Bulls

Bears offense fails with division at stake

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Bears offense fails with division at stake

Once again the Bears offense that spoke of itself all offseason and preseason as explosive is every bit of that -- except in the way that a firecracker is particularly explosive and destructive when it blows up in your own hand.

In another game in which the Bears scored exactly one touchdown, losing 21-13 to the Green Bay Packers, the offense has no one to blame but itself. The Bears netted 190 total yards, converted none of nine third-downs and did to itself whatever the Packers couldnt.

Center Roberto Garza killed a third-and-1 with a flinch on a snap that effectively ended a superb drive at the Green Bay 30 on the first drive. One possession later the offense netted nothing on a drive starting at the Chicago 48.

The offense even occasionally handed the Packers the dagger. The turning point was also an offensive disaster with Devin Hester and Jay Cutler combining for an interception on either a wrong route or wrong throw on a first-down play from the Chicago 37 in the second quarter. Cutler responded by throwing an apparent fit on the sidelines to take care of any remaining composure

The poor plays came from everywhere. Alshon Jeffery was flagged for a push-off on an apparent touchdown on a fourth-and-one. It was fourth-and-one because Matt Forte and the offensive line couldnt get the ball into the end zone from a start of first-and-goal from the Green Bay 5.

No position group was exempt from the follies.

QUARTERBACK D

The onus for the second-quarter interception that was a game-changer will be on Devin Hester but Jay Cutler may have made the mistake in throwing the ball to Green Bay rookie defensive back Casey Heyward. Exact responsibility is difficult to assign but the ball came out of Cutlers hand, as he himself said, and not every poor pass play is on the receivers.

Cutler finished with 12-of-21 passing for 135 yards, a TD (to Brandon Marshall) and the interception, for a passer rating of 72.5, actually a little better than his career mark (60.5) against the Packers. But he again contributed to sacks (four) by holding the ball too long into plays and failing to get throws to receivers on time.

RUNNING BACKS D

Matt Fortes failure to get into the end zone for a touchdown in the third quarter was anemic. He carried three times, the last two for no gain. Forte finished with 20 carries but for a mediocre 69 yards, 3.5 per carry, and that average was 2.5 without one 22-yard run.

Michael Bush was a curious no-show. He was limited in practice with lingering pain from a rib injury but if a player dresses, it is assumed he is ready to play. Or maybe the Bears just already had a full complement of inactives due to injuries.

Forte gave something to the passing game with five catches and a team-high 64 yards. But lack of consistent impact and not getting into the end zone on three tries from the five-yard line in is not elite.

RECEIVERS F

Devin Hester appeared to foul up a route in the second quarter, leading to an interception that turned the game. It was a two-man route and in any case, quarterback and receiver were not on the same page, to use the words of one of them.

Brandon Marshall caught six of the seven passes thrown to him in one of the few games where he was not the No.1 Jay Cutler target (Forte was). He accounted for the Bears one touchdown on a 15-yard catch behind good blocking by Hester to take out two defensive backs.

But the story of the game became Alshon Jeffery, who caught none of the four passes thrown (not always accurately) to him. Jeffery was called three times for pass interference after he himself committed a face-mask grab on cornerback Sam Shield with Shields inexplicably drawing the penalty.

One of Jefferys infractions cost the Bears a touchdown. The last cost them a 36-yard completion to the Green Bay 20 late in the fourth quarter on what was a potential drive for a tying score. Jeffery said afterwards that he needed to see the film of the game to assess what was happening, which says that he needs to work on in-game analysis quite a bit if he wants to solve problems at the time when they matter most.

OFFENSIVE LINE F

The inability to punch in for a score in the third quarter was not all on Matt Forte by any means. The offensive line started the game strong with a solid opening drive running the ball but was thwarted by Green Bay adjustments almost immediately.

James Brown remained as the starter at left guard over Chris Spencer and handled himself well in the first quarter before being beaten on a stunt for a sack in the second. Spencer then replaced Gabe Carimi after Carimi committed a holding penalty to nullify a Matt Forte run late in the first quarter.

Roberto Garzas flinch on a third-and-one was a major setback in a game where the Bears could not afford many. Or any.

Brown was benched in the fourth quarter in favor of Edwin Williams for making too many mistakes. Carimis mistakes got him benched although he said afterwards that the plan was to rotate with Spencer; that appeared to be news to Spencer.

Green Bay had four sacks, of which some were Cutlers fault for failing to get the ball off. But at least two were directly on the protection. Where the Bears turn now for a starting five is an unsolved question.

COACHING F

The plan to attack Green Bay with the run worked early as the Bears controlled the line of scrimmage. The Bears had opportunities and simply did not execute on those.

But the rash of game-changing penalties is laid at the feet of the coaching staff. Those were occurring in every area, from Cutler taking delay penalties or time outs because plays were slow coming in; Jeffery was pushing off over and over; or the line was committing penalties and mistakes that had coaches scrambling for answers.

Does Rodney Hood make sense for the Bulls?

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USA TODAY

Does Rodney Hood make sense for the Bulls?

New York Times veteran NBA writer Marc Stein tweeted late Friday that multiple teams were interested in fourth-year swingman Rodney Hood.

We know that the Jazz are one of the rumored teams interested in embattled forward Niko Mirotic