- During the week, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he would not consider taking play-calling duties away from first-year offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi. After another game without a touchdown -- the first time the team has gone two straight games without an offensive touchdown since 2000 -- Caldwell said they would be looking at things to change in the offense, although nothing drastic. When asked if he would consider taking play-calling duties away from Lombardi, Caldwell offered a one-word answer: "No."
- The Lions lost another offensive lineman for the majority of the game Sunday after left tackle Riley Reiff injured his left knee on the game's first play. Reiff, who was walking in the locker room after the game, said to ask the coaches about his knee, and Caldwell had no update on the severity of his injury. Caldwell said he felt rookie Cornelius Lucas "held his own" replacing Reiff, but Lucas gave up at least one sack.Reiff
- Lions safety Glover Quin lined up in the slot more often than normal as Detroit used its three-safety nickel package with Quin, James Ihedigbo and Isa Abdul-Quddus. Detroit did that to try and keep New England from finding mismatches all day. "That was the thinking behind that," Quin said. "To try to hold up [passes] and the run game."
Tate active but absent in debut: Running back Ben Tate was active for his first game in a Vikings uniform but was one of two players on the Vikings' active roster not to see the field on Sunday (Christian Ponder was the other). Joe Banyard got his first NFL carries instead, running five times for 26 yards in Matt Asiata's absence. "I think Banyard had the hot hand at the time," coach Mike Zimmer said.
Loadholt to have MRI: Right tackle Phil Loadholt will have an MRI on his shoulder after getting injured in the fourth quarter, Zimmer said. Mike Harris took over for Loadholt, who didn't want to discuss his injury after the game.
Game ball: Rookie tight end Richard Rodgers knows what he's going to do with the ball he caught for his 1-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter. "Probably give it to my dad," Rodgers said of his father who is the Carolina Panthers' special teams coach. It was perhaps one of the most memorable plays of the game because of how far Aaron Rodgers had to throw the ball for just 1 official yard. He rolled to his right and from just outside where the 10-yard line number is painted, he throw the ball all the way to back left corner of the end zone, where the tight end was completely uncovered and waving his arms.
On to New England: The talk turned almost immediately to Sunday's showdown with the New England Patriots, the first-ever meeting between Rodgers and Tom Brady as starters. But most players said they wanted to enjoy this victory first. "I haven't even thought about it," receiver Jordy Nelson said. Guard T.J. Lang said: "It will be a big game for us. I haven't really thought about them too much."
Week 12 Report Card: Bucs at Bears
About the only positive is Jay Cutler didn't throw an interception. Cutler completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for a paltry 130 yards. The Bears had one completion for more than 20 yards (26). Only five passes total gained 10 or more yards. Cutler's protection was just OK. Tampa recorded three sacks (one forced fumble/recovery). Ugly.
Matt Forte had a strong second half to finish with 89 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. Forte carried the ball only five times in the opening 30 minutes. Marc Trestman prefers to throw the ball. We get it. But maybe the reason the Bears keep falling behind every week is because Trestman forgets about Forte. Forte is the best player on offense. Take the ball out of Cutler's hands and give it to Forte. The Bears will be better off for it.
Josh McCown passed for 341 yards (25-of-48), but he also had two balls picked off (Chris Conte and Ryan Mundy). McCown was sacked five times and rarely seemed comfortable in the pocket. The Bears experienced a couple of breakdowns -- McCown hit on big pass plays to Louis Murphy (54 yards), Vincent Jackson (40 yards), and Mike Evans (19-yard touchdown) -- but forcing four turnovers made up for the errors.
The Buccaneers don't have an effective run game. That's largely because the Bucs' offensive line is poor, a group the Bears' front-seven exploited throughout the entire afternoon, despite Lance Briggs leaving early with a groin injury. Tampa gained only 66 yards rushing on 22 carries (3.0 yards per carry), and never appeared to challenge the Bears in the trenches.
