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Bears face 'Cutler Time' vs. Packers

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Bears face 'Cutler Time' vs. Packers

In the wake of the Bears loss to the Minnesota Vikings, coach Lovie Smith indirectly explained the biggest single reason why the Green Bay Packers have dominated his Bears since Aaron Rodgers succeeded Brett Favre.

Their defense out-performed our defense yesterday, Smith said last Monday.

He wasnt talking about the Packers. And defenses dont face defenses, obviously.

But the simplest reason why the Packers have been better than the Bears for the past several years is that their quarterback out-performs the Bears quarterback.

The Packers have survived and even flourished this year and in 2010 despite an avalanche of injuries. The reason has been that Rodgers has established himself in the echelon of quarterbacks like Favre, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and other elites who are not only great in their own right, but makes others around them better.

Jay Cutler does not. The opposite; he makes himself worse in games against his organizations foremost opponent.

In the six and a half games Cutler has played against Green Bay (he was out for the second half of the NFC Championship game and all of game 15 last season), the Bears have scored a total of seven touchdowns.

Cutler has never had a game against the Packers in which he has not thrown at least one interception. Counting the 2010 NFC title game, he has thrown 17 interceptions vs. eight touchdown passes.

His regular-season passer rating against the Packers is 60.5. Rodgers isnot.

Indeed, Rodgers posted a 99.8 rating in the teams first 2012 game despite taking five sacks. Cutlers rating, with seven sacks and four interceptions, was 28.2. That was his lowest against the Packers and carries more concerning significance because he at last had the precise No. 1 receiver he wanted. And Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams caught exactly as many of Cutlers passes (two) as that No. 1 receiver, Brandon Marshall did.

We missed some opportunities with Brandon last time; I think hed be the first to tell you that, Cutler said. But theyre going to do a good job of taking him away so for us to be successful down the road, were going to have to have other guys make plays for us.

That first other guy needs to be Cutler. Because against Rodgers and the Packers, he rarely has been:

YrGm Cutler Rodgers

09, 1 43.2 92.0
2 74.9 88.9

10, 1 82.5 92.5
2 43.5 89.7
NFC Ch. 31.8 55.4

11, 1 78.9 111.4
2 (out) 142.7

12, 1 28.2 99.8

Passer rating is not the sole measure of a quarterback and a criticism is that its formula is structured in a way that weights interceptions disproportionately. But in a game so often determined by turnovers, it is perhaps an apt standard to use in comparing Bears-Packers quarterbacks.

I often find myself quoting a great teacher of mine, Chuck Knox, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. And he used to say all the time constantly, you have to make the plays youre afforded the opportunity to make.

Sometime on Sunday, maybe on the first or second possession to answer a Green Bay score, maybe in the fourth quarter to help save a season, Cutler will have to make the plays he too often hasnt.

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?