GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The bigger the game, the more the little things matter.

That's how Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers is approaching the preparation for Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (9-2) at Lambeau Field.

Brady
"Well, you have to be sharp," Capers said Monday. "There's not a lot of margin for error when you're going against a quarterback that's done it for as long as he's done it with the level of efficiency he's done it with. There's not many things he hasn't seen."

For a good portion of Monday's group session with reporters, Capers used words like "sharp" and phrases such as being "on top of your game" when talking about the Patriots.

When asked later what he meant by those, Capers pointed to three instances from Sunday's 24-21 win at the Minnesota Vikings that, if repeated against the Patriots, could prove more costly.

They were:
  • On a fourth-and-5 play in the second quarter, Morgan Burnett's interception was wiped out because of a holding penalty on Micah Hyde. The Vikings scored their first touchdown on that drive.
  • On a third-and-6 play in the second quarter, Hyde had a chance to tackle running back Joe Banyard short of the line to gain but instead Banyard carried him for 3 extra yards and a first down. (Hyde made up for it with an interception on the next play.)
  • On a third-and-4 play in the fourth quarter, outside linebacker Mike Neal was flagged for a neutral-zone infraction, which gave the Vikings a first down and led to the touchdown that pulled them to within three points with 3:23 left in the game.

"Those are the kind of things that in a game like this, these guys are efficient enough, you can't give them any advantage with, say, penalty-aided drives." Capers said. "Both of the [Vikings'] touchdown drives yesterday were penalty-aided."

The Vikings did not have the experienced quarterback or the playmakers to make Capers' defense pay for its mistakes.

The Patriots (9-3) do with Brady and his supporting cast of tight end Rob Gronkowski -- a match-up nightmare for linebackers and safeties alike -- receiver Julian Edelman and whichever running back they decide to use on a particular week. Two games ago, it was Jonas Gray, who rushed for 201 yards. The last game, it was the recently re-signed LeGarrette Blount, who had two touchdowns in his return to New England.

"We certainly have probably the biggest challenge coming in here Sunday," Capers said. "We've got to go back to work and make sure we're on top of our game and we're ready to go out and play our best, because that's what it's going to take to win a game like this."

When it was posed to coach Mike McCarthy on Monday that the Packers (8-3) would need to be sharp against Brady and Co., he replied: "So you're saying we're not sharp?"

Then how about extra sharp?

"OK, well extra sharp will be the focus," McCarthy said. "You gave me my theme for the week, I guess, there."

And then his tone turned more serious.

"New England is a great football team," McCarthy said. "Just the way they're hitting their stride right now, just watching the video this morning, very impressive. We'll stay in tune with that. We're not going to make a bunch of changes. We like the football team that we are, and we look forward to the competition."
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Mike McCarthy knew Eddie Lacy was not feeling well during Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, but he still figured the Green Bay Packers' running back would be effective.

Lacy
Lacy was all of that and then some.

One day after he rushed for 125 yards on 25 carries -- season highs in both categories -- Lacy was still feeling the aftereffects of what McCarthy called a gastrointestinal illness.

"He was in today for the [regeneration] workout, so he went through the weight-room work and so forth," McCarthy said Monday. "It's something that we're still monitoring."

Before Sunday, Lacy had not carried 25 times in a game in almost exactly a year. His previous high this season was 17 in Week 4 against the Chicago Bears.

"Really I don't think statistics really reflect the whole picture of everything that we've done," McCarthy said. "Eddie's a good teammate and Eddie, and I think if you asked Eddie -- and I've heard him answer the question a number of times -- he just wants to be a good teammate."

But the Packers might need to start leaning on Lacy more now that the weather is turning sour in Green Bay. The early forecast for Sunday's game against the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field calls for temperatures in the 20s.

And they also might need the running game more if teams try to play coverage like the Vikings, who used a two-high safety look that limited Aaron Rodgers' shots down the field.

"It shows that we can win a game a different way than we have been winning, by scoring a lot of points early and having the opponent down by halftime by a large margin," Packers offensive coordinator Tom Clements said. "If you can win games, then you have to find ways to win each week. Yesterday, we found a way to do it."
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater was off-target on six of his 22 throws in the first half of Sunday's game against the Green Bay Packers, according to ESPN Stats & Information, and several of those were overthrows on deep passes that could have helped the Vikings get on a roll early.

