Week 11 has officially drawn to a close. Nevertheless, we were absolutely blessed with multiple tantalising encounters. Firstly, with the Packers facing the Seahawks in Seattle on Thursday Night Football. Then, the Detroit Lions hosted the Panthers in what was a make or break game for the fourth seeded Lions. And finally, a divisional game of epic proportions between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears. The result of this game presents an opportunity for the victor to gain a stronghold in the race for the division title. But just who came out on top?
Worrying Scenes in Seattle for the Packers
The Seahawks demonstrated the true meaning of resiliency earlier this week. Despite being behind on the scoreboard for the majority of the game, they pulled off a huge upset against the Packers, winning 27-24.
Russell Wilson performed fairly accurately, completing 21 of 31 passes for 225 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Furthermore, the Hawks were successful in mixing things up within the run game. Chris Carson was the leading rusher on the night with 17 carries for 83 yards and a TD.
Above all, however, the Seahawks’ defence werr relentless in their pursuit of Aaron Rodgers. The entire effort of the defensive unit forced JK Scott to punt an incredible 6 times! In terms of individual performances, Bobby Wagner springs to mind with 9 tackles in the game. As does Frank Clark with his 2 sacks and 4 tackles.
The victory for the Seattle Seahawks improves their win/loss record to 5-5, second in the NFC West.
Where did it all go wrong?
For many, it is quite simply incomprehensible that the Packers lost this game. They led 3-14 in the first quarter, took a lead into half-time at 17-21 and then scored a FG in the fourth to make it 17-24. Yet, they still lost, AGAIN.
It must be noted that Aaron Rodgers was once again incredibly accurate. He connected on 21 of 30 throws for 332 yards and 2 touchdowns, including throwing Robert Tonyan’s first ever TD reception!
Aaron Jones also continued his fine form as he rushed for 40 yards and A touchdown on 11 carries. Moreover, he proved effective as a receiver as he amassed 63 receiving yards and 1 TD on just 5 receptions.
What makes the defeat even more surprising is that the defence actually played very well, too. Firstly, Blake Martinez forced a fumble on the first rush of the game by Chris Carson. He also contributed a further 6 tackles. Furthermore, Kyler Fackrell dominated at the line of scrimmage with 3 sacks on Russell Wilson.
Detroit Sneak a Win Against the Panthers
The Detroit Lions simply had to win this pivotal matchup against the Carolina Panthers, and that they did. As they emerged victorious, 20-19.
Who’d have thought that if the Lions ran the ball effectively with Johnson then they would win? Oh yeah, me! Seriously though, Kerryon Johnson demonstrated his elusiveness again as he rushed for 87 yards and 1 touchdown. He did, however, have his game cut short in the third quarter with a reported knee injury. Luckily, it is said that the injury is considered to be a strain rather than an ACL tear, which is a positive.
Also, his performance provided some space for Matthew Stafford to excel in the pocket. He amassed 220 passing yards and 1 TD, whilst setting up 2 FG attempts for Matt Prater. On the other hand, Stafford was fairly inaccurate at times, completing only 23 of 37 throws in the game.
The turnover battle was key as ever as safety Tracey Walker caught the only interception of the game. In addition, Jared Davis, Christian Jones and Ezekiel Ansah all contributed 1 sack.
Lions HC Matt Patricia expressed his delight with yesterdays performance after the game:
Kicking Curse Continues
This far into the season you’d have thought that the kicking curse had dispersed. Graham Gano will tell you otherwise however, as his missed field goal and PAT inevitably handed the Lions the victory. Nevertheless, the Panthers were not short of opportunities to avenge his mistakes.
Cam Newton did everything he possibly could, including throwing 3 TD’s and compiling 357 yards. That said, the Lions successfully prevented him from escaping pressure, as he rushed for just 2 yards.
Ron Rivera decided to forego a potentially game-tying PAT attempt, in the hope of capitalising on their momentum. Or, because he didn’t want to risk Gano missing for a third time. Either way it forced a controversial 2-point conversion with little over a minute to spare. Despite Jarius White being wide open, Newton misjudged the throw and the game was subsequently over.
In spite of the defeat, D.J. Moore had his best ever game with 157 yards and 1 touchdown on 7 carries. His incredible performance included this unreal 82-yard catch and run.
Defensively, the Panthers were insufficient in pressuring Stafford, producing just 1 sack all game.
The loss drops them to 6-4 on the season as they continue to struggle in a precarious position.
The Chicago Bears Mark Their Presence as the Leader in the North
This divisional game was billed to be the most crucial clash of the season, and it may well prove to be exactly that. In the end the Bears reaped the rewards, winning by a score of 25-20.
In the battle of the QB’s, Mitchell Trubisky trounced Kirk Cousins. He completed 20 of 31 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown, as well as rushing for 43 yards on 10 carries. The latter however, had 46 attempts and completed just 30 of those for 262 yards and 2 TD’s. Although Cousins racked up more numbers, he was ineffective in big moments of the game throwing 2 interceptions at crucial points. It must also be noted that Trubisky was also intercepted twice, too.
The defence of both teams saw loads of action in this week’s late game, with each unit garnering 3 takeaways.
For the Bears, Adrian Amos intercepted Cousins’ pass to end the first half. The second interception was converted into a pick-six by Eddie Jackson which helped solidify the Bears’ lead. Khalil Mack was able to etch on another takeaway when he forced the ball loose on a Dalvin Cook rush.
And for the Vikings, safety Anthony Harris picked off Trubisky twice in a stellar performance. As well as Jaleel Johnson forcing a fumble from Tarik Cohen.
In spite of all the candidates for player of the game, my vote goes to Cody Parkey. After nailing the post 4 times last week, Parkey drilled 3 of 3 in yesterday’s game, including a 48-yarder to put the game beyond doubt. It was also enthralling to see him regain the support of the fans, despite their initial caginess toward him.
This victory for the Bears is enormous. Firstly because it establishes them as the best team in the North. But more importantly it sets them up for a slate of winnable games against the Lions and Giants. Come week 14 the division could already be wrapped up.
How the NFC North Shapes Up Now
The NFC North standings are completely unchanged from last week. With that being said, the Chicago Bears are now a game and a half above the Vikings. Speaking of which, the Vikings fall to 5-4-1 on the season. Closely following them are the Packers who sit at 4-5-1 and must travel to Minnesota to face the Vikes next week. Lastly, the Detroit Lions. They sheepishly boast a record of 4-6 win/loss record and will host the Bears on TNF’s Thanksgiving special. Which sets up to be another week in the NFL you simply do not want to miss.
Image Credits – ngscsports.com