The NFL came to a conclusion this Sunday, bringing with it pain for all Packer and Viking fans. The latter were in a must-win game against the Chicago Bears, within which they were embarrassed, 10-24. The Green Bay Packers welcomed the Detroit Lions to Lambeau Field, however, it was a short-lived welcoming as the Lions pulverised their opponent, 0-31. In spite of the disappointing results for much of the North, let’s delve into the game breakdowns.
Lions Light Up Lambeau Field
Finally the Lions offensive line protected Matthew Stafford and as a result he flourished. He concluded his night with 20 completions for 266 yards and 2 touchdowns. Stafford connected well with T.J. Jones, throwing both touchdown passes his way. His emphatic performance might just be enough to secure his job for another year, although Matt Prater may also be putting his name forward as he converted a fake field goal for a touchdown in the game also.
The run game looked poised to never take-off, however, the Lions remained adamant it would work. It did in the end, as Zach Zenner handled the bulk of the carries with 21 attempts for 93 yards and a touchdown. In addition, Theo Riddick had 4 rushing attempts for 24 yards, averaging 6 yards per carry.
Defensively the Lions were immense, for the first time in a long time. Jared Davis led the team in tackles with 7, whilst he also notched himself a sack. Tavon Wilson and Kerry Hyder also joined him on contributing sack. Finally, Quandre Diggs grabbed the only interception of the game off of an admittedly stupid jump-ball from DeShone Kizer.
The End Has Arrived For The Packers
Aaron Rodgers participated in just 5 passes before he was pulled from the game with a concussion. With that in mind, the Packer faithful relied on DeShone Kizer to produce a win from behind, and that he did not. Making good on just 16 of 32 passes, Kizer compiled a mere 132 yards, as almost every possession ended in a punt.
In terms of rushing the ball, they were absolutely horrendous, amassing 46 rushing yards all game. The leading rusher on the day surprisingly was Kizer with 4 rushes for 40 yards.
Defensively, the Packers were once again fairly miserable. Failing to get in behind one of the worst O-lines in the league, they managed just 1 sack all game.
It has certainly been a season to forget in Green Bay, as many fear this is the end of decades of success for a once dominant franchise in the North.
The Force To Be Reckoned With in The North
Divisional rivalries are never easy, but for the Bears this game seemed relatively simple. Mitchell Trubisky was consistent as ever, converting 18 of 26 passes for 163 yards, whilst rushing the ball for 16 yards on 3 attempts. His performance appeared completely effortless, as he cruised to an easy day at the office.
Jordan Howard certainly earned his paycheque on Sunday, steamrolling the Vikings defence on 21 carries for 109 yards and 2 TD’s. Tarik Cohen also capped off an impressive year with his touchdown run in the game too.
The Bears’ immaculate defence came out to play again, as Akiem Hicks stole the show with 3 tackles and 1.5 sacks. Eddie Goldman and Bilal Nichols also recorded a sack, whilst Roy Robertson-Harris added the remaining 0.5 of a sack on the day.
The only negative on the Bears‘ part came once again from kicker, Cody Parkey. He has been relatively inconsistent in the latter stages of the season, and is arguably the biggest worry entering the postseason.
Vikings Eviscerated At Home
The Minnesota Vikings had teetered on the brink of the Playoffs all season, yet when it mattered most they couldn’t get the job. In honesty, the way the Vikings played on Sunday, they don’t deserve to be in the postseason anyway.
Kirk Cousins’ pride and perhaps even his career may have been on the line yesterday, but he was lacklustre in his performance. Although he was under pressure all game long, Cousins completed 22 of 30 for 132 yards and a touchdown, an effort that would never be enough to beat a team the calibre of the Bears. This loss represents another chink in the armour of the Vikings QB, who has demonstrated time and time again his failure to secure a win over teams with a winning record.
In the run game, Dalvin Cook was limited to 39 yards on 11 carries, which halted his domineering performances as of late. The lack of run game, coupled with Cousins’ poor performance signalled the beginning of the end for a team who didn’t even look like they could challenge the Bears, let alone beat them.
The Bears offensive line also man-handled the Vikings solid D-line, preventing any sacks in the game.
Unfortunately, A soulless performance encompassed everything the Vikings season has represented; a complete lack of desire.
What Happens Now?
Three teams in the North will be fairly bored in the opening months of 2019, thinking about the what ifs. The Vikings especially, who looked poised for a deep playoff run again this year, but fell flat in December. The Packers and Lions are likely to undergo a steep rebuild, as both franchises seem to be embarking on treacherous territory as key players begin to age, with a lack of promising talent on their rosters. For the Bears however, there’s a new narrative. Champions of the North for the first time in a decade, Chicago have finally reached the Playoffs and arguably the most dangerous team in the hunt. They go to war with the Eagles next weekend in what should be a fairly unchallenging dismissal. From there, the Bears truly could go all the way!
Image Credits – Omar Vega/Invision/Ap