Sat, 04 Dec 2021

NFC NORTH: The good & bad from each team's Week 1 performance

Detroit Lions
16 Sep 2021, 20:25 GMT+10

Tim Twentyman

Opening weekend wasn't the best start to the 2021 season for the four teams in the NFC North.

Detroit lost to San Francisco. Minnesota was defeated by Cincinnati in overtime. Green Bay was blown out by New Orleans. Chicago was beaten by the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday Night Football.

That's an 0-4 start for the NFC North to kick off the year, and now the season turns into a 16-game race for the division title. Here's a look at some pros and cons from the first weekend of the regular season for all four teams in the division:

MINNESOTA

Week 1: Cincinnati 27, Minnesota 24 (OT)

Next up: at Arizona (1-0)

The good:

Minnesota was able to amp up the pressure on Joe Burrow at times, sacking him five times. Defensive tackle Michael Pierce led the way with two sacks. Wide receiver Adam Thielen had a nice afternoon, catching nine of his 10 targets for 92 yards and two scores. He and Justin Jefferson (5 catches for 71 yards) could be one of the top receiving duos in the league. Quarterback Kirk Cousins was solid. He completed 36-of-49 passes for 351 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He kicks off the year with a passer rating of 106.8.

The bad:

While Minnesota's defense was able to pressure Burrow at times, they had zero luck stopping the Bengals' ground attack. Cincinnati rushed for 149 yards, led by Joe Mixon's 127 yards and a touchdown. Veteran cornerback Bashaud Breeland was picked on all game and finished allowing 107 receiving yards in his coverage area and two touchdowns, per Pro Football Focus statistics. Minnesota has to be more disciplined from a penalty perspective moving forward. They were flagged 12 times, which amounted to 116 yards of penalties.

DETROIT

Week 1: San Francisco 41, Detroit 33

Next up: at Green Bay (0-1)

The good:

Rookie Penei Sewell is a pretty darn good left tackle. Making the switch from right tackle to left tackle last week to replace the injured Taylor Decker, Sewell matched up with Nick Bosa most of the day and was credited with allowing just four hurries, two quarterback hits and no sacks. Detroit looks to have a nice tandem in the backfield in D'Andre Swift and Jamaal Williams. Both players totaled more than 100 scrimmage yards and both were a big part of the passing game, catching eight passes apiece. Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow picked up right where he left off last season. He was Detroit's highest graded player on offense by PFF, their best run blocker, and he didn't allow a sack.

The bad:

Detroit receivers had just two receptions entering the fourth quarter and finished with 13 receptions as a unit. Detroit's tight ends and running backs accounted for 25 receptions. Lions head coach Dan Campbell said after the game they have to do a better job generating big plays down the field in the passing game. It was a little surprising to see second-year guard Jonah Jackson allowed nine total pressures in the game. Six hurries, two quarterback hits and a sack allowed. He received the lowest pass-blocking grade among Detroit's offensive linemen. The Lions lost their top cornerback Jeff Okudah for the season after he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon in the fourth quarter Sunday. That means the Lions will have to rely on rookies Ifeatu Melifonwu, Bobby Price and Jerry Jacobs, along with any veterans the Lions might add to the roster in the coming days, as they head into a tough matchup with Aaron Rodgers and the Packers on Monday night. O’HARA: What we learned from Week 1 KEY QUESTIONS: Will Sewell move back to right tackle when Decker returns? Campbell confirms season-ending Achilles injury for Okudah

CHICAGO

Week 1: Los Angeles Rams 34, Chicago 14

Next up: vs. Cincinnati (1-0)

The good:

Running back David Montgomery had three runs of 10-plus yards in this one and finished with 108 yards on just 16 carries (6.8 average). Right tackle Germain Ifedi played very well, allowing just one pressure all game against a really good Rams defensive front. Linebacker Roquan Smith led the Bears with 139 tackles a season ago and he's off to a nice start in 2021 with 11 tackles against the Rams Sunday night.

The bad:

The calls for Justin Fields to take over the starting quarterback job are getting louder in Chicago after just one week, as starter Andy Dalton completed just two throws over 10 yards and finished with no touchdowns and one interception for a 72.9 passer rating. Left guard Cody Whitehair drew Aaron Donald duty Week 1, which is no easy task. He finished with the lowest grade among Chicago's offensive linemen from Pro Football Focus, which included giving up a sack. The Rams did a great job on Bears star edge rusher Khalil Mack, who generated just one total pressure all game.

GREEN BAY

Week 1: New Orleans 38, Green Bay 3

Next up: vs. Detroit (0-1)

The good:

Rookie center Josh Myers has a big task filling in for All-Pro Corey Linsley, who left in free agency, but Myers was one of the few bright spots for the Packers' offense, allowing just one quarterback pressure on the day. The Packers had to all but abandon the run game as they fell behind early and only amassed 43 rushing yards. The Packers are looking for a backup to Aaron Jones to replace Jamaal Williams (now in Detroit), and A.J. Dillion averaged 4.8 yards per carry in limited work. Top cornerback Jaire Alexander was a bright spot for the Packers' defense. He allowed two catches in his coverage area for just 15 yards and no touchdowns.

The bad:

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looked nothing like the league's MVP from a season ago. He completed just 15 of his 28 passes for 133 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Rodgers had two interceptions in a game just once last year (loss to Tampa Bay), and his 36.8 passer rating was one of the worst of his career. Green Bay was just 1-for-10 on third down. Green Bay's defense surrendered 171 yards on the ground Sunday vs. the Saints for a 4.4 yards-per-carry average. The Packers' secondary allowed better than 10 yards per reception. Saints quarterback Jameis Winston notched five touchdown passes in the contest. The secondary didn't get much help from the pass rush, as the Packers failed to record a single sack and had just three quarterback hits.

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