Monday, Sept. 26, 2011Posted: 10:45 p.m.
By John Mullin
CSNChicago.com Bears Insider Follow @CSNMoonMullin
Around the NFC North
The division is in danger of slipping irretrievably away from the Bears (1-2) after their loss to the Green Bay Packers and the continuing ascendancy of the Detroit Lions. Losing to both New Orleans and Green Bay has the Bears two games down in any tiebreaker in the NFC and the pressure is building for a winning streak, not just winning one game.
Detroit (3-0) goes to Dallas next and if the Lions have exceeded expectations, the Cowboys and Tony Romo are the dictionary definition of over-hyped. An early guess is that the Lions will be a head-shaking 4-0 when the Bears see them in Detroit on Monday night Oct. 10. The Lions started 6-2 in 2007 and proceeded to lose seven of their last eight. Their offensive coordinator then was Mike Martz. QB Matthew Stafford put up a passer rating of 108.8 despite taking 5 sacks.
Green Bay (3-0) was the class of the division coming into 2011 and has done nothing to lose that distinction. The Packers have won a division game on the road and are 3-0 in the NFC. If something jumps the tracks at some point (the Packers wont go 16-0), they are building up an edge with head-to-heads over two potential playoff contenders in the Saints and Bears. Aaron Rodgers leads the NFL with a passer rating of 120.9.
With all of the passing firepower the Packers possess, Green Bay has handed the ball to both Ryan Grant and James Starks 32 times, tied for 28th in the NFL. Matt Forte is down at No. 26 with just 35 total carries in three games.Cam Newton has 25 carries, Michael Vick 24.
The Bears are not the only division team with bizarre decisions in the run game. Minnesota Vikings coach Leslie Frazier gave the ball to Toby Gerhart for a fourth-down, fourth-quarter run against the Lions instead of Adrian Peterson, and despite the Vikings taking a 20-0 lead into halftime, Peterson got exactly five carries in the second half. If Christian Ponder is not the Vikings starting quarterback by the time the Bears get Minnesota in Soldier Field on Oct. 16, something is wrong. Ponder was the No. 12 pick of the draft and Cam Newton is putting the lie to the notion that quarterbacks are useless in their rookie years.
Longtime bud Peter King over at Sports Illustrated, as always, has a Monday Morning Quarterback thats worth a look. Peter takes a peek at Henry Melton, a former running back at Texas who switched to the defensive line and has 3 sacks this season, his first as a starter. The numbers are a little misleading from a distance because Melton was invisible in the New Orleans loss and was ineffective too often at gap control vs. the Green Bay running game.
Peter mentions a Tweet by Tom Crabtree as the Packers tight end was leaving on the team buses from Soldier Field after Sundays game. Via @TCrabtree83: Sad to see all these folks in Chicago missing every finger except the middle. I think theyre trying to wave to us.
Around the schedule
Something to keep in mind is that no team in the NFL played a tougher first three games than the Bears three playoff teams in Atlanta, New Orleans and Green Bay. The reality is that anything less than an excellent early burst was going to be trouble and not a lot of analysts had the Bears a lot better than the 1-2 they are after playing three teams with a combined 34-14 record.
Michael Vick is taking more of a beating in Philadelphia than Jay Cutler is in Chicago, and he had something to say about officiating that has allowed him to be a target of hits that would draw roughing flags if they were against a lot of other NFL quarterbacks. Dream Team because of a bunch of free-agent signings? Ummmm.
The Panthers were less a concern when Cam Newton was throwing for 400-plus yards in his first two games than when he managed the weather and engineered a comeback win over Jacksonville. Newtons passing total was a modest 158 yards but highlight after highlight was of him fighting off pressure and getting the ball to his playmakers rather than over-relying on his athleticism to tuck it and run.
Kyle Orton is under pressure (still, always) after Denvers 1-2 start and now the Broncos have to go to Green Bay. Orton is just 4-12 as a starter since leaving the Bears and a surprise will be for the Bears to see him under center when they go to Denver Dec. 11. John Fox inherited a quarterback controversy between Orton and Tim Tebow when Fox took over as head coach and he has no investment in either.
The Bears have been anything but dominant against the run after seeing all three of their 2011 opponents rush for at least 100 yards against them. They can look ahead to seeing the NFLs No. 1 and No. 2 runners on the dance card in the persons of Oaklands Darren McFadden (131 yards per game, 6.4 yards per carry) and Philadelphias LeSean McCoy (115 yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry). Before those two, they have Adrian Peterson, No. 6 at 98.7 yards per game and 5.1 per carry.
Members of the media arent supposed to be fans and I usually dont have a rooting interest in outcomes (I do have a favorite team but Ill keep that to myself). But there are individuals you like to see do well and Rex Grossman is one of those.
Rex endured more abuse in Chicago than just about any player I have ever covered, yet was unfailingly personable and accommodating even to some of the worst abusers. A decent person and one of those people you privately want to see do well, not because he was good to the media, but just because thats what should happen.
John "Moon" Mullin is CSNChicago.com's Bears Insider and appears regularly on Bears Postgame Live and Chicago Tribune Live. Follow Moon on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Bears information.