Bridgewater
Bridgewater missed two downfield throws to Charles Johnson on the Vikings' first series, and threw too high for Jarius Wright late in the first quarter, though that was the first play of a drive that eventually led to a Vikings touchdown. The Vikings want to see Bridgewater get in a groove earlier in games, though, and coach Mike Zimmer saw a slight mechanical flaw with Bridgewater's delivery early in the game.

"He wasn't as accurate in this ballgame as he normally is," Zimmer said. "I think he might've been getting under and dropping the ball down a little bit too much and the ball was sailing on him. But he needs to be more accurate as well."

Bridgewater has typically been at his best in two-minute drill situations toward the end of games, when he's had a chance to run plays quickly and can avoid over-analyzing things while reading his progressions. The Vikings have run some no-huddle series this season, and could go to it more often to get Bridgewater in the same kind of rhythm, Zimmer said. He added Sunday probably wouldn't have been the time to do it, though.

"What I don't want to do is go no-huddle against Aaron Rodgers and get three incomplete passes and [only] 13 seconds run off the clock," Zimmer said. "Each game is different and I think tempo that we're changing up throughout different times of the game helps him as well. It doesn't necessarily have to be completely no-huddle, but I think the tempo change has helped him, yes."
Jay Cutler acknowledged the struggles the offense experienced in the Chicago Bears' 21-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday, but he pointed out the team can’t dwell on them with a Thursday afternoon matchup on deck against the Detroit Lions.

On six first-half drives against the Buccaneers, Chicago’s offense generated 68 yards and three first downs, with one of those coming by way of a roughing-the-kicker call on the team’s second possession.

Cutler
“We made some mistakes,” Cutler said Monday during the “Jay Cutler Show” on ESPN 1000. “We came in at halftime, made some adjustments, talked about what we liked moving forward. Defense got some turnovers, and we put some points on the board. Win or loss, we’re always trying to improve on offense. We’re always looking at what we did wrong. This week’s a little bit different because we’ve got to move on. We can’t really dwell on much that happened yesterday. We’ll make some corrections to some major things, then after that we’ve got to go.”

Bears coach Marc Trestman called the offense’s performance in the first half “very poor because of the mistakes that we made.”

Of the club’s six first-half possessions, three went three-and-out and one ended in a Cutler fumble the Buccaneers converted into a touchdown. Receiver Brandon Marshall was flagged for illegal-block penalties on two of those drives (one was declined), and he was flagged for false start on the team’s second play from scrimmage.

Cutler finished the game with one touchdown pass and a passer rating of 87.0 after absorbing three sacks in the first half and producing a passer rating of 65.0.

“What was a positive was the way we came out in the second half and took advantage of the turnovers,” Trestman said. “We got the ball in the end zone. I think that was the positive part of the day for Jay and our entire offense, that we were able to push it in. Everybody was taking turns. It wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We got out of sync. But we hung in there. Again, defensively getting the turnovers and being able to push the ball into the end zone was the most favorable part of the day offensively for Jay and for all of us. The penalties, the things that we can control, are the things that we’ve got to continue to work on. We will in various ways. Those are the things that take away from your opportunity to move the football, stay in sequence, do the things you want to do with your entire offense. When you’re in sequence and you’re not hurting yourself, certainly you have opportunities to do more things.”

Now the Bears plan to use the next day and a half to absorb a stripped-down game plan headed into Thursday’s contest at Detroit with just a four-day turnaround. Several of the team’s coaches returned to Halas Hall Sunday night to jump start the game plan installation process.

Trestman called the short turnaround “a challenge” but pointed to the staff’s “experience in putting game plans together and knowing how much information guys can handle going into a game without practice time.”

The Bears plan to put in the game plan on Tuesday, hold several meetings and walk-through sessions the same day and board a plane Wednesday for Detroit.

When the NFL first introduced Thursday games, Cutler said he “liked them because you got the weekend off,” which was “kind of like a mini-bye.”

Now, Cutler said the turnaround for a Thursday game is more difficult.

“As you get older, it gets harder,” Cutler said. “I think the older you get, the harder it gets game planning-wise, physically, just getting your body back to where it needs to be for game time.”
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- As the Minnesota Vikings begin preparations for Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers, cornerback Captain Munnerlyn will get ready to face his old team for the first time. On Monday, though, Munnerlyn had something to clear up about what one of his former teammates said about him.

Munnerlyn said Panthers' cornerback Josh Norman's comments to the Charlotte Observer -- about Munnerlyn not being willing to help him when the two played together in Carolina -- a "slap in the face," adding he's always willing to give advice to younger teammates looking for guidance.