The Bears have enough talent to rout Tampa. Why was it so close? The offense is horrible, a direct reflection of Trestman. The head coach passed on a chance to run one more play before halftime. He declined. Credit goes to Mel Tucker and the defense for saving the day (four takeaways and five sacks). However, the Bears lack the focus and discipline to beat quality opponents. Sunday's win against the Bucs did nothing to change that assessment.
Although the Bears constantly harp about forcing turnovers, several players in the locker room said they expected to gobble up more takeaways as the weather worsened.
As the game progressed Sunday, the rain began to fall harder and the Bears forced three turnovers in the third quarter alone -- four for the game.
Kromer stays late: Offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer stayed in the locker room and met for several minutes with tight end Martellus Bennett before going over to offensive linemen Jordan Mills and Kyle Long. Bennett appeared to be discussing better ways to get open for Jay Cutler.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- A few thoughts on the Detroit Lions' 34-9 loss to the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium.
What it means: This was always going to be a struggle and perhaps the Lions' toughest game of the season. However, there should be legitimate concern with Detroit's offense right now. The Lions have gone two straight games without a touchdown and despite shrinking the play-calling sheet in order to help find offensive rhythm and consistency, the Lions gained 335 yards -- right around their 332.3 yard per game average -- but once again appeared largely inconsistent.
More on this below, but perhaps a bigger concern was the return of the drops for the Lions -- an issue in 2013 but so far not a problem this season. Detroit had at least six drops against the Patriots, including three potential touchdowns.
Defensively, the Lions weren't much better. While the Patriots abandoned the run early, Tom Brady was able to carve through Detroit's defense, completing 38 of 53 passes for 349 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. He was also not sacked -- the second straight game the Lions have been unable to sack an opposing quarterback.
Stock watch: Rising – Golden Tate. He went over 1,000 yards for the season and once again had a strong game with four catches for 97 yards a week after the Lions only threw two passes to him. He also was one of the few Detroit receivers to not drop a pass -- an accomplishment on a day where the Lions dropped three potential touchdown receptions. Falling – Pass-catchers. Eric Ebron dropped Matthew Stafford's best throw of the day -- a touch pass in stride that hit Ebron in the hands before he dropped it. There were also drops in the end zone by Joseph Fauria, Corey Fuller and Jeremy Ross. Calvin Johnson had a couple of drops as well. But those three dropped touchdowns made a massive difference in the game.
Back to second: With Green Bay knocking off Minnesota, 24-21, the Lions are officially out of first place in the NFC North. The Packers are 8-3 and the Lions are 7-4. This puts Detroit in a crowded wild-card race with Philadelphia, Dallas, San Francisco and Seattle. This is realistically three teams for two spots -- one of the Eagles or Cowboys will win the NFC East -- and something that is going to be watched the rest of the season.
Game ball: Once again, Tate was one of the few bright spots on the Lions and the only one offensively for the team. He gave the Lions more than a third of their total offense Sunday -- 97 yards receiving, 13 yards rushing -- and is the only player on Detroit able to show any offensive creativity right now. He's been the only consistent thing on the Lions' inconsistent offense this season.
What's next: The Lions head home for a short week before facing division rival Chicago on Thursday in the annual Thanksgiving game.
CHICAGO -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 21-13 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field:
What it means: The Bears captured victories in consecutive outings for the first time since Weeks 2 and 3. The win over the Bucs, however, did little to improve the club's standing in the division since it entered the contest three games behind the lead. It's not impossible for the Bears to get back into the thick of the race, but at this point, the team has no margin for error.
Stock Watch: Defensive tackle Stephen Paea contributed two second-half sacks against the Bucs, and proved to be a disruptive force throughout the game. Paea hit Josh McCown just as the quarterback released a deep ball intended for Austin Seferian-Jenkins that was picked off by Chris Conte in the first quarter. Nagging injuries over the first four years of Paea's career have played a role in impeding the defensive tackle's progress. But he's been healthy this season, and playing arguably the best ball of his career. A pending free agent, Paea has put himself in position to receive a nice payday from the Bears or another team if the club lets him hit free agency.
