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NFC North News and Notes: September 17

Posted Sep 17, 2013

We take a look around the NFC North to see what the Vikings closest competition has going on…

Vikings

Last Week: 31-30 win over Minnesota

By the skin of their teeth the Bears have won both of their first two contests, including last week’s 31-30 win over the Vikings thanks to Martellus Bennett’s touchdown catch with 10 seconds left.

The Bears gave up a kick return touchdown, a defensive touchdown, allowed a 100-yard rusher, AND lost the turnover battle but still came out on top in this game, which is borderline insane.  So how’d they do it?  For starters they had their own defensive score thanks to Tim Jennings’ interception return of a Christian Ponder pass late in the 2nd quarter.

But maybe the biggest reason Chicago pulled out a win was their return game and Devin Hester, who didn’t score but set an NFL record for kickoff return yards in a game with 249.  He constantly set the Bears up on short fields which in turn made it much easier for Jay Cutler to put points on the board.

Chicago’s defense also excelled at “bending but not breaking” late in the game, holding the Vikings to a pair of short field goals in the 4th quarter.  If either one of those drives nets the Vikings seven points instead of three, we’re likely talking about a dramatic Vikings victory.

Just as Reggie Bush did in Week 1, Matt Forte ate up the Vikings defense both on the ground (90 yards) and through the air (11 catches for 71 yards).  Brandon Marshall was his usual awesome self, catching seven balls for 113 yards and a score.  Bennett had a pair of scores but maybe his biggest catch was on a 1st and 20 on the Bears’ final drive where he snuck out from the line, hauled in the Cutler pass and rumbled 23 yards to Minnesota’s 16.

This Week: Bears at Steelers, 7:30 PM

After winning a pair of tight home games the Bears now head out on the road to take on the 0-2 Steelers, whose offense has been subpar at best through two weeks. Despite that though, winning at Heinz Field is never easy and it’s tough to imagine the Steelers being an 0-3 team.

Offseason Overview

Vikings

Last Week: 25-21 loss to Arizona

Though the Lions beat the Vikings in Week 1 at Ford Field, there was certainly room for improvement for Detroit by way of turnovers and penalties, which cost them dearly at several points throughout the game.  And sure enough, mistakes ended up costing the Lions their Week 2 matchup with the Cardinals.

The biggest error of the day came late in the game when CB Bill Bentley was flagged for pass interference in the end zone with just over two minutes to go, setting Arizona up with 1st and goal at the 1.  Carson Palmer’s first down pass was incomplete but Rashard Mendenhall punched it in on 2nd down to put the Cardinals ahead for good. Detroit had over 100 yards of penalties on the day, including that crippling 31-yard interference call late.

Special teams weren’t favorable for the Lions on this day, either. David Akers missed his only two field goal attempts on the day, while his counterpart, Jay Feely, was 4/4. Cardinals punter Dave Zastudil pinned the Lions inside their own 20 four times, tipping the field position battle in the Cardinals favor as well.

Unlike Week 1, Reggie Bush was not able to get it going, due in part to a knee injury he suffered early in the game.  He had just 69 total yards, and as a whole the Lions had 20 carries for just 49 yards compared to the 283 combined rushing receiving yards that Bush and RB Joique Bell accounted for against the Vikings.

Matthew Stafford had another big day, throwing for 278 yards and a pair of scores, both going to Calvin Johnson, though Stafford did fumble the ball at his own 13 early in the 3rd quarter, which handed the Cardinals three points thanks to one of Feely’s four field goals.

This Week: Lions at Redskins, Noon

Things don’t get any easier for Detroit this weekend as they again hit the road to play the Redskins, who, like the Vikings, find themselves at 0-2 despite being a playoff team a year ago. Washington’s defense has been horrid to say the least so far this year, so look for the Lions to put up some points, but will this be the week that Robert Griffen III and the Redskins offense put it together to play two solid halves of football?

Vikings

Last Week: 38-20 win over Washington

After a tough Week 1 loss in San Francisco to the 49ers, the Packers got off the schneid in a big way in trouncing the Redskins at Lambeau Field, even though the final score makes the game seem closer than it really was.

Aaron Rodgers was surgical on this day, even for his high standards, in completing 34 of 42 passes for 480 yards and four touchdowns.  Midway through the 3rd quarter the Packers found themselves up 31-0 and obviously took the foot off the gas to a degree, which further underlines how on-point Rodgers was on this day.

James Jones, who was the forgotten man in Green Bay’s passing attack in the Week 1 loss, led the way this week with 11 catches for 178 yards.  Randall Cobb had his second-straight 100-yards, one touchdown game, while Jordy Nelson had three catches, two of which went for scores.

Rookie RB Eddy Lacy exited the game early with a concussion but veteran James Starks stepped in and became the first Packer to rush for over 100 yards in their last 44 games, the third-longest such streak in NFL history.

Defensively, the team allowed the Redskins to put up some 2nd half points once the game was out of hand, but coming off a shredding at the hands of Colin Kaepernick, it was a major step forward for the unit.  Washington had just four first downs during the first half and the Packers defense forced the Redskins to go three-and-out to start the 2nd half.

This Week: Packers at Bengals, Noon

Green Bay heads out on the road again this week to take on the Bengals, who got their first win of the year at home on Monday night against the Steelers.  Cincinnati, like the Vikings did last Sunday, had the Bears on the ropes in Week 1 but was unable to hold onto a late lead.  Many believe the Bengals have one of the top defenses in the League, so it should be a stiff test for Rodgers and Co.

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