Vikings interim coach Leslie Frazier garnered his first victory as a head coach in the NFL with the 17-13 victory over the Redskins in Landover, Maryland on Sunday afternoon as his team improved to 4-7 on the season.
The Vikings are still mathematically in the hunt for the playoffs so we’ll continue to take a brief look around the division to see how each team fared. Here’s how Week 12 shook out for the NFC North…
Bears: The Chicago Bears have been playing well over their past 3 games with 2 road victories over the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins and of course, the home win over the Vikings 2 weeks ago. And late Sunday afternoon, Chicago continued its winning ways with a 31-26 victory over the NFC East-leading Philadelphia Eagles at Soldier Field.
The Bears led by as much as 18 points late in the 3rd quarter, but Eagles QB Michael Vick and Co. are not a team to give up under any circumstances. Vick marched the offense down the field in the 4th quarter for a pair of FGs by David Akers and a perfectly placed 30-yard TD pass to TE Brent Celek with 1:48 remaining in the game, but an onside kick that landed in the hands of Bears WR Johnny Knox ultimately ended the Eagles late-game efforts.
Bears QB Jay Cutler completed 14 of 21 passes for 247 yards and tied a career-high with 4 TDs for an impressive 146.2 passer rating.
Chicago’s defense wasn’t as stout as it’s been over recent weeks, allowing Vick to throw for 333 yards and 2 TDs, but it did record the first INT thrown by the Philadelphia QB since Dec. 24, 2006 when he was with the Atlanta Falcons.
With the win, the Bears moved into sole possession of the divisional lead at 8-3 and will travel to Detroit to take on the Lions next Sunday at Ford Field.
Lions: Speaking of Detroit, the Lions hosted their annual Thanksgiving Day game against the New England Patriots on Thursday and came out the victims of a 45-24 defeat.
The Lions jumped out to an early lead on a 19-yard TD reception by Calvin Johnson and 1-yard TD plunge by Maurice Morris, making the score 14-3 midway through the 2nd quarter, but the Patriots cut the deficit to 7 at halftime and from there on it was all Tom Brady.
The New England QB threw for a season-high 4 TD passes – all of which came in the 2nd half – en route to a perfect passer rating (158.3).
Lions QB Shaun Hill was not nearly as effective, completing 27 of 46 passes for 285 yards, a TD and 2 INTs. Johnson hauled in 4 receptions for a team-high 81 yards and Morris paced to ground game with 55 yards on 9 carries.
Detroit fell to 2-9 on the season and will host the Bears next Sunday.
Packers: Heading into Sunday’s matchup against the Atlanta Falcons, the Green Bay Packers held a share of the divisional lead with the Bears, but that tie was broken from both a divisional and game standpoint when Falcons K Matt Bryant split the uprights with :09 remaining in the game to give his team a 20-17 victory.
The contest held a game within the game, that being a game of copycat with the Packers mimicking the Falcons every move. Atlanta kicked a 1st quarter FG, Green Bay answered with a 1st quarter FG; Atlanta moved ahead on a 4-yard TD reception by TE Tony Gonzalez, Green Bay responded with a 1-yard TD run by QB Aaron Rodgers; Falcons RB Michael Turner bullied through for a 1-yard TD run, Rodgers replied with a 10-yard TD pass to Jordy Nelson with :56 remaining in regulation.
But it was the Falcons who ended the game of copycat on Bryant’s game-winning 47-yard FG with just seconds on the clock.
The loss dropped the Packers to 7-4 and they will return home to host the San Francisco 49ers (3-7) next Sunday afternoon at Lambeau Field.
Outlook: Within the division, the Lions have been mathematically eliminated from playoff contention, giving way to a 3-way battle between the Bears, Packers and Vikings. With 5 games remaining, the Bears hold a 1-game lead over the Packers and a 4-game lead over the Vikings.
I’m not predicting a 5-game winning streak to end the Vikings season coupled with complete fallout by both the Bears and Packers, but until the numbers say otherwise – it’s not over until it’s over. All the Vikings can do is worry about their own play to continue to improve. And with where Frazier has his team heading, it looks like a bright future regardless of playoff aspirations.
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