Norman
Munnerlyn
"It was a slap in the face to me when I read it," Munnerlyn said. "It was a slap in the face that he would come out and say that I'm the type of guy that didn't try to help him, and all that. If you know me, if you go in the organization and you ask the other cornerbacks or anybody in the organization, they'll tell you: I'm a guy who's willing to help and lay it on the line each and every day. I'm not a guy to sit back and say, 'No, I'm not going to help you.' I'm not that guy. I've never been that guy. I don't care if you're right behind me or you're starting in front of me. If I know something, I'm going to let you know, because it can make the team better. If we're winning games, everybody's happy."

Norman and Munnerlyn both started for the Panthers in 2012, but Norman struggled in 2013, as Munnerlyn started all 16 games for a Panthers team that went 13-3. Norman said Munnerlyn and other veterans went too far in making him and the other rookies pick up the tab for an expensive dinner during their first season -- which is considered tradition on many teams -- and added he thought the 5-foot-9 Munnerlyn had "little man syndrome."

Said Munnerlyn on Monday: "It's probably deeper than what he's saying. I really don't know what it is. I'm just going to go out there and play football. I don't have to play against him; he don't have to play against me. He's got to worry about our offense; I've got to worry about their offense. I don't know where it came from, and I'm sure I won't say too much to him about it."

Munnerlyn said he is still close to a number of former Panthers teammates, adding he talks to linebacker Thomas Davis almost every day.

"It was difficult [to leave]," Munnerlyn said. "I was there five years, and that's the organization that gave me a chance to take my game to the next level. They came in the seventh round and drafted little old Captain Munnerlyn, and gave me a chance to go out there and play. I'm very thankful to that organization, for allowing me to take that opportunity. But hey, I'm a Minnesota Viking now; they took my career to the next level. I'm ready to compete and go out there and play."
Chicago Bears linebacker Lance Briggs left Sunday’s win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with a groin injury and rookie cornerback Kyle Fuller suffered a knee injury that forced him out of action, but Bears coach Marc Trestman declined to provide a real update on either of the injured starters.

Fuller
Briggs
Trestman said both will be evaluated more Tuesday, calling their injuries “ongoing situations.”

Briggs suffered his injury in the second quarter, and athletic trainers escorted the veteran to the locker room just before intermission. The club later announced he wouldn’t return when the Bears hit the field to start the second half.

Just minutes later, the Bears announced Fuller was out for the game.

A seven-time Pro Bowler with a contract set to expire at the end of the season, Briggs, 34, has already missed three games due to a rib injury.

Briggs currently earns $4.75 million in base salary from a three-year extension signed back in 2012, and there’s a chance the linebacker won’t be back after this season, a situation the veteran expects. Briggs has missed a total of 10 games over the past two seasons. He missed seven outings last year due to a fractured shoulder.

Fuller came into Sunday’s game tied for eighth in the NFL with three interceptions, which is first among rookies. Fuller has contributed 46 tackles and six pass breakups through 11 games and was credited with six tackles against the Buccaneers.

Despite breaking his right hand and suffering a hip pointer during the team’s Oct. 19 loss to the Miami Dolphins, Fuller hasn’t missed any games.
Tom Brady and Aaron RodgersGetty ImagesLeading NFL MVP candidates Tom Brady, left, and Aaron Rodgers face off Sunday at Lambeau Field.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. and GREEN BAY, Wisc. -- This is timely.

In his most recent review of the top 10 Most Valuable Player candidates for 2014, ESPN.com NFL Insider Mike Sando rated Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers No. 1, followed by New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. It seems safe to say there won’t be a change in the rankings this week.

So it’s No. 1 vs. No. 2, which actually marks the second meeting of the year for Rodgers and Brady since they spent time together at the Kentucky Derby in May.

This meeting will be held at Lambeau Field on Sunday (4:25 p.m. ET), and ESPN.com NFL Nation reporters Mike Reiss (Patriots) and Rob Demovsky (Packers) discuss the two quarterbacks:

Reiss: It seems that both Rodgers and Brady had their "R-E-L-A-X" moments this season. The Patriots’ came Sept. 29 after that blowout loss to the Chiefs that dropped them to 2-2, and everyone was questioning Brady when he turned to one longtime beat reporter in the locker room and said, "Talk to me in November." Refresh the memory on when Rodgers went into R-E-L-A-X mode, and what has turned it around for him?

