Around the NFC North

The Bears plan to play out the season as if it counts, not looking toward the future. The Lions are pleased with the play of RB Kevin Smith. And picks overcome penalties for the Packers. Get those stories and many more notes as go around the NFC North.


At 5-7 the Bears have no realistic hopes of making the playoffs, but coach Lovie Smith insists the players who give the team its best chance to win each week will be on the field, even if it's at the expense of evaluating talent for next season.

That was evident last week when Gaines Adams, who cost the Bears a 2010 second-round draft choice in a trade with the Bucs, was inactive. Adams had no solo tackles and just two assists in very limited play during his first six games as a Bear. Rookie Jarron Gilbert was active on Sunday instead of Adams, but he didn't get much playing time either.

"We hoped to win the football game is what we hoped to do," Smith said. "We wanted to put a defensive line out on the football field that would help us win and that's what we did. We were pleased with the guys we played. Each week is different. We were pleased with what happened this week on the football field. We will put guys in position that we think gives us the best chance to win on the weekend. No more than that. We're evaluating it all."

Also last week, Chris Williams moved from right tackle to left tackle in place of injured Orlando Pace, who has been a disappointment this season. Williams was expected to be the Bears' left tackle of the future when he was drafted in the first round in 2008, and he played fairly well against the Rams. Kevin Shaffer filled in at right tackle.

But strangely, Smith would not commit to keeping Williams at left tackle, Shaffer at right and Pace, who has no future with the Bears beyond this season, on the bench.

"They both did a good job," Smith said of Williams and Shaffer. "First off, with Orlando, we have to see if he's healthy. We'll go back to the practice field and start making those types of decisions."

At least Smith committed to finding more playing time for Jamar Williams, who had 20 tackles (according to coaches' review of film) filling in for four-time Pro Bowl weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs, who sat out with a sprained knee. Even if Briggs is back this week, as expected, Smith said Williams has earned more playing time.

"We go on production," Smith said. "By his play (Sunday), it said, ‘I need more reps.' We listen and we watch everything that happens, and we liked everything that we saw (Sunday) from him."


  • QB Jay Cutler did not throw an interception for the first time in eight weeks, although he's still tied, with Matthew Stafford, for the most picks in the NFL this year with 20.

  • RB Matt Forte had 91 rushing yards, his second-most productive game of the season, and more important 68 of the yards came in the second half on 14 carries (4.9-yard average) when the Bears were trying to protect a lead.

  • TE Greg Olsen was used much more as a blocker than he normally is and caught two passes for a total of 1 yard. One of his receptions came on a fake field goal that was stuffed for no gain. Of his last 15 catches, none have been for more than 11 yards.

  • WR Devin Hester left the game with a calf injury early in the third quarter and did not return. His injury has not been updated, but he is not expected to practice Wednesday.

  • WR Earl Bennett scored his first NFL touchdown on his 45th reception, a 3-yarder. His only other catch Sunday was for 71 yards, the Bears' longest pass play of the season.

  • LB Jamar Williams, filling in for injured weak-side linebacker Lance Briggs and making just his second NFL start, was credited with 20 tackles in coaches' film review. Williams also defended two passes.

  • LB Hunter Hillenmeyer had his first interception of the season and the second of his seven-year career.

  • DE Adewale Ogunleye picked up his team-best sixth sack, and he could have had a couple more, but he allowed Kyle Boller to escape his grasp. It was Ogunleye's first full sack in eight weeks.

  • WR-KR Johnny Knox has regained the NFL lead in kickoff-return average at 29.4, and he had a 68-yard return on Sunday negated by a holding penalty.

  • LB Nick Roach is second on the Bears with 71 tackles (according to team statistics), and he leads the team with eight tackles for loss.


    Lions coach Jim Schwartz was pleased with the performance of running back Kevin Smith in Sunday's 23-13 loss at Cincinnati. Smith rushed for 75 yards on 16 carries, gaining a lot of tough yards inside.

    "He didn't have his best output of the year, but he probably had his best day running the football," coach Jim Schwartz said. "We needed to get him more carries."

    Smith has had only one 100-yard rushing day this season. He rushed for 101 yards on 16 carries Sept. 27 against Washington before leaving in the third quarter with a shoulder injury. His second-best total was 83 yards on 24 carries Sept. 20 against Minnesota.

