NFC North Nuggets week 4

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Zack Goodrow, Sports Editor

CHICAGO BEARS (3-1) – Well, it turns out the Chicago Bears will not be going 16-0 after they lost to the Indianapolis Colts 11-19 in week four. They had to lose eventually, but their first defeat didn’t have to be in an abysmal game which almost put me to sleep. The headline of this game was Quarterback Nick Foles underperforming, finishing the game with a stat line of completing 26/42 passes for 249 yards with an interception and touchdown. Foles needs more time to develop with these Bears receivers. He had some inaccurate passes on easy plays and it’s obvious that he needs more time to gain chemistry with them. Foles was not good, but he also wasn’t that bad. The real issues come from the performance of the entire offense. 

The offense struggled to get anything going the entire game and they could not establish any rhythm. One can argue that the Bears struggles were because the Colts defense is one of the best in the entire league. Their defensive line was at full strength and the secondary was excellent. Even against a great defense, it’s inexcusable that the Bears could not gain any yards on the ground. RB David Montgomery gained a whopping total of 27 yards and averaged 2.7 yards per attempt. Most of the blame should be put on the offensive line. They couldn’t neutralize the Colts defensive line and couldn’t block anyone on the second level. Left tackle Charles Leno was especially bad, as Colts defensive end Justin Houston dominated him all game. Head coach Matt Nagy deserves some blame as well. He refused to change his game plan and the Bears offense is one of the most predictable in the league. 

The Bears receivers also need to improve. WR Anthony Miller is still dropping way too many passes. In his third year in the league, Miller has flashed signs of greatness at times, but his mistakes are now costing the Bears way too much. He’s even losing playing time to rookie receiver Darnell Mooney, who caught five passes for 52 yards. Mooney has been a pleasant surprise this year and he should continue to see the field more. WR Allen Robinson also had a nice game. He caught balls in traffic and finished the game with seven catches for 101 yards and a TD. 

The Bears defense struggled in the first half of this game. The Colts threw and ran all over this Bears defense, but they did hold up in the second half and stopped the Colts in key situations. Penalties killed the defense, like cornerback Kyle Fuller’s pass interference. The Bears finished the game with nine total penalties and the defense missed some tackles throughout the game. That’s not the recipe for success. The secondary was also getting beat in man coverage and the defensive line had a hard time generating pressure or plugging rushing lanes against the Colts fantastic offensive line. 

The defense was an issue for the Bears in the first half, but overall, they didn’t play that bad of a game. Over the past two seasons in the NFL, teams that hold their opponents to only 19 points have an 82% chance to win the game. The defense did what they had to in order to make this game winnable for the offense. The run defense gave up yards, but they limited the Colts to 107 yards on the ground. The defense only gave up one TD too and held the Colts to kicking field goals in the endzone. It will be a tough matchup this week against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but hopefully that Bears will find something that will spark this offense.  

DETROIT LIONS (1-3) – If the Lions ended their games in the first quarter of every game so far this year, they would be 4-0. Unfortunately for them, teams need to play all four quarters in order to win. Detroit was up 14-0, but no one can ever trust a Lions team with the lead until the game clock hits zero. In a very Lions and head coach Matt Patricia fashion, they let the New Orleans Saints rally back to score 35 unanswered points, and Detroit lost 29-35. I think it’s time to come to the realization that even though the Lions have talent, they’re a bad team. 

The Lions offense struggled to convert in key moments of this game. When they were losing on the scoreboard, they couldn’t convert on third downs. Detroit’s run game couldn’t generate anything. I’ve been a RB Adrian Peterson advocate for most of this season, suggesting that he should get the bulk of the handoffs. However, when you see Peterson not gaining any significant yards, you need to adjust your game plan. He ended the game with only 36 yards, while fellow backs D’Andre Swift and Kerryon Johnson were limited to four and three carries respectively. WR Marvin Jones needs to be targeted more as well. He only got two looks during the entire game and caught one pass. 

Matthew Stafford has not looked like a top tier QB this season. He hasn’t been bad, but he also has been as great as many fans thought he would be this season. His game winning drive against the Arizona Cardinals last week was fantastic, but he can’t be expected to do that every week. Stafford has had some amazing throws this season, but he’s also had several mistakes and costly interceptions. This week’s blunder came in the red zone, when he completely under threw tight end T.J. Hockenson and Saints CB Patrick Robinson got the interception. Stafford could have threw a jump ball in the corner of the end zone but instead the play ended with a pick. Stafford finished the game with three touchdowns, but he still did have several mistakes. The teams first two drives looked fantastic and at least WR Kenny Golladay had a great TD catch. 

The real issues with this Lions team is the defense. The unit has to improve if they want a chance to win games against tougher opponents. Through four games, the Lions have only five sacks. This week was their best game in pass rush as they sacked QB Drew Brees twice. The pass rush looked better this week in the first half of the game, but they have to develop consistency to be successful. The run defense was also atrocious. Backs Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray could not be stopped. The Saints TD on 3rd and goal when Murray ran into the end zone on a draw play was pitiful. The defense gave up 167 yards on the ground. With Patricia at the helm of this team, it will be a very long season for Lions fans. 