Demovsky: If the Packers end up going to the Super Bowl, you could cite Tuesday, Sept. 23, as perhaps the key to it. That is when Rodgers uttered those five letters on his ESPN Milwaukee radio show, and it’s become sort of the mantra for the season. Two days earlier, the Packers had lost to the Detroit Lions 19-7 in a game in which the Packers’ offense was uncharacteristically unproductive. There was a sense of panic, not within the walls of Lambeau Field, but among fans who wondered why this team was 1-2 for the third straight season. Here is what made the R-E-L-A-X comment so impactful: Rodgers doesn’t typically go out on a limb with his comments to the media, so when he made this kind of strong statement, it probably carried more weight in the locker room. The Packers went to Chicago the next Sunday and beat the Bears to start their current 7-1 streak.

Brady has been the picture of consistency and longevity, and he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. Rodgers has said he would like to play until he’s 40. What can he learn from Brady that might help him stay on top of his game for that long?

Reiss: Brady doesn’t just want to play until he’s 40. Privately, he has his sights set on a higher number, which he’s hinted at over the last year or so. As for what Rodgers might learn, something that comes to mind is what Brady said about Peyton Manning prior to the Patriots-Broncos game on Nov. 2. "It’s not just a daily commitment; it’s a life commitment," Brady said that day. "Every decision you make is a conscious decision to try to help your team win, whether that’s in March or that’s in September or November. You can’t just flip the switch when it matters. ... You’re either getting better or you’re getting worse, and I’ve always respected [Manning], because he’s always someone who has chosen to get better, and he’s obviously a great leader to encourage the rest of those guys to do the same."

Brady is the same way, and even at this stage of his career, he is challenging himself to improve areas of deficiency (e.g., athleticism in the pocket to extend plays this season). He has also worked hard to find ways to connect with teammates, because as he gets older, that can become more challenging with newcomers who were 5 or 6 years old when he first entered the NFL.

By nature of the position, both quarterbacks are put into leadership roles. How would you characterize Rodgers’ leadership style? How has it evolved over time?

Demovsky: In the beginning, it was a quiet approach. He wouldn’t say much publicly to rally people the way, say, a Charles Woodson would in his days here.

But this is something that tells what you kind of guy Rodgers is in the locker room: When the Packers bring in someone new -- whether it’s right after the draft, an offseason signing or a free-agent pickup during the season -- he always makes a point to introduce himself to the player and welcome him to the room. I would think that would carry some weight with players. Rodgers won't always be the one to lead the locker room rah-rah, but he picks his spots, such as the R-E-L-A-X comment, which ends up being more impactful.

On the field, Rodgers is one of the best at taking care of the ball. He almost never throws those really "bad" interceptions. He has cited Brady’s 2010 season, when he threw 36 touchdowns and only four interceptions, as one the best seasons by a quarterback. What is Brady’s philosophy on taking care of the football?

Reiss: Let’s use Sunday’s win against the Lions as a good example of this. Brady finished 38-of-53 for 349 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception against the NFL’s No. 1-rated defense, so you would say that’s a pretty good day, right? Well, on Monday morning, he was still fuming at himself for one very poor decision -- an early third-quarter interception by safety James Ihedigbo in the red zone on a pass intended for tight end Rob Gronkowski. Brady loses sleep over those types of mistakes, even in a 34-9 win. "I was trying to see Gronk, and Ihedigbo was reading me. I was just on Gronk too long. I should have known better. That was one that pissed me off the most all day," he said Monday morning on sports radio WEEI.

Brady previously mentioned that Rodgers and Jordy Nelson are probably the best in the NFL at the back-shoulder throw. What makes them so effective?

Demovsky: I dove into that earlier this season because it seemed to be an unusually good connection. Readers can get a refresher here. But simply put, it’s two things: Rodgers’ pinpoint accuracy, and the thousands upon thousands of reps he and Nelson have had together since 2008. Even though they were not in the same draft class (Rodgers was ’05, Nelson was ’08) they really came in together in the sense that 2008 was Rodgers’ first year as a starter. By now, it’s almost as if they know what the other is thinking at all times. They make it look easy, but it’s not. There was a play in Sunday’s game against the Vikings where Rodgers threw back shoulder to Davante Adams and the rookie receiver kept running the go route. That almost never happens between Rodgers and Nelson.

This is a non-football question, but Rodgers has recently started dating actress Olivia Munn, famous for her role in "The Newsroom," but he’s fairly guarded when it comes to his personal life. I’m curious: How does Brady deal with the Hollywood aspect of his marriage to Gisele BŁndchen?