    Schwartz pointed out how Bengals running back Cedric Benson rushed for 110 yards Sunday because he had 36 carries to do it. His team played with the lead.

    "We need to be in that situation with Kevin," Schwartz said. "Kevin ran very tough. He ran aggressive — didn't go out of bounds easily, didn't go down easily, made yards on his own.

    "Some of his best runs were 1- and 2-yard runs. He got hit in the backfield a couple times and was able to fight back to the line of scrimmage and get us in second-and-9 or second-and-8 or one of those situations rather than a second-and-12. I think those were some of the things that went unnoticed."

    Smith has taken heat for his lack of explosiveness — not just by the fans and media, but from the coaches, including Schwartz himself. Smith still struggled to break away in the open field Sunday. His longest run was 17 yards. He has only one rush longer than 20 yards this season — a 31-yarder.

    But Schwartz praised Smith for his receiving — two catches for 29 yards against the Bengals — and pass protection.

    "It's just a matter of time," Schwartz said. "He's feeling healthier. He's in a position he can run tougher. I think it showed. We just need to be in a position as a team that we can get him more carries.

    Told of Schwartz's comments, Smith said: "Thanks, coach." He wasn't in much of a mood to talk positively about his performance after the game, either.

    "Whatever," Smith said. "Obviously not good enough. We lost. I don't know progress is when you run the ball and lose."

    Smith has won only two games since the Lions drafted him last year. Is it deflating?

    "For me, if I said it wasn't frustrating, it would be a lie," Smith said. "Deflating? That kind of sounds like you're going to give up. That's not my path. I'm very disappointed, but I mean, the coaches don't play. At the end of the day, I can be disappointed in myself, keep it with myself and keep it to myself."


  • QB Matthew Stafford aggravated his injured left shoulder Sunday at Cincinnati. The Lions don't think there is more damage, and coach Jim Schwartz said he didn't think the shoulder was the reason Stafford went 11-for-26 for 143 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. But it is unclear whether Stafford will play this Sunday at Baltimore.

  • RB Kevin Smith averaged 4.7 yards per carry against the Bengals, with 75 yards on 16 carries. He gained a lot of tough yards inside, though he still struggled to break away in the open field, and coach Jim Schwartz called it his best rushing day of the season. Schwartz wants to get Smith more carries.

  • TE Brandon Pettigrew was missed Sunday. The Lions needed to attack the middle, with the Bengals locking up the outside, and tight ends Will Heller and Casey Fitzsimmons combined for only two catches for 20 yards.

  • WR Calvin Johnson caught six passes for 123 yards against the Bengals, including a beautiful 54-yard bomb in the first quarter. The Lions made an effort to get the ball, targeting him 11 times.

  • WR Bryant Johnson continues to be a disappointment. He caught only one pass for five yards — while WR Dennis Northcutt caught only one for four — making it difficult to draw coverage away from Calvin Johnson.

  • CB Phillip Buchanon recorded his first career sack on a corner blitz and also stripped quarterback Carson Palmer of the ball.

  • DE Dewayne White returned from a toe injury but did not start or make a big impact. He recovered a fumble, but otherwise he was shut out on the scoresheet.

  • S Kalvin Pearson missed his third straight game with a hamstring injury. It is unclear whether he will be ready for the Ravens.

  • LB Ernie Sims missed his fourth straight game with a hamstring injury. There was some hope he could play, but coach Jim Schwartz said the Lions didn't want to risk making it worse on a cold day.

  • P Nick Harris suffered a left knee injury against the Bengals but finished the game. Coach Jim Schwartz said he was encouraged Monday, but the Lions might look at a punter in case they have to make a move later this week.


    The Packers maintained their esteemed status as the league's top-rated defense by holding the Baltimore Ravens to 185 total yards Monday night.

    Yet, the biggest stranglehold applied by the defense to ensure the Packers' 27-14 victory in a battle of teams contending for wild-card playoff spots in their respective conferences came via its clutch takeaways.

    Previously maligned cornerback Tramon Williams and linebacker A.J. Hawk had interceptions on back-to-back passes by Joe Flacco in the fourth quarter, enabling Green Bay (8-4) to win its fourth straight game after the Ravens rallied from a 17-0 halftime deficit.

    "We faced some adversity out there for a while," Williams said. "But, it just shows the character of our team, to come out and continue fighting."

