Posted by ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert
I didn’t bother unpacking Monday morning upon returning from Cleveland. No, I went straight to the computer to find an explanation for the NFC North’s most bizarre play on opening weekend. And here it is, courtesy of this locker room video from the Chicago Tribune.
In the video, Bears long snapper Patrick Mannelly describes why he sent a fourth-quarter direct snap to upback Garrett Wolfe on a fourth-and-11 play from the Bears’ 26-yard line. The play gained four yards, leaving Green Bay in field goal position for what ultimately was a 21-15 Packers victory. Mannelly confirmed the suspicions of NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth and others: He was trying to catch the Packers with 12 men on the field. (Rookie Clay Matthews ran off the field just before the snap.)
“I thought there were 12 men on the field," Mannelly said. "The original count was that there as 12. I didn’t see the guy run off the field. So we actually have a play in that if there is 12 on the field. It’s pretty much a free play. So it’s just a direct snap to Garrett and we try to get as many yards as we can. I didn’t see the guy run off the field. Unfortunately. If I would have, I would have never done that. It was just a dumb play on my part not seeing that.”
The play makes sense: The Bears have a free chance to convert the fourth down if there are 12 men on the field. If they fail, they just accept the penalty and punt. As we discussed Sunday night, this play didn’t cost the Bears the game. But it was so unusual that I think it merited an explanation.
Continuing around the NFC North on a later version of our morning spin:
Mike Mulligan of the Chicago Sun-Times examines the risks and rewards of having Jay Cutler as your quarterback.
Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune was shocked by Cutler’s four-interception performance: “You can't put a ceiling on the disbelief involved here. It wasn't just Cutler's 43.2 passer rating. It was that he looked like so many of the quarterbacks who have stumbled through Chicago. Pick a word: Unimaginable, bizarre, awful -- however low you want to go. Rex Grossman-like?”
Rob Demovsky of the Green Bay Press-Gazette goes inside the Packers’ game-winning drive. Said quarterback Aaron Rodgers: “I was thinking, ‘We’re due for a good drive.’ But I just told the guys, ‘Just give me one drive.’ I said to the linemen, ‘Let’s just protect this one drive. Give me some time, and we’re going to go down and score.’”
Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy pledged to correct the protection problems that plagued right tackle Allen Barbre and others Sunday night, writes Lori Nickel of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Mitch Albom of the Detroit Free Press on Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford’s debut: “I think he’s young, he survived, and he’ll get better. Hey, it’s the first week. What do you want? Total cynicism?”
Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News didn’t see enough difference Sunday in the Lions’ 45-27 loss in New Orleans: “Growing pains, throwing pains. That's not what you want to hear when a new season dawns, and it sure wasn't what Matthew Stafford wanted to hear. But no surprise, there it was on graphic display in the Louisiana Superdome, a fresh batch of ugly evidence the Lions' future won't easily be extricated from their immediate, inglorious past. Sad to say, the nasty stuff isn't close to over.”
Minnesota receiver Percy Harvin lived up to his hype in the Vikings’ 34-20 victory in Cleveland, writes Chip Scoggins of the Star Tribune.
Tom Powers of the St. Paul Pioneer Press: “The Vikings pulled away so completely in the second half that with 4:47 to play the game was deemed Tarvaris proof. And backup T. Jackson came in to finish up.”