Reiss: There aren’t too many things, if any, that Brady has difficulty handling. He is smooth in the public forum, and whenever the topic comes up, he always seems to say the right thing, and he has been a bit more open this year in terms of sharing some of that side of his life on social media. From my viewpoint, this is one of those situations where perception doesn’t necessarily match reality. People might see pictures of the couple in various locations and assume that Brady isn’t as committed to the football side of things as when he was a hungry rookie in 2000, but that is not the case. His life might be a bit more balanced now, and it’s simpler for him too -- after family and football, there isn’t much time for anything else. This is what he lives for.
Each week from here to the end of the season, we’ll assess Detroit’s standing in the NFC North and NFC wild card races.

And as of now, the Lions are right in the middle of the hunt in both situations.

Detroit

Record: 7-4

Remaining opponents record: 24-31

Seed as of now: Out of playoffs due to tiebreaker with Seattle (common opponents)

Games left: Chicago, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, at Chicago, at Green Bay.

NFC North:

Green Bay

Record: 8-3

Remaining opponents record: 27-27

Games left: New England, Atlanta, at Buffalo, at Tampa Bay, Detroit

Seed as of now: No. 2

Lions interests: Detroit still has a shot here, but it is tough to see the Packers losing to Atlanta or at Tampa Bay. New England is a possibility this weekend, but Green Bay has not lost at Lambeau Field this season. At Buffalo could be tricky as well and then there’s the season finale against the Lions. For that game to matter for divisional purposes, Detroit needs to either gain a game back on the Packers or at least keep pace at one game behind. Another Detroit loss combined with a Green Bay win would make any sort of NFC North crown very dicey.

NFC:

Top seed/NFC bye:

Arizona

Record: 9-2

Seed as of now: No. 1

Who they have left: at Atlanta, vs. Kansas City, at St. Louis, vs. Seattle, at San Francisco

What needs to happen for the Lions to get the No. 1 seed: Highly unlikely at this point. They are two games back of Arizona, and the Cardinals hold the tie-breaker as of now, too. Arizona’s schedule is tough down the stretch, but even so, the Lions do not look like a team capable of making up that ground right now.

 

Wild-card race:

Philadelphia

Record: 8-3

Remaining opponents record: 29-26

Games left: at Dallas, Seattle, Dallas, at Washington, at New York Giants

Seed as of now: No. 3

Lions interests: There will be a lot more known about what the Lions need from Philadelphia and Dallas after the teams play each other Thursday. But right now, the Lions likely could still use a split from these games. Both the Eagles and Cowboys have similar schedules down the stretch -- each other twice, one difficult non-division opponent at home and a game against Washington. The only difference is Dallas plays at Chicago while the Eagles play the Giants. If one team sweeps the other in those Dallas-Philadelphia games, though, the Lions would actually be better off with Dallas winning the division and Philadelphia in a wild-card spot because Detroit holds the No. 2 tiebreaker over the Eagles (conference record, where the Lions are 5-2 and the Eagles are 4-3).

Dallas

Record: 8-3

Remaining opponents record: 29-26

Games left: Philadelphia, at Chicago, at Philadelphia, Indianapolis, at Washington

Seed as of now: No. 5

Lions interests: As mentioned above, the Lions would be in a better position as of today if the Cowboys won the division and sent the Eagles into any potential wild card tie. That could easily change, though, considering the No. 2 tiebreaker is conference record and wins/losses between the teams would play a role. From a competitive standpoint, though, Detroit might want Dallas to win the division over Philadelphia because if they ended up in a No. 3 vs. No. 6 matchup, the Cowboys might be the more beatable team.

San Francisco

Record: 7-4

Remaining opponents record: 31-24

Games left: Seattle, at Oakland, at Seattle, San Diego, Arizona

Seed as of now: Out of playoffs

Lions interests: Right now, the 49ers are tied with the Lions and Seahawks for the final playoff spot. Those San Francisco-Seattle games will be extremely important to Detroit. If one of the two sweeps the other, the chances of a two-way wild card tie instead of a three-way one increase dramatically. If there’s a split, it could come to a three-way tie. Right now, Detroit is out of the playoffs, and if they were in a two-way tie with the 49ers, they would lose out due to conference record.