OL woes: It was only a matter of time before all the shuffling along Chicago's offensive line would prove detrimental, and that's exactly what occurred against Tampa Bay with right tackle Jordan Mills missing his second consecutive game due to a rib injury. The offensive line gave up three sacks, including one that caused Jay Cutler to turn over the ball for the 18th time this season. The Bears, who have utilized six combinations of starters along the offensive line, were shut out in the first half for the fourth time this season. Cutler finished with just 130 yards passing.
Game ball: David Bass seemed an afterthought once the Bears signed Lamarr Houston and Jared Allen in free agency. He was inactive for Weeks 1 and 2, and didn't play in Weeks 3 and 5. The club waived Bass on Oct. 7, before bringing him back to the active roster on Nov. 11. Against Tampa Bay, Bass' strip-sack of McCown in the third quarter turned the tide of Sunday's game and allowed the Bears to take the lead after being down 10-0 to start the second half.
What's next: It's a quick turnaround for the Bears, who hit the road Wednesday for a Thanksgiving matchup against the Detroit Lions. The Bears hit the practice field on Tuesday after taking off Monday.
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Green Bay Packers' 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium:
What it means: The Packers (8-3) should now have first place in the NFC North to themselves for the first time this season. They came into the weekend tied with the Detroit Lions, who were losing in the fourth quarter to the New England Patriots when the Packers game ended. But things could change again next week given that the Patriots are next up on the Packers' schedule. And then there's still the Week 17 game against the Lions at Lambeau Field. There's much to be decided in the division, but Sunday's win put things in the Packers' hands.
Stock watch: Micah Hyde’s stock in this game was both up and down. The Packers safety was called for a holding penalty when the Vikings went for it on fourth down (more on that below) and then got dragged several yards by running back Joe Banyard, who converted a first down on a short pass in the second quarter. But on the next snap, Hyde picked off Teddy Bridgewater. It was Hyde’s second interception in the last three games. Then in the third quarter, Hyde recorded his first sack of the season.
Questionable call: Which you would rather have if you were on defense: third-and-15 from your 49-yard line or fourth-and-5 from your 39? Packers coach Mike McCarthy declined an illegal shift penalty on the Vikings, which allowed Bridgewater's 5-yard scramble to stand, setting up the fourth down, which the Vikings went for and converted thanks to a holding penalty on Hyde that wiped out an interception by Morgan Burnett. Five plays later, Bridgewater's 22-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson tied the game at 7.
Game ball: Welcome back to the running game, Eddie Lacy. For the first time this season, Lacy carried more than 17 times. And he made the most of it, plodding his way to 125 yards on 25 carries. He did it without the benefit of many explosive runs (his longest gain on the ground was 16 yards). It was his second 100-yard game of the season. Both of them have come against the Vikings.
What's next: The Packers play perhaps their most anticipated game of the season next Sunday against the Patriots at Lambeau Field.
MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Minnesota Vikings' 24-21 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday at TCF Bank Stadium:
What it means: The Vikings can effectively put away any flickering hopes of a late hot streak to make a playoff run. They dropped to 4-7 with the loss, which was their fourth in as many division games this season, on a day when their defense did well to contain Aaron Rodgers. The Vikings can point to familiar culprits in the loss -- they were flagged seven times for 77 yards (with three penalties for 35 yards on Matt Kalil), and they converted just 5 of 13 third-down attempts.
Bridgewater misfiring: Teddy Bridgewater was at his best late in the game, when the Vikings had to cover 79 yards in 13 plays to get within a field goal, but he missed too many throws early in the game, firing too high for Jarius Wright, overthrowing Charles Johnson deep and tossing an interception that was overturned when Micah Hyde was flagged for illegal contact. Through three quarters, Bridgewater had connected on just 13 of his 27 passes for 141 yards, before posting 69 on the Vikings' final TD drive.
Lacy burns Vikings again: Eddie Lacy's only 100-yard game of the season before Sunday came on Oct. 2, when he ran for 103 yards on 13 carries in the Packers' win over the Vikings at Lambeau Field. It was a more workmanlike day for Lacy this time -- he carried more than 20 times for the first time this season, and scored a pair of touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving) before helping the Packers salt away the victory. He finished with 25 carries for 125 yards, and in four games against the Vikings, he has six TDs.
