NFC North Nuggets week 2

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Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

CHICAGO BEARS (2-0) The Chicago Bears game against the New York Giants in week two was a tale of two halves. Let’s start with QB Mitchell Trubisky, who looked excellent in the first half and faltered in the second. To begin the game, Trubisky looked like the same QB who took down the Detroit Lions in the fourth quarter in week one. He was patient in the pocket, rolled out and made plays when his first receiving option was covered and ran for first downs. His touchdown pass to receiver Darnell Mooney really summed up just how much Trubisky can look like an NFL starting QB. 

While the Bears have looked much like the 2018 team that won the division, they also have inconsistencies on offense. Trubisky is not immune to these inconsistencies, as the offense as a whole struggled to score in the second half. Even with these struggles, Trubisky and the offense were impressive picking up third-down conversions, even with receivers were struggling and dropping passes. On only a handful of occasions last year did the team score a touchdown on their first drive or score ten points in the first quarter. The Bears look better this season, but they need to be more consistent to be a real threat in the NFC North. 

Trubisky may have been the talk of the game after regulation concluded, but the real star for the Bears was running back David Montgomery. He got the majority of the Bears backfield carries with 16 and produced on his opportunities gaining 82 yards. He was also a threat in the passing game, catching three passes for 45 yards and a TD. On Montgomery’s TD catch he was superb reading his blockers and creating space in the open field. He also looked incredible in the 4th quarter, when he had two consecutive ten yard runs. Give credit to this much improved Bears offensive line too. Center Cody Whitehair was excellent in the run game and protected Trubisky. 

Chicago’s second-half mini-collapse was self-imposed. While I don’t disagree with coach Matt Nagy’s conservative play calling in the second half, the Bears offense did seem to be predictable. They would run on the first couple of downs and throw on the third. This game plan might have worked better as well if not for the two turnovers in the second half. The first Trubisky interception wasn’t great. He forced a pass in the middle of the field in coverage. While it’s not normally a pass that should be intercepted, it was not a risk that was necessary. His second interception was just a great play by Giants cornerback James Bradberry. He just ripped the ball out of WR Allen Robinson’s hands and covered him excellently.   

The Bears defense still looks as dominant as it has for the past few seasons. The pass rush finally showed up and the team had four sacks. New addition Robert Quinn made his presence felt in the game at the outside linebacker position and had a sack. OLB Khalil Mack was also in the backfield all day. The pass rush was good, but it still has potential it hasn’t reached. It has the opportunity to lead the league in sacks if they can take another step. 

The last note I’d like to cover is just how good the Bears rookie class has looked in the first two games. CB Jaylon Johnson has played exceptionally. He seems to fit perfectly with this Bears defense. Fifth-round pick Mooney has also made his presence felt on the field and has been a pleasant surprise.  His jump ball touchdown catch made him seem like he’s been a player in the league for years. His blocking on the Montgomery touchdown also seemed like something a veteran receiver would do. Tight end Cole Kmet also had a nice catch in the middle of the field. If Chicago can continue to trust these young players they should continue to win games.

Detroit Lions (0-2) Why Matt Patricia is still employed is beyond me. So far in his Detroit Lions tenure, his record is 9-24-1, and the team looks as bad as they’ve ever been. General manager Bob Quinn should also be shown the door. I understand the duo working together to get players to fit Patricia’s system, but in year three things are still not clicking. The Lions have lost 11 straight games, and they’re the first team in NFL history to lose four straight when they were leading by double digits at some point during the game. As a supposed defensive guru, Patricia is fielding a team that currently ranks second to last in total defense and the Packers gained over 500 yards against the Lions in week two. It’s only a matter of time until the Lions will be hosting head coach and general manager candidates for interviews. 

It’s amazing how the Lions offense can look great at times and like an absolute disaster moments later. As soon as the Lions were behind on the scoreboard to begin the second half, the offense was put on the formerly broken back of QB Matthew Stafford. Stafford is an underrated QB in the league, but it’s unreasonable to expect him to throw the Lions into a victory. Instead of having a balanced running and passing attack that the team used that got themselves on the board early against the Packers, the team opted to pass the ball vertically for much of the second half when they were losing. 

Stafford was great in the first half but slowly slipped as the game went on. The pick-six he threw was absolutely horrendous, throwing the ball to the sideline with Packers CB Chandon Sullivan up top and reading the ball perfectly. That’s not a ball a veteran starting quarterback should throw. The play that the Packers almost got a safety was bad as well for Stafford. Instead of throwing the ball away he stood up in the pocket and almost was sacked in the endzone. 

When the Lions shifted to their pass-heavy attack, the offensive line collapsed in the fourth quarter. All in all, the offensive line performed adamantly led by center Frank Ragnow. However, as soon as the Lions play calling went down the hole, the Packers were able to send rushers perfectly as they knew the Lions would throw the ball.  

