Packers re-establish NFC North supremacy in Week 11
So much for a changing of the guard in the NFC North.
Rumors of the demise of the Green Bay Packers following three straight losses proved extremely premature Sunday as the Packers lambasted the formerly first-place Minnesota Vikings 30-13, while elsewhere the Detroit Lions pulled out a win and the Chicago Bears fell short against Denver.
Following losses to Denver, Carolina and Detroit, Green Bay had fallen to 6-3 and was in second place behind the 7-2 Vikings, with this being the first match-up between the NFC North foes. In Minnesota, with the young home team primed to establish a new order in a division dominated over the past six or seven years by Green Bay, the Vikings proved no match for the Packers.
Nov 22, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) throws during the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Packers defeated the Vikings 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers threw for 212 yards and two touchdowns on 16 of 34 passing, Eddie Lacy ran for 100 yards on 22 carries and the Packers defense sacked Teddy Bridgewater six times and held Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on just 13 carries.
Nov 22, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews (52) celebrates during the third quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium. The Packers defeated the Vikings 30-15. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Unfortunately for us Bears fans, Sunday marked a likely turning point for Green Bay, in two ways. It represented far more of a team effort to get the win, rather than Rodgers doing his Superman routine. Instead, Lacy and the defense contributed greatly, making up for Rodgers completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes. This could signal a shift with Green Bay moving from Aaron Rodgers and the Rodgerettes to a more complete team.
Also, it represents the last team Green Bay will play over its next four games who has a record above .500. Minnesota, meanwhile, gets Atlanta (6-4), Seattle (5-5) and Arizona (8-2) over the next three weeks, two of which are on the road. Green Bay could open up a three game lead on the Vikes in the next three weeks, all but clinching them another divisional title.
Nov 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler (6) passes the ball during the second half against the Denver Broncos at Soldier Field. Denver won 17-15. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Elsewhere, the Bears looked spirited against the now 8-2 Denver Broncos, but fell 17-15 as rookie running back Jeremy Langford was stopped short on a two-point conversion with less than 30 seconds left and Denver recovered the onside kick.
The Bears’ defense managed to hold Denver to fewer than 20 points and collected five sacks, but allowed a season-high 170 rushing yards, failed to produce a turnover and allowed Brock Osweiler, making his first start, to throw for 250 yards on 20-of-27 passing.
Nov 22, 2015; Chicago, IL, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Brock Osweiler (17) under pressure from Chicago Bears inside linebacker Shea McClellin (50) during the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports
Offensively, the Bears were badly limited as starting running back Matt Forte and the team’s top two receivers, Alshon Jeffery and Eddie Royal, all missed the game. Marquess Wilson stepped up with 102 yards on four catches and Josh Bellamy added 57 receiving yards.
Quarterback Jay Cutler had two turnovers in the second half, though neither led to points for Denver. Cutler rebounded to lead the Bears on a touchdown drive in the fourth quarter and ended up throwing for 265 yards.
With the loss, the faint playoff hopes for the Bears (4-6) are pretty much dashed, but they’ve got plenty of chances to play spoiler, with games left against Green Bay (coming up Thursday night) and Minnesota.
Nov 22, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) scores a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Oakland Raiders at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Finally, the last-place Lions improved to 3-7 with an 18-13 win over the Oakland Raiders.
The running game is still atrocious for the Lions – 109 yards on 31 carries, with quarterback Matthew Stafford contributing 31 of those yards – but Stafford threw for 282 yards and ran for the go-ahead score.
The defense, meanwhile, one week after shutting down Green Bay, held a strong Raiders offense to 50 rushing yards on 21 carries and 164 passing yards.
Looking forward, the primary game for the division in Week 12 is the Chicago-Green Bay matchup on Thanksgiving night. The Packers have won six of the last eight, and Jay Cutler hasn’t beaten the Packers since 2010. It’s a longshot for the Bears to win, but if Jeffery and Forte play, and Cutler doesn’t turn the ball over, they could put points on the board and pressure on a suddenly inconsistent Packers offense.
Elsewhere, the Vikings travel to Atlanta, and the Lions host Philadelphia on Thanksgiving.
For a final snapshot after Week 11, the Packers are in first place with a 7-3 record, while the Vikings are in second with the same record, with Green Bay’s tiebreaker coming via their win over Minnesota. The Bears are in third at 4-6, and Detroit is in fourth at 3-7.
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