    Williams' pick occurred two plays after he was called for pass interference in the end zone. It was his third pass-interference penalty of the game — he also had another one in the end zone that led to a 1-yard touchdown run by Willis McGahee to cut the Packers' lead to 17-14 late in the third quarter.

    On second-and-goal from the Green Bay 3, Williams jumped in front of Ravens receiver Demetrius Williams to intercept a floater from Flacco in the middle of the end zone.

    "It felt great. I can't lie," Tramon Williams said. "It was getting frustrating (with the penalties) a little bit out there, but it can get like that sometimes. As a DB, you've got to have a short-term memory. I just continued playing, and something eventually happened."

    The key turnover came after the Packers increased their lead to 24-14 on Aaron Rodgers' third touchdown pass of the game.

    After the Ravens forced a three-and-out following the Williams interception, the Packers quickly regained possession again when Hawk intercepted a downfield pass to tight end Todd Heap.

    The Packers overcame a season-high-tying three giveaways by coming up with four takeaways, including three interceptions of Flacco.

    Rookie linebacker Clay Matthews, who also had two sacks, forced a fumble by Ray Rice in the red zone in Baltimore's first series of the game.

    "That's the way we play," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "Our turnover ratio (league-best plus-18) is something that's coached every single day. We're disappointed with the giveaways; I can tell you that right now. That's not who we are. That's not the way we're going to play down the stretch. We need to make sure that doesn't happen.

    "But, our guys (on defense) do an outstanding job of going after the football. They're playing with a lot more vision with our defense here than in the past."


  • Monday night games seem to bring out the best of emerging tight end Jermichael Finley.

    The second-year player sparked the Packers' 27-14 victory over the Baltimore Ravens in prime time Monday at Lambeau Field with a game-high and career-high-tying seven catches for 79 yards and two touchdowns, a personal best.

    "When the lights are on, that's what I expect and that's what the Packers want," Finley said.

    He had six receptions for a career-high 128 yards, including a 62-yard touchdown, in Green Bay's Monday night loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 5 this season.

    Finley's second touchdown against the Ravens — on a 19-yard throw from Aaron Rodgers with 10 1/2 minutes left in the fourth quarter — pushed the Packers' lead to 24-14 after Baltimore had erased a 17-0 halftime deficit to get within 17-14.

    Finley had left the game early in the second half because of a knee bruise. He was taken to the locker room for evaluation and some pain medicine, then returned to action later in the third quarter.

    "I promise you I took about six pills before I came back out on the field," Finley said. "When I got back out of the tunnel, everything just went away. We've got to play ball."

  • Backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who serves as the holder on kicks, took responsibility for a missed 38-yard field goal by Mason Crosby early in the fourth quarter Monday.

    Flynn didn't get the football placed clean on the snap, and Crosby pushed the attempt wide right with the Packers' clinging to a 17-14 lead.

    "We need to make those field goals. That's the bottom line," McCarthy said. "I know the snap wasn't handled correctly and so forth, so we need to continue to improve in that area. That was a big drive, and to come out of that with no points, we need to do a better job there."

    The Green Bay defense responded with a three-and-out, giving the offense good field position at midfield after the Ravens punted to deliver the decisive touchdown on the 19-yard catch by Finley.

  • NT Ryan Pickett suffered a pulled hamstring in the Packers' 27-14 win over the Baltimore Ravens on Monday night and didn't return to the game. His status for Sunday's game at the Chicago Bears won't be known until later in the week.

  • LT Chad Clifton made the start Monday after there was some doubt about whether he would play because of a hamstring injury that kept him out of practice most of last week.

  • LB Aaron Kampman was placed on injured reserve before Monday's game. The starter suffered a torn ACL in the Nov. 22 victory against the San Francisco 49ers and was scheduled to have surgery in the past week.

  • LB Cyril Obiozor was promoted from the practice squad to take Kampman's spot on the 53-man roster. The 6-foot-4, 249-pound Obiozor, an undrafted rookie who was on the practice squad from the start of the season, was activated Monday and contributed on special teams.

  • LB Jeremy Thompson will be sidelined indefinitely as he recovers from a neck sprain he suffered in practice Friday. The second-year backup had to be taken by ambulance to a Green Bay hospital, where he was held overnight before being released Saturday. The injury isn't considered career-threatening for Thompson, who didn't suffer any paralysis.

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