Game ball: Cornerback Xavier Rhodes was a major factor in the Vikings' ability to slow down Rodgers; he spent much of the day lined up on Jordy Nelson, and the Packers weren't able to hit the deep shots to Nelson they've used so often this season. Nelson's longest catch of the day was 14 yards as Rhodes' physical play helped throw off his timing with Rodgers.
What's next: The Vikings (4-7) continue their three-game homestand next Sunday at noon against the Carolina Panthers.
Floyd, who didn't practice Thursday or Friday after banging knees with another player during practice, is among the Vikings' inactives for Sunday's game. Rookie Shamar Stephen will start in his place at defensive tackle, though the Vikings are likely to use a rotation of Stephen, Tom Johnson and Linval Joseph. Floyd, however, has played some of his best football in recent weeks, and his absence will likely be felt as the Vikings try to slow down Packers running back Eddie Lacy, who ran for 105 yards when the teams last met Oct. 2.
Running back Ben Tate will be active for the Vikings after the team claimed him off waivers last week; Tate could take part of Matt Asiata's role in goal-line and passing situations, with Asiata out with a concussion. Wide receivers Greg Jennings and Jarius Wright are also active after being listed as questionable with rib and hamstring injuries, respectively.
Here is the Vikings' full list of inactives:
Nick Perry, who started the last two weeks at right outside linebacker, was declared inactive for Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings. Perry was listed as questionable because of a shoulder injury.
Mike Neal would be the logical choice to assume those outside linebacker snaps, but rookie Jayrone Elliott also sees some action there.
Matthews has played the majority of his snaps the last two weeks at inside linebacker, especially on early downs, but it's possible he could go back to playing more at outside linebacker.
On Friday, coach Mike McCarthy said they would have to adjust their plan if Perry could not play.
The Packers also will be without one of their key special-teams players, cornerback Jarrett Bush (groin). In his place, rookie cornerback Demetri Goodson was activated for just the second time this season.
Here's the full inactive list:
That won’t be happening.
Bush is inactive for the Lions against the Patriots, the fourth time he will have missed a game this season due to his lingering ankle injury. He had practiced Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on a limited basis.
With Bush out, expect Joique Bell and Theo Riddick to both see increased work similar to last week when Bush sat against Arizona. Bell had 85 yards rushing against the Cardinals, the most of any back for the Lions in a game this season.
Bush initially hurt the ankle in Week 5 against Buffalo and missed the next week against Minnesota. He aggravated the injury against New Orleans in Week 7 and sat out the next week against Atlanta. Then he played against Miami in Week 10 and injured it again, forcing him to sit against Arizona and now New England.
By missing his fourth game, Bush is assured of playing only 12 games this season at maximum. It will be his fewest games played since 2010, when he appeared in eight games for New Orleans. This season, Bush has 53 carries for 191 yards and one touchdown, along with 26 catches for 169 yards.
Lions inactives: RB Reggie Bush, RG Larry Warford, DT Nick Fairley, QB Kellen Moore, DE Larry Webster, WR Ryan Broyles, TE Kellen Davis.
@GoesslingESPN: Good morning, everyone. We'll get right into it with the 'A' topic: Peterson's future in Minnesota. My sense of it has been that Peterson will play somewhere else next year -- I think there's a feeling in some corners of the organization (and possibly in Peterson's mind) that it's time to move on -- but that said, here are the reasons the Vikings could decide to bring Peterson back: They'd be getting a running back who's fresh (if his suspension is upheld, he'll have been tackled a total of 21 times this year), and they know better than anybody what Peterson can do when he's out to prove something (see: 2012). Coaches and players support him, and if emotions cool over time, Peterson could return to be a force both on and off the field. The hangup in all that, though, could be his contract. I can't see the Vikings paying a 30-year-old running back $13 million in 2015, and if Peterson is going to play for less money, he might be more inclined to do it elsewhere. We'll see, though. It'll unquestionably be the top storyline of the offseason.