GREEN BAY PACKERS (4-0) – I have very little criticisms of the Green Bay Packers after their first four games of the season. They are in the top echelon of the league, and have a good chance of making the Super Bowl. They may be the best team in the NFC, with the only real challenger being the Seattle Seahawks. It looks like this is going to be a very special season for cheese heads everywhere.  

In this game against the Atlanta Falcons, QB Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to 30-16 victory. If I had to vote for an MVP through the first quarter of the season, it would have to be Rodgers. It looks as if the Rodgers has found the fountain of youth, as he has looked spectacular all year. This week he threw four touchdowns and 327 yards. On the season, he has 13 touchdowns, no interceptions, and 1,214 yards. Rodgers has been throwing the ball like a nerf football, throwing it with ease downfield and with pinpoint accuracy. Against the Falcons, Rodgers looked great rolling out of the pocket and keeping plays alive just to wait for a holding call on the Falcons secondary. He has been fantastic all year. 

Coming into 2020, people thought the Packers didn’t have a strong enough supporting cast, which would be the Packers downfall. This is not at all the case however. Without their best receiver, Davante Adams, the Packers still moved the ball effortlessly. RB Aaron Jones has looked great all season and against the Falcons he gained 71 yards on the ground and another 40 through the air with a TD. Fellow RB Jamal Williams was also excellent in the pass game, as he caught eight passes for 95 yards. Let’s not forget about TE Robert Tonyan’s performance as well. He led the team in receiving with six catches, 98 yards, and three touchdowns. The offensive line played great too. Rodgers barely had a scratch on him.   

The Packers defense has played adamantly this season as well. They gave up no passing touchdowns against the Falcons and limited them to only 78 rushing yards. The formula is there for the Packers to have a great defense. When all the pieces come together like they did in week four, it could be deadly. 

CB Jaire Alexander played amazingly as he limited the Falcons star receiver, Calvin Ridley, to zero catches. Alexander also did a nice job on fellow star WR Julio Jones, before Jones exited the game with an injury. Za’Darius Smith had his first great game of the season, amassing three sacks. When his teammates can take some of the double teams and pressure off of him, Smith is one of the best pass rushers in the league. Safety Adrian Amos also had a great game and had a really nice play defending a QB Matt Ryan pass to the end zone. Everything is clicking right now for the Packers as they go into their bye week.  

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (1-3) – It may have taken four weeks, but the Minnesota Vikings finally have a win. The offense put together a game that scored enough to win and the defense did just enough not to lose. It may have not been pretty, but the Vikings 31-23 victory against the Houston Texans is a good sign from a once lifeless team. 

QB Kirk Cousins has not been great so far this season. He’s put together some bad games, but against the Texans, he performed well enough to win. He only passed for 260 yards and one TD, but he also didn’t make many mistakes. Some balls were inaccurate, but overall he played a good game. The play where he was running backwards to escape the Texans pass rushers and threw the ball to TE Kyle Rudolph was fantastic. Hopefully Cousins builds off this performance. 

The real hero of the Vikings offense is RB Dalvin Cook. HE currently leads the NFL in rushing yards, 424, and he could not be brought down by the Texans defenders. Cooks runs ferociously and he should be the focal point of this offense. He ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns in week four. 

The Vikings receivers also played a great game. Along with Cook, receivers Adam Thielen and Justin Jefferson amassed over 100 yards against the Texans. The post route and catch Thielen had in the endzone was great. Jefferson’s performance of the past two weeks is more valuable though, as it leads to less pressure on Thielen by defenders. Jefferson has looked great with his route running and excellent pass catching hands. He and Cousins have developed rapport these past two weeks, and Cousins now trusts Jefferson enough to throw him the ball in tight coverages. 

Minnesota’s defense finally played well enough to win a game. Their goal line stand at the end of the game was huge for this team. They have missed an identity and this performance on the goal line to win the game should pay dividends in the future. They would have potentially lost the game if Texans WR Will Fuller had caught the pass, but a win is still a win. The Vikings run defense played pretty well giving up 96 yards. The Texans run attack is one of the worst in the league however. The pass rush also showed signs of life. DE Yannick Ngakoue had two sacks and DE Ifeadi Odenigbo had consistent pressure on Texans QB Deshaun Watson. 

The team wasn’t without makes however, as the defense had massive communication issues. As soon as leader of the defense, SS Harrison Smith was ejected, the unit was in disorey. The secondary is still the biggest issue with the team, and they gave up some big play with Smith’s absence. CB Cameron Danzler messed up in coverage on a Fuller TD catch. SS George Iloka also had some costly mistakes, giving up a TD as well. 

It’s a good sign that a previously winless team in the Vikings got their first victory. Maybe they can put it together and make a push for the playoffs. It will be an extremely uphill battle however. Nonetheless, this win should be celebrated by Vikings fans.