Seattle

Record: 7-4

Remaining opponents record: 35-20

Games left: at San Francisco, at Philadelphia, San Francisco, at Arizona, St. Louis

Seed as of now: No. 6 seed

Lions interests: Right now the Lions are in a two-way tiebreaker with Seattle -- the Seahawks eliminate the 49ers in a first tiebreak scenario -- and would be in the playoffs due to the third tiebreaker: common opponents if there are four or more. Right now, the Seahawks are 4-0 against common opponents (Arizona, Green Bay, Carolina and the New York Giants) while the Lions are 2-2. The Seahawks can be no worse than 4-1 there while the Lions can be no better than 3-2 so if the overall and conference records are the same, Detroit will lose out on a seed or playoff berth if it reaches the third tiebreaker. For that reason, the Lions need San Francisco to beat Seattle.

Packers can move on to New England

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In the moments shortly after Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Green Bay Packers weren't quite ready to start thinking about or discussing Sunday's showdown with the New England Patriots at Lambeau Field.

"Haven't even thought about it yet," Packers receiver Jordy Nelson said Sunday before he left TCF Bank Stadium for the short flight from Minneapolis. "I'll worry about that on Monday."

Well, it's Monday, and it's time to move on to the Patriots.

Here's why Sunday's game between the Patriots (9-2) and the Packers (8-3) has the potential to be a monumental game:
  • Brady
    Rodgers
    It's the first – and potentially last – head-to-head meeting between MVP quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady as starters.
  • It's a matchup of the current No. 1 seed in the AFC and the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
  • It's a potential Super Bowl preview, which, of course, would mean it wouldn't be the last meeting between the two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks.

"It's just another big game for us," Packers right guard T.J. Lang said. "We've been playing well lately. They don't all come easy, like they have the past couple games. We've got to grind some out like we did [Sunday]."

The Packers haven't played the Patriots since their 2010 loss at New England, a game Rodgers missed because of a concussion he sustained the previous week at Detroit. Matt Flynn played in his place and nearly rallied the Packers to a victory, only to lose 31-27.

"To be honest with you, I don't think many of us are going to use that as motivation," Packers linebacker Clay Matthews said. "We did win a Super Bowl that year, didn't we?"

Indeed, they did. But if they want to be considered the favorite to win it again this season, a victory over the Patriots might be a requirement.

Rodgers' only appearance against Brady came in a 2006 game at Lambeau Field in relief of an injured Brett Favre. Rodgers finished that game, but afterward it was discovered that he sustained a season-ending fractured foot.

Bill Belichick tweaks Dominic Raiola

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
10:55
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video
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork called out Lions center Dominic Raiola after Sunday's game for what he said was an "uncalled for" block while Detroit was kneeling on the ball at the end of the game.

On Monday, Bill Belichick was asked his opinion of the play and he provided his own zinger.

“I’m sure there was a lot of frustration there from Raiola. That was obvious," he said. "He’s never beaten us. He had a tough day in there dealing with [Vince] Wilfork and [Dont’a] Hightower and those guys.

"I’d say that was probably frustration. We saw a lot of that at the end of the game -- [Tahir] Whitehead on [LeGarrette] Blount’s touchdown, [C.J.] Mosley on the personal foul on the field goal.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – They had miscommunications that led to open receivers. Against a Hall of Fame quarterback, that was a crippling blow to the Detroit Lions' chances of beating the New England Patriots.

The Lions had the top-ranked scoring and overall defense entering Sunday’s game. New England and Tom Brady dissected what the Lions have been able to do and exploited Detroit like no team has this season.

Caldwell
Caldwell
Typically, no matter how much Detroit has struggled on offense or in special teams, Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been able to point to his defense as a bright spot. Not Sunday, after 34 points allowed and a second straight game without a sack.

“They were able to move the ball, score touchdowns on us and we got a little settled down there for a while right after the half,” Caldwell said. “But they still were able to handle us pretty well.”

New England essentially abandoned the run until late in the game, rushing only six times in the first half and 20 times overall. They instead trusted their Hall of Fame quarterback, who completed 38 of 53 passes for 349 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.

On those touchdowns, the Lions lost tight end New England tight end Tim Wright, who was incredibly wide open on both plays. Communication breakdowns, safety James Ihedigbo said, led to some of the issues.

“They run a fast-paced offense. They schemed us up pretty good,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “We didn’t execute our defense.”

It has been an all-around stingy defense all season, ranked in the top 10 in essentially every major defensive category entering Sunday. And even after they were beaten handily for the first time this season, the Lions’ defense remained among the best in the league in all of those categories – including points allowed (17.3 per game) and run defense (70.73 yards a game and 3.15 yards per play).