Will the Vikings Deploy more Double A gap pressure on Sunday, if so where does that expose the defense? #VikingsMail— Michael Tarp (@MikeyTarp) November 20, 2014
@GoesslingESPN: The Vikings didn't blitz Aaron Rodgers much the last time they faced him, and there's an inherent danger in bringing extra pressure after him; Rodgers has the fifth-best QBR in the league against the blitz, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and while the Vikings' double-A gap blitz works well in part because it doesn't expose major holes in coverage, Rodgers could find room to work on quick throws over the middle. Even if the Vikings don't use it much on Sunday, though, we'll undoubtedly see the look; they like to put Anthony Barr and Chad Greenway on either side of the center, even though they'll often drop one or both players into coverage and rarely send more than five rushers. It can confuse protection schemes, and open up space for edge rushers if teams adjust their protection to block down on inside rushers.
@GoesslingESPN: The Vikings contend it can; they feel like Teddy Bridgewater throws the deep ball well enough to succeed in the NFL, and they say he hits downfield throws in practice. There are a few things that need to be fixed, though. First, the Vikings need to protect Bridgewater better; he won't have time to work downfield if he's evading pass-rushers within a couple seconds. They also need their receivers to do a better job of gaining separation, and lastly, Bridgewater's downfield accuracy needs to improve. He's still learning to trust himself on deep throws, and there have been too many times where he's not giving himself a split-second to set his feet and put the ball where it needs to be. The Vikings, though, wouldn't have put Bridgewater in Norv Turner's offense if they didn't think he could consistently hit throws of 15 yards or longer, and they're counting on him figuring it out in time.
@GoesslingESPN: I'll close by answering these two together, since they hit similar themes. As for the position upgrade, the obvious answer is that better play from the quarterback and left tackle spots would help the Vikings the most. But I don't think that's what you're getting at, since the Vikings plan to solve those problems with development (in Bridgewater's case) or a return to a previous level of play (in Matt Kalil's case). In terms of where the Vikings could realistically upgrade their personnel to help the roster, I'd probably say safety or left guard. If the Vikings had a really good safety next to Harrison Smith, they could be even more flexible on defense, and could conceivably stay in base packages more often. That's a big part of what helped turn Seattle's defense into a dominant unit, and the Vikings would like to be able to do that with their safeties, as well. And as much criticism as Kalil has taken this year, Charlie Johnson has been a major concern in pass protection, as well. David Yankey isn't strong enough yet to play in the NFL, but he could push Johnson for time next year.
As for the position that will look the most different on defense next year, I'd also suggest linebacker; the Vikings need to find a long-term answer in the middle, and Chad Greenway's future is in some doubt. Greenway's had a rebound year this season, in my opinion, but he'll be 32 next year and is due to count $8.8 million against the cap. He's certainly a candidate for another contract restructuring, but the Vikings might be inclined to see if Gerald Hodges is the future answer at weakside linebacker. My guess is Greenway plays one more season in Minnesota on a reduced deal, but even if he's back, the linebacker group could have a different look.
That'll do it for this week. Thanks for the great questions, everyone. Enjoy your Saturday, and we'll talk to you from TCF Bank Stadium on Sunday.
So it should come as no surprise that since he came to Green Bay as defensive coordinator in 2009, the Green Bay Packers have ranked as one of the NFL's most frequent blitz teams (see accompanying chart).
But there's much more that goes into it than just turning linebackers, safeties and cornerbacks loose.
Some of Capers' best defenses in Green Bay have been those that have blitzed the least (see 2009 and 2010).
"I'd say we're probably normally [blitzing at] around 38 to 40 percent of the time," Capers said.
But with worst defense he fielded, the 2011 unit that ranked last in the league, he blitzed the most.
"We couldn't get any pressure on the quarterback that year," Capers said.
That trend is hardly universal.
