It was another wild and crazy week in the NFC North this week, and even with the Packers playing on Monday night there is plenty to talk about from the Sunday games. Let's take a look at the top five story lines from Sunday afternoon!
The Minnesota Vikings rise to the top and knock off the San Francisco 49ers
The San Francisco 49ers are widely regarded as one of the elite teams in the NFL this season, and they sat at the top of most of the NFL power rankings while the lowly Vikings sat in the cellar. This week, QB Christian Ponder established himself as a force to be reckoned with as the Vikings beat the 49ers 24-13 at the Metrodome.
Ponder and the Vikings came out firing, and drove down the field on their first possession with an 82 yard drive capped by a Kyle Rudolph touchdown. The Vikings scored again in the second quarter on a 23 yard scamper by Christian Ponder and they never looked back. The Vikings went against the grain by rushing against the vaunted 49ers defense with 25 carries for 86 yards from Adrian Peterson, and plenty of play action passing from Ponder including a 23 yard rushing touchdown from Ponder.
The Vikings defense frustrated Alex Smith and the San Francisco offense throughout the first half, holding them to only 3 points, but it was the Vikings passing offense (yes, you ready that correctly) that was the difference in the game as Christian Ponder went 21-35 for 198 yards and Percy Harvin reeled in 9 passes for 89 yards to hand the Niners their first loss of the season.
The Detroit Lions lose an instant classic to the Tennessee Titans
The Detroit Lions were expected to easily roll over the Titans on Sunday, but Jake Locker and the Titans gave the Lions all they could handle and managed to emerge with a victory defeating the Lions 44-41 in overtime. Matt Stafford again struggled early in the game with incompletions, but second year running back Mikel LeShoure finally gave the Lions some life in the running game as he finished with 26 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown.
The Titans special teams scored at the end of the first quarter on a punt return lateral to Tommie Campbell for a 65 yard touchdown run and the defense added a 72 yard TD on a fumble from Lions TE Brandon Pettigrew. Second year QB Jake Locker added touchdown passes of 61 and 71 yards and Darius Reynard added an 105 yard kick off return for a touchdown as well.
The real excitement happened late in the fourth quarter when Shaun Hill took over for an injured Matt Stafford and drove the team down the field and threw a touchdown pass to Calvin Johnson to close the gap to 34-41 with 18 seconds remaining. The Lions recovered the onside kick, and the final play of regulation was batted up in the air but it was Lions receiver Titus Young who came down with the ball to tie things up at the end of the 4th quarter.
In overtime, the Titans drove down the field and converted a field goal on their first possession, challenging the Lions to score a touchdown to get the victory. The Lions drove all the way to the Titans 7 yard line, and then inexplicably went for it on 4th down and 1 yard from the 7 yard line and were stopped by the Titans defense.
The Chicago Bears defense shows up against St. Louis, but the passing game is still missing
If you hold your opponent to 160 total yards and get 2 turnovers you are going to win the game, and that is exactly what the Chicago Bears did against the St. Louis Rams.
Jay Cutler and the Bears had yet another lackluster passing performance as Cutler completed 17 of 31 passes for 183 yards and 1 interception and no touchdowns, but the defense and the running game were enough to get the Bears the victory as they defeated the Rams 23 - 6.
The Bears still can't seem to find the timing and the consistency in their passing game, and a lot of that is due to their offensive line play. Cutler continues to be hit and hurried and even though he was only sacked twice on Sunday, that is two times too many.
Michael Bush ran well in place of the injured Matt Forte with 18 rushes for 55 yards and a touchdown, and Kahlil Bell added 10 rushes for 20 yards, but it is the passing game that is really lacking for the Bears.
The defense did a great job today making up for the inept passing game, but that was against a bottom feeder team in the St. Louis Rams. The Bears will have to make improvements if they have any hopes to make it through the difficult part of their schedule when they face off against teams like Houston, Green Bay, and streaking Arizona Cardinals!
Please can we get the real officials back?
In the Minnesota - San Francisco game this week, Jim Harbaugh called his third and final time out of the second half, then challenged the play on the field. The officials reviewed the play, reversed the ruling, gave the ball to the 49ers and rewarded Harbaugh with another time out. On the next Vikings drive, Harbaugh called a time out (again his last time out), then asked for a challenge and the play was reviewed.
Luckily, these gaffes didn't make a difference in the game, but it certainly shows that the replacement officials do not have a firm grasp on the rules of the game, and it's only a matter of time before one of these mistakes ends up costing a team a victory, a playoff spot etc.
Let's all cross our fingers and hope that the NFL and the officials union can come to an agreement sooner than later and we can get back to officials that at least understand the rules of the game that we all love.
The Vikings have become the team to beat in NFC North
The NFL is a league of parity, and every year there seems to be a team that rebounds from the bottom of their division one year back to the top the next, and the Vikings appear to be that team this year. The first two games of the season against the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Indianapolis Colts certainly weren't statement games, but the victory against the 49ers this week was.
The Vikings still have a lot of work to do, but the victory against one of the NFL's premier teams will give this team a ton of confidence, and if they can knock off a reeling Lions squad next week and Christian Ponder can continue to build on his great start the sky is the limit for the purple and gold this season. Don't forget that the Vikings get Jerome Simpson back next week from his three game suspension, and the Vikings will finally give Christian Ponder the deep threat receiver that he hasn't had yet in his NFL career.