“They just executed at a high level,” Ihedigbo said. “You have to give hats off to New England. They came out. They went up-tempo. They did what they did well and just, they executed.”
MINNEAPOLIS – It might have been the longest 1-yard touchdown pass in Green Bay Packers' history, and for that reason the floater that Aaron Rodgers heaved across the field to rookie tight end Richard Rodgers on Sunday will serve as one of the most memorable scoring plays of the season.

Based on multiple looks at the replay -- and with a little geometry (see the Pythagorean theorem) to help in the calculation -- the ball traveled an estimated 39.4 yards through the air, according to unofficial calculations. The nearest Vikings' defender was at least 15 yards away.

Rodgers
Rodgers
Here's how it happened: In the second quarter of Sunday's 24-21 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, the Packers had a first-and-goal at the 1 after a 34-yard catch and run by Andrew Quarless. Coach Mike McCarthy then went with a three tight-end, two-back package that called for Aaron Rodgers to roll to his right. Almost everyone went with him, except Richard Rodgers. He waited for the entire Vikings' defense to follow the ball and then after a few seconds slipped out to the back left corner of the end zone.

By the time the rookie was waving his hands in the air about 3 yards from the back corner of the end zone, his quarterback was already at the numbers near the 10-yard line on the right side of the field.

"You usually don't have to throw the ball 20 or 30 yards for a 1-yard touchdown,” McCarthy said. "I'm sure you guys will measure that out and correct me. But Richard ran a great route on the back side. It's a delay route. Aaron delayed more than he probably needed to, but it was obviously a great throw."

And one that seemingly hung in the air for, as Richard Rodgers said, "forever. "

"I was just open, no one was really covering me," he said "So I was just standing back there waving."

Quarless was actually the primary read on the front side of the play, while Richard Rodgers was the second option on the back side.

"It didn't feel great that the back side was going to be open, so as I came off the fake and extended the play, Andrew got caught a little bit inside, so that was dead, " Aaron Rodgers said. "And at the last minute, I kind of saw him [Richard Rodgers] out of the corner of my eye and knew I had to put a little something on that to get it over there."

It gave the Packers a 14-7 lead with 5:23 left in the second quarter.
CHICAGO -- David Bass' biography blurb in the Chicago Bears' press packet leading into Sunday's 22-13 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is an unremarkable read, to say the least.

- Inactive Weeks 1-2.
- Did not play Weeks 3 and 5.
- Waived 10/7
- Signed to the Bears practice squad 10/8.
- Signed to the active roster 11/3.

Yet Bass, a second-year veteran, made arguably the most significant play of Chicago's victory over the Buccaneers with his third-quarter strip-sack of Josh McCown, which led to the first of Matt Forte's two touchdown runs. With the Bears down 10-7 with 5:09 left in the third quarter, Bass dropped McCown for a 12-yard loss with Christian Jones recovering at the Tampa Bay 13.

Forte busted a 13-yard run on the next play to give Chicago the lead for the first time all afternoon.

"Josh does a great job of escaping the pocket," Bass said. "He's a fast and mobile quarterback, and we saw that last year. We studied the offensive line that we were going against and tried to find their weaknesses to maximize every opportunity we got."

Bass certainly did that against the Buccaneers, but it's clear he's capitalizing on his latest break. Lamarr Houston suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 26 at New England, and veteran Trevor Scott has been inactive the last two weeks due to a knee injury. That opened the door to more playing time for Bass, who kicked it down Sunday with a strong showing.

"You know me, I'm just trying to maximize every opportunity I get," Bass said. "It's a blessing just to be here. Anytime I get a chance to go out onto the field, I just want to go out there and have fun."

Bass admitted to being disappointed with the team cutting him and later placing him on the practice squad.

"I like to control what I can control. Unfortunately, I didn't like the way that played out, but that's part of the game," Bass said. "I just kept telling myself God's got a plan and whatever's meant to be is going to happen. I just stayed patient."
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MINNEAPOLIS -- Teddy Bridgewater's first NFC North game was supposed to come against the Green Bay Packers in prime time at Lambeau Field four days after he threw for 317 yards in his first NFL start. The fact the rookie missed that game with a sprained ankle, evidently, was still on his mind on Sunday, when a quarterback usually lauded for his composure came out firing rockets.

[+] EnlargeTeddy Bridgewater
Adam Bettcher/Getty ImagesTeddy Bridgewater struggled in the first half of his first game against NFC North rival Green Bay.
"I wasn't able to play the first time we played the Green Bay Packers, and I was just trying to get a feel for this rivalry," Bridgewater said. "I think I was just very excited to be able to play the Green Bay Packers for the first time. I just have to settle down and remain poised and let the game come to me."