Take this season, for example. One of the best defensive performances came in Week 5 against the Minnesota Vikings. In the Packers' 42-10 victory, Capers blitzed on 47.2 percent of the Vikings’ dropbacks, according to ESPN Stats & Information (which defines a blitz as sending five or more pass-rushers at the quarterback). Only three other times this season has Capers blitzed at a higher rate -- at Miami in Week 6 (53.1 percent), against Carolina in Week 7 (50 percent) and against the New York Jets in Week 2 (47.3 percent). All were victories
Then there was 19-7 loss against the Detroit Lions in Week 2, when the defense allowed just 10 points. Capers blitzed a season-low 12.8 percent of the time.
This season, the Packers' defense ranks just 25th in yards, but second in takeaways (22), tied for eighth in Total QBR (50.4) and 11th in sack percentage (7.0).
Here is a look at the Capers' philosophy through the eyes of some of his coaches and players:
Offensive coordinator Tom Clements
Before they were on the same side, Clements coached against Capers. One game stands out: Dec. 8, 2002 in Pittsburgh. Clements was the Steelers' quarterbacks coach, and Capers was the Houston Texans head coach.
"That was a weird game," Clements said. "Our defense held them to about a total of 60 yards. We had about 400 yards, and they beat us by three touchdowns."
Which goes to show that when preparing for a Capers' defense, anything is possible.
"Multiple looks, multiple pressures," Clements said. "It requires a lot of film study by the coaches and the players, because you never know what you’re going to get."
Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac
Trgovac, the Panthers defensive coordinator from 2003-2008, knows what it's like to call plays.
He says it's an oversimplification to simply call Capers a blitzer.
"Just to call 100 blitzes, when you start getting in that rhythm of the game, that's actually the easiest part of the game to call," Trgovac said. "The hard part is trying to pick the blitzes based on what you're seeing in the game. You have something set in your mind early and have to adjust from there."
Trgovac says he often finds Capers alone in his office or a film room calling a mock game to try to anticipate those situations.
"He puts in the hours that's required to have knowledge to make a play call," Trgovac said.
Cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt
Whitt, who like Trgovac has been with Capers since 2009 in Green Bay, also says it's unfair to label their defense as just a blitzing scheme.
"I wouldn't say that," Whitt said. "I would say it's a week-to-week deal, but we're going to try to do anything we can to win that week. If we have to bring five or six guys, we will."
But then Whitt pointed to one of the biggest defensive plays in last Sunday's win against the Eagles, Julius Peppers' 52-yard interception return for a touchdown. Capers rushed only three players -- defensive linemen Datone Jones, Josh Boyd and Mike Neal -- and dropped Peppers, Clay Matthews and A.J. Hawk into coverage.
"It's whatever's needed," Whitt said.
Outside linebacker Peppers
The 13-year NFL veteran has never been used like this. In his eight seasons in Carolina and four in Chicago, he more or less had one job: put his hand on the ground and rush the quarterback as a defensive end.
"They wanted me to rush for the majority of the time," Pepper said. "Every now and then there was a fire-zone call where I was dropping, but primarily I was rushing."
Perhaps said that's why Eagles coach Chip Kelly said they weren't expecting Peppers to drop into coverage. He said it was "a great call" by Capers.
"I don't think it's anything new," said Peppers, who leads the Packers with 5.0 sacks and is tied for second on the team with two interceptions. "He's been doing that since he's been here as far as I'm concerned."
Now, though, there is going to be at least one question mark at Gillette Stadium.
Running back Reggie Bush, who has practiced on a limited basis all week with that lingering ankle injury, is officially questionable .
If Bush doesn't play, Detroit will once again go with heavy usage for Joique Bell along with increased work for Theo Riddick. It would probably be a similar plan to last Sunday against Arizona, when Bell rushed for 85 yards.
Only two players are completely out for Detroit: right guard Larry Warford and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Jason Jones, who told Detroit reporters on Friday his personal absence was dealing with his sick child in Tennessee, returned to practice Friday and is probable. Golden Tate appeared on the injury report for the first time this week -- limited in practice with a hip injury. He is probable for Sunday, though.