The Browns are as bad as the Lions at 1-8. But their front can cause havoc, starting with former Lions defensive tackle Shaun Rogers at the nose of a 3-4 scheme.

    "Rogers is like a lot of those big, giant defensive tackles you see in this league, but the difference is now you see him playing up over the center at times," Linehan said. "So we've got to do a good job of helping our center and accounting for him.

    "But you put too much pressure on yourself to block one guy, and then they've got some other guys that can do some damage on one-on-one blocking situations, so we've got to account for all 11, to be honest with you."

    If Stafford gets the ball out, his teammates have to catch it. The problem has involved wide receivers, tight ends and running backs, from star Calvin Johnson to rookie Brandon Pettigrew.

    "It's been a little bit contagious," coach Jim Schwartz said. "It's something that's a concern to us. It's something that we've got to be able to do."

    It didn't start Sunday, either. It started Nov. 1 against St. Louis, when the Lions dropped six.

    "There's been a number, and it disrupts our ability to maintain drives," Linehan said. "You're going to have one a game, maybe. Someone's going to drop a ball. Sometimes we're hard on them. It's a tough catch, too. Quarterback could throw it and make it an easier catch. But if they hit your hands, you expect them to catch it."

    It comes down to concentration and executing basic fundamentals.

    "A lot of us are trying to make the play before we even have the ball, and that has caused some of the dropped passes," said wide receiver Bryant Johnson, who dropped a would-be touchdown late in the first half Sunday. "I just think just honing in more, focusing and looking the ball all the way into your hands, that will solve the problem."


  • LB Zack Follett was added to the injury report Thursday. He did not practice because of a neck injury.

  • S Kalvin Pearson did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a hamstring injury. He plans to test it Friday but seems doubtful for Sunday.

  • G Stephen Peterman did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a significant ankle injury. He is out indefinitely but has not been put on IR.

  • LB Ernie Sims did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a hamstring injury. He is unlikely to play.

  • DE Dewayne White did not practice Wednesday or Thursday because of a toe injury. He played with it Sunday at Minnesota, though.

  • WR Derrick Williams returned to practice Thursday after sitting out Wednesday because of a hip injury. He was listed as limited.


    Pressed into a decision, the Packers opted to cut ties with disappointing young quarterback Brian Brohm.

    The Buffalo Bills signed Brohm off Green Bay's practice squad Wednesday, giving him a two-year deal. The Packers are believed to have taken a pass on countering the Bills' offer, although there were apparently discussions to elevate Brohm to the 53-man roster after Green Bay opened a spot earlier in the day by releasing receiver Jake Allen.

    "I had a chance to talk to Brian about it (Wednesday)," Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said Thursday. "He had an opportunity to stay here. I respect Brian. I thought Brian was improving."

    Brohm's departure brings closure to one of general manager Ted Thompson's more futile draft picks in his five-year tenure.

    The Packers selected Brohm, a standout at Louisville, in the second round (56th overall pick) of the 2008 draft. He was projected to be at the very least Aaron Rodgers' top backup and possibly battle Rodgers for the starting job after Green Bay traded Brett Favre during the 2008 preseason.

    Brohm, though, was erratic from the outset — he completed only 19 of 42 passes in the exhibition games last year — and allowed fellow rookie Matt Flynn, a seventh-round pick, to jump ahead of him as Rodgers' understudy.

    Brohm also failed to outplay Flynn in the preseason this year. Brohm didn't have a touchdown pass and had four interceptions in eight preseason appearances in two years.

    The Packers made the unusual move to keep only two quarterbacks to start this season, so they cut Brohm but wound up retaining him on the practice squad.

    Green Bay didn't waste time getting another quarterback in the fold. The Packers signed rookie Mike Reilly to the practice squad Thursday.
    The 6-foot-3, 214-pound Reilly originally signed as an undrafted player with the Pittsburgh Steelers, who cut him at the end of the preseason. He was 10-of-15 for 117 yards with no interceptions in three games but was sacked five times.

    Reilly was a four-year starter at Central Washington.

    "(He is a) very athletic quarterback and did some good things in Pittsburgh during the preseason," McCarthy said. "We'll have an opportunity to try to get him acclimated to the way we do things here. I'm glad he's here."


  • C Scott Wells was added to the injury report Thursday with a concussion, which could keep him from playing in the game Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers. Head coach Mike McCarthy revealed that Wells also missed practice Wednesday when the symptoms appeared, though the Packers didn't put him on the initial injury report. Undrafted rookie Evan Dietrich-Smith has taken the first-team reps this week and would make the start Sunday if Wells isn't cleared.

  • DE Johnny Jolly could be questionable to play Sunday with a lower-back injury that flared up in practice Wednesday. The Packers included Jolly, a starter, on the injury report Thursday after he didn't practice.

  • OT Allen Barbre suffered an ankle sprain late in practice Thursday and was added to the injury report. The severity of the injury wasn't immediately known. Barbre lost his starting job at right tackle after seven games.

  • LB Aaron Kampman seems to be over the concussion that kept him out of the last game. He practiced in full for the second straight day and continued to take the majority of the first-string reps at left outside linebacker, ahead of rookie Brad Jones, who fared well as Kampman's replacement in the previous game.

  • RT Mark Tauscher also appears set to return to the starting lineup Sunday after being out a game with a knee sprain. He handled the bulk of the first-team reps Wednesday and Thursday, ahead of rookie T.J. Lang, who made the start in the last game.

  • DE Cullen Jenkins continues to be hampered by a lingering ankle injury. He didn't practice for the second straight day. The team is hopeful Jenkins can practice Friday and make the start Sunday.

  • LB Clay Matthews had limited work in practice for the second straight day because of a jaw injury. He is expected to be OK to make the start Sunday.

  • TE Jermichael Finley went through a full practice for the second straight day and appears ready to return to game action this weekend. Finley missed the last three games because of a knee sprain.

  • LB Brady Poppinga practiced Thursday for the first time since a thigh injury kept him out all of last week as well as the game Sunday. He has a chance to be activated this weekend.

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