On a day when their defense held the league's hottest offense to 24 points and their cornerbacks won plaudits from Aaron Rodgers, the Vikings will have to wonder if they could have secured their first NFC North win of the year had Bridgewater been more accurate. In the first two quarters, he overshot Charles Johnson deep, threw too high for Jarius Wright, had an interception overturned by a holding penalty, fired a 9-yard pass that required a leaping grab from Greg Jennings, floated an interception that Micah Hyde said "felt like it was in the air for five seconds" and threw another high pass that Tramon Williams nearly intercepted. In the third, he missed Johnson on a deep throw after Sam Shields fell down, costing the Vikings a chance at a touchdown before Blair Walsh's field goal.

Bridgewater settled down in the fourth quarter, playing his best as he usually does when the Vikings tried to rally late. He hit eight of his 10 throws in the fourth quarter, for 69 yards and a touchdown, as the Vikings pulled within three of Green Bay. But the efficient, assured quarterbacking Bridgewater did at the end of the game made it easy to wonder why he couldn't play that way earlier.

"I didn't think he was as accurate as he normally is early in the ballgame," coach Mike Zimmer said. "He had a couple of high throws, a couple of missed throws. He seemed to settle down in the second half -- now, he got hit a bunch of times; we didn't protect him nearly well enough. He continued to keep drives alive in the second half, so those were all good things. We have to start, he needs to play better in the first half."

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Bridgewater was off target on seven of his 37 passes on Sunday, which was tied for the third-most off-target throws he has had in a game this season. He generally hasn't been among the league's wildest quarterbacks this season -- he's 15th in the league in terms of the most off-target throws per game -- but what sticks out is how many of his struggles have come early in games. On Sunday, six of his seven off-target throws came in the first half, and for the season, Bridgewater has the league's fifth-lowest QBR through two quarters.

"One of the things I told him is, 'You can't win a game by yourself; you can't lose a game by yourself,'" Jennings said. "When you have a guy that you know is trying to do everything the right way, you're willing to be patient. There's mistakes that I will make. There's mistakes he's going to make. But at the end of the day, I can't focus on the mistakes. We have to learn how to be together, and make sure we're doing things the right way to give our team a chance to win."

Bridgewater has criticized himself for overthinking things on a number of occasions this season, and his rough start to Sunday's game seemed to be because he was too fired up. It's another thing he's working through as a rookie quarterback, but on Sunday, it cost him a chance for a better debut against the Vikings' biggest rival.
CHICAGO -- Chicago Bears tailback Matt Forte praised the team’s opportunistic defense for keeping the club afloat after another lethargic first half by the offense that helped Tampa build a 10-0 lead and win the total yardage battle, 211 to 68.

Forte
Forte
“Basically at halftime coach was telling us that basically we just played the worst half of football and we’re only down 10 to nothing,” Forte said. “Our defense definitely kept us in the game with that. We can’t come out and lay an egg in the first half and expect to come from behind all the time. Luckily it was only 10 points. Our defense did a great job in the second half causing turnovers that we could convert into touchdowns down in the red zone. Our defense did a great job doing that and helped us win the game.”

Forte finished with a game-high 89 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the 21-13 victory, but the offense managed to put together scoring drives of only 58, 13 and 15 yards. The Bears scored 14 of their 21 points off turnovers provided by the defense.

Forte said penalties and a lack of attention to detail hurt the Bears all afternoon. The Bears have still not scored above 28 points in a game this year.

“It was all on us,” Forte said. “Penalties ... backing us up first-and-15 and not executing little nuances of the plays. If all 11 aren’t on the same page, sometimes the play can work but most times it won’t work. Halftime we came in and Kyle [Long] wrote on the board, ‘execute and no excuses.’ Don’t make excuses of why we didn’t do this or why we didn’t do that, just go out there and execute the plays and drive the ball down the field.”

Penalties continue to plague the Bears. Wide receiver Brandon Marshall was flagged three times in the first half, twice for illegal blocking (the Bucs declined one of the illegal blocking penalties) and once for a false start.

Marshall offered no explanations for why the Bears looked so sluggish, but he did throw a bouquet at the defense for its four-turnover, five-sack effort.

“Man, they won the game,” Marshall said. “They did a great job today. We’re really proud of them. They did a great job.”

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