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Around the NFC North: Week 4

Posted Sep 30, 2009

Each week during the 2009 season, vikings.com will take a break from focusing on the Purple and turn our attention to the other three teams in the NFC North.

Chicago Bears

Three games into the regular season, there Bears could be 3-0, 0-3, or somewhere in between, and no Bears fan would be really all that surprised based on the way they have played.  Fortunately, they have more wins – 2 – than losses – 1 – thanks to a back-to-back wins against Pittsburgh in week two and last week against Seattle.

The 25-19 win in Seattle didn’t come as easy as some onlookers may have though.  The Seahawks were without starting quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and were coming off a 23-10 loss to the 49ers.  However, backup quarterback Seneca Wallace was very solid on this day, throwing for over 260 yards and a touchdown.  Running back Julius Jones nearly scampered for 100 yards, but the story on the day was kicker Olindo Mare, who missed two of his six field goal attempts.

That opened the door for Jay Cutler and the Bears offense, who for the second week in a row led the Bears on a game-winning drive late in the game.  This time, just after the two-minute warning, Cutler connected with Devin Hester for a 36-yard touchdown to but the Bears ahead to stay.

Second-year running back Matt Forte was able to get going on this day, having over 100 combined yards from scrimmage for the first time this season.  Tight end Greg Olsen also set season-highs in catches, yards, and touchdowns, hauling in his first score of the season.

This week, the Bears return home to take on the Detroit Lions in a game that looks a lot tougher now than it did after week one.  The Lions, of course, gave the Vikings everything they wanted for a majority of their week two matchup, and then ended their long losing streak last week at home against the Redskins.

Their last win away from the Motor City was almost two years ago … and that win came against the Bears at Soldier Field.  Will history repeat itself Sunday?

Detroit Lions

Fortunately for the other 30 teams in the NFL that could have been “the team,” the Washington Redskins let those teams off the hook by falling to the Lions last Sunday by a score of 19-14 to put an end to the Lions 19-game losing skid.

As Vikings fans witnessed during the week two matchup between Minnesota and Detroit, the Lions certainly aren’t the same pushover that they were for most teams last season, though they pushed the Vikings to the end in both games which often wasn’t the case with other teams.  They have much more talent on this team and a better coaching staff as well, and it’s clear on the field the team is heading into the right direction.

Running back Kevin Smith had a great game – 101 yards on just 19 carries – before leaving the game with a shoulder injury.  The team hasn’t said much on the nature of the injury, but losing him would be a tough blow to the offense.  Veteran Maurice Morris, who scored in place of Smith last week but had just 10 yards on eight carries against the Redskins, would be in line to replace the second-year back.

The Redskins only ran the ball 13 times against the Lions and threw it 41 times, which seems like a disproportionate way to do things against a poor team.  The Lions did give up 340 yards through the air, including 178 to Santana Moss, but the Redskins only had the ball for 23:12, and that proved to be the difference in the game.

This week, the Lions travel to Chicago, which is the last place they were able to win a road game, though that occurred nearly two years ago.  Having a healthy Smith would make things much easier for Matthew Stafford and the rest of the offense, but that seems unlikely regardless of how injured his shoulder is.  Still though, the Bears have been involved in three close games, so this one could very well come down to the fourth quarter.
 
Green Bay Packers

Sandwiched between a pair of divisional games against the Bears and the Vikings to start the season were a pair of games against the Bengals and Rams that seemed very winnable before the season started.  However, the Bengals game, which the Packers lost, was not the cupcake game that many anticipated, especially with Cincinnati improving to 2-1 after defeating the Super Bowl champion Steelers last week.

The Rams game though was as easy as onlookers though it would be, as the Green and Gold cruised to a 36-17 victory over the winless St. Louis team.  Both the passing and running games for the Packers put up good but not great numbers in this game.  Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was efficient, completing 13 of 23 passes and throwing a pair of touchdowns.  On the ground, Ryan Grant came within yard of his first 100-yard game on the season.

The Green Bay defense did give up nearly 150 yards on the ground to the Rams running game, but much of that was yielded to former All-Pro back Steven Jackson.  They knocked Rams starter Marc Bulger out of the game and Kyle Boller threw for 164 yards and a pair of touchdowns in relief.

Things will get a little tougher for the Packers this week, as they of course come to Minnesota take on the Vikings on Monday Night Football.  This is the marquee matchup of the weekend and one of the biggest games of the season, as Brett Favre takes on his former team for the first time.

One of the game’s biggest matchups will be Rodgers and Green Bay’s deep and skilled wide receiver core going against Minnesota’s secondary.  The Packers like to throw the ball down the field, and it will be tough to cover guys like Greg Jennings and Donald Driver for too long, so it will be critical for the Packers offensive line to protect Rodgers and give him time in the pocket.

On the other side of the ball, Adrian Peterson has ripped up the Packers in both games against them in the Metrodome during his young career.  Green Bay will likely load up the line to stop Peterson, and then try to force an amped-up Favre to beat them down the field.

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