NFC North Recap: What did we takeaway from week two?

With week two of the 2021 NFL season officially in the books, how did the NFC North, the Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, Detroit Lions, and Minnesota Vikings perform? For the first time all season, the NFC North finished with two wins and two losses, as Chicago and Green Bay secured their first wins of the new year while Minnesota and Detroit lost for a second straight week.

1) Chicago Bears

What more could you ask for if you’re a Chicago Bears fan? Sunday saw the Bears get their first win of the season with rookie quarterback Justin Fields getting extended playing time after veteran quarterback Andy Dalton left the game with an apparent knee injury. Fields was explosive as a runner but also showcased the ability to throw wide receivers open, as evidenced by dropped passes that should’ve been touchdowns to Darnell Mooney and Allen Robinson.

The Bears’ defense was also fired up, after sacking Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow four times, forcing a fumble and three interceptions. Sitting down with Maxx Smith, my co-host for the Fireside Bears YouTube channel, I mentioned how Cincinnati was the perfect opponent for the Bears defense to turn everything around.

What’s next for the Bears? Well with Dalton’s future uncertain, the Fields show has officially arrived and a new energy has descended upon the Bears locker room as the team looks to stack wins between September and October, laying the foundation for a potential playoff run over the final two months of the season.

2) Minnesota Vikings

Someone needs to figure out what’s wrong with the Minnesota Vikings and quickly if possible. Kirk Cousins tossed three touchdowns but it wasn’t enough to beat the Arizona Cardinals, who scored 34 points, including 17 points in the second quarter. For the entire afternoon, outside of one sack, the Vikings’ offensive line did keep Cousins upright but when the game mattered the most, the Vikings failed to capitalize.

Switch over to the defensive side of the ball, traditionally a strength of the Vikings under Zimmer and there are mixed reactions. Two interceptions and three sacks weren’t enough to propel the Vikings past the Cardinals either, despite one interception being returned for a touchdown. Minnesota lost this game because Kicker Greg Joseph failed to missed a 37-yard field goal as time expired after Cousins and the offense marched down the field on a nine-play, 58-yard drive that took 2:09 off the clock.

What’s next for the Vikings? Three straight home games against the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns, and Detroit Lions gives the entire team an opportunity to get some wins at home. Zimmer knows the Vikings need to win at least two of these three games, maybe even all three to stave off the hot seat, which could get hot quickly.

3) Green Bay Packers

Well, the Packers are officially back. If you watched Green Bay on Monday night, Aaron Rodgers and the offense started slow but picked up steam as the game progressed. Major credit goes to running back Aaron Jones, who scored four touchdowns while Rodgers connected with wide receiver Devante Adams eight times for 121 yards, averaging 15.1 yards per reception.

One name that stuck out on the Packers’ defense was rookie cornerback Eric Stokes. The 29th overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft had two pass breakups and one tackle, shutting down Lions wide receiver Quintez Cephus on a key play to force a Lions punt. Green Bay’s defense as a unit did improve as the game progressed with defensive coordinator Joe Barry proving he can get the whole unit playing at a high level.

Up next for Green Bay is a primetime matchup in the Bay Area against the San Francisco 49ers, who’ve won two straight road games. With the 49ers’ defense playing at a high level, San Francisco’s defense will present Green Bay’s offense with another great test to see if Rodgers can get Green Bay clicking even more.

4) Detroit Lions

The Lions haven’t looked as bad as many expected and while flaws do exist, Detroit’s offensive line has looked more than solid so far. Penei Sewell, Jonah Jackson, Frank Ragnow, Halapoulivaati Vaitai, and Matt Nelson gave quarterback Jared Goff more than enough time to throw. With wide receiver Tyrell Williams out, Quintez Cephus stepped up, catching four passes for 63 yards, including one touchdown. Cephus averaged15.8 yards per reception, proving he could be a big-play threat in Detroit’s offense.

The Lions’ defense did do enough to remain in the first half of the game but big plays throughout the second half helped break the game wide open in Green Bay’s favor. Having a banged up secondary, with Jeffery Okudah, the third overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft sidelined for the year doesn’t help Detroit’s case but the defensive line did look solid, sacking Aaron Rodgers on three occasions.

What’s next for Detroit? The Baltimore Ravens will come to town with a road trip to Chicago in week 4. It’s very much possible that the Lions start the 2021 season winless through the first quarter of the season but credit head coach Dan Campbell for continuing to have his team fight on every play, even when the game seems out of reach.

 

Chicago Bears: NFC North Week One Recap

bears, matt nagy

With week one of the 2021 NFL regular season officially in the books, it’s time to recap how the Chicago Bears and their NFC North counterparts performed.

 

1) Chicago Bears

Well, the Bears lost to the Los Angeles Rams and are now 1-3 in season openers under head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears did too little too late and struggled to limit big plays, allowing Matthew Stafford and the Rams offense to score points. Chicago did look solid in the running game, where David Montgomery had a 41-yard run on the first possession of the game.

Bears QB Andy Dalton was efficient throughout the evening and while Justin Fields did see some action, Chicago’s first drive ended in a redzone interception. The Bears also failed to convert on fourth down, going 0-for-4, a stat that Nagy will likely want to forget. Chicago ran 69 plays and had the ball for nearly 35 minutes but still failed to score in both the first and fourth quarter.

It’s a long season and with 16 more games to go, the Bears have an opportunity to turn this ship around. Nobody in Chicago is panicking just yet but the Bears did flash some positives in week 1.

2) Green Bay Packers

Um, what just happened. The Packers playing the New Orleans Saints was America’s Game of the Week but it looked more like a Super Bowl contender (New Orleans) playing against a team that’s heading towards a full-scale rebuild Green Bay struggled all afternoon. The offense couldn’t move the ball and the defense couldn’t come up with any stops.

The bigger issue here is the play of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who tossed two interceptions, zero touchdowns, and had just 15 completions. This could be rust that Rodgers is shaking off after being absent from the Packers offseason programs but reporting to training camp on time. Or it could be that Rodgers’ absence has led to trust issues among players, the coaching staff, and front office.

It’s only week 1 but the Packers’ performance isn’t encouraging. Time for head coach Matt LaFleur and the coaching staff to reflect hard about what just happened.

3) Minnesota Vikings

One minute it seems like the Vikings are ready to win, the next minute, Mike Zimmer’s squad looks like a young team that’s learning how to play football. The Vikings are all over the place, it’s that simple. Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow sliced up the Vikings defense all afternoon, winning by three scores at one point.

Minnesota also had 12 penalties on the afternoon. Wide receiver Adam Thielen had two touchdowns but the quarterback Kirk Cousins was unable to capitalize in key situations, once again proving that the Vikings need to get better at the quarterback position if a deep run in the playoffs is to be made.

4) Detroit Lions

Despite being down by 21 points at halftime, give the Lions credit. Head coach Dan Campbell, who’s been made fun of by NFC North fans this offseason for his passion and enthusiasm coached hard on Sunday afternoon. Detroit battled back in the fourth quarter, scoring 16 points, losing by eight just points.

Running backs Jamal Williams and D’Andre Swift combined for 16 receptions, averaging 7.5 yards per reception. Up next for the Lions is the division rival Green Bay Packers, meaning that some NFC North team will be in the win column next week. By the way, credit to quarterback Jared Goff, who was traded to the Lions this offseason for tossing three touchdowns in his Lions debut while posting a passer rating of 92.6.