While the Lions offense was bad, the defense was the true culprit of Detroit’s 42-21 loss. First off, safety Will Harris played terribly. In one Packers drive, Harris coughed up two penalties that almost single-handedly got Green Bay into the red zone. Harris had an unnecessary roughness call when WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught a ball and went out of bounds. On the next play, Harris had a horse-collar penalty that put the Packers in field goal range. 

The run defense was horrible, giving up 259 yards on the ground. The pass rush was also non-existent as the team had a total of one sack. The real disappointment of the game, however, was the performance of third overall pick CB Jeff Okudah. Okudah had a rough first NFL start. He looked slow in pass coverage and made several mistakes defending receivers. It doesn’t help that his fellow defensive backs in Harris and S Tracy Walker also left receivers open. I know Okudah was the team’s number one cornerback with Desmond Trufant out, but Patricia should have put him in better situations rather than matching up with Packers star receiver Devante Adams.  

The Lions also need to utilize RB Adrian Peterson more. Peterson has looked fantastic in his first two games in Detroit, and last week he ran seven times for 41 yards. He averaged 5.9 yards per carry, however, and should be the Lions’ main back moving forward. In positive news, Detroit should get back their number one receiver, Kenny Golladay, in their week three matchup against the Arizona Cardinals. It’s not too late in the season to become a competent and competitive football team, but for the rest of the year, hope seems bleak for the Detroit Lions. 

GREEN BAY PACKERS (2-0) QB Aaron Rodgers is once again in MVP form. Through the first two games of the season, he and the entire Packers offense have looked unstoppable. That may change when the team plays a more formidable defense other than the Lions and the Minnesota Vikings, but for now the Green Bay Packers remain undefeated. 

It wasn’t just Rodgers dynamic arm that led the team to a victory last week, it was also the contributions made by RB Aaron Jones. Jones not only led the team in receptions, four catches for 68 yards and a TD, but he was unstoppable on the ground rushing for 168 yards, 2 touchdowns, and averaged 9.3 yards a carry. Green Bay even had Jones out wide catches passing, proving he’s an all-purpose back. The Packers offensive line deserves some of the credit as well. They kept Rodgers off the ground for the majority of the game and pushed up gaping holes for all the Packers rushers. 

Against Detroit, the Packers defense was dominant. Even without DT Kenny Clark, the Packers held the Lions to just 89 rushing yards and seven points in the second half. They had a great pass rush for the majority of the game, pressuring Stafford consistently. LB Rashan Gary had a great game filling up Detroit rushing holes and totaling one and a half sacks. CB Jaire Alexander also made his case as one of the best defensive backs in the league last week as he shut down any Lions receivers that came his way. 

The only issue with the Packers team is their receiving core. However good Rodgers can be, he still needs help from his pass-catchers. Valdes-Scantling and TE Jace Sternberg dropped six passes throughout the game. Green Bay already looks like a much better team this season then they were last year. If their receivers can make fewer mistakes, they may be almost unstoppable. 

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (0-2) Well, this is not what Minnesota Vikings fans were expecting at all. Head coach Mike Zimmer has consistently fielded a good team and the thought was that even with a young team with new players, the Vikings would find cohesion and be successful again. That still may happen as the season is young, but thus far Minnesota has seemed lost on both sides of the ball. 

QB Kirk Cousins looked awful last Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts. He finished the contest completing a mere 42% of his passes, for 113 yards, no touchdowns, and three interceptions. While one of those interruptions might have been on a hail mary at the end of the first half, there were several other balls he threw that should have been picked. One of his interceptions was a terrible decision, throwing the ball downfield to WR Adam Thielen who was double covered. Thielen is one of the most talented receivers in the league and is great at coming down with 50/50 balls. I’m no mathematician, but the decision to throw the ball fifty yards downfield to Thielen who was tightly covered by two defenders was not a 50/50 throw. 

It wasn’t just Cousins being terrible, it was the entire offense struggling. The offensive line was abused by the Colts all game. There were terrible penalties and drops. The team was also being put in terrible field position and coming off the field on three and outs. This gave the Colts ample opportunity to score. 

The biggest issue with the Vikings offense is their wide receivers. Thielen is the only established receiver on the team. Cousin has targeted him heavily as other young receivers on the team struggle to get open or catch passes. This allowed Indianapolis to shut down Thielen as they knew he’d be the only reliable target. 

As bad as the offense was last week, the defense is even worse. They are now without LB Anthony Barr for the year after he suffered a torn pectoral muscle. Without him, Colts’ RB Jonathan Taylor ran all over the defense with running for 101 yards and a TD. Minnesota’s defensive line generated little pass rush last week as well. With small production from the defensive line up front with young players, it will be difficult for the back half of the defense to produce. At least new addition to the team, DE Yannick Ngakoue, got a sack.

The Vikings lost a very winnable game against the Colts last week. They were unable to stop Indianapolis on defense or generate any production on offense. It may be a rough several weeks for the Vikings as they continue to build chemistry. If they are unable to develop young players quickly to compete on both sides of the ball, they may be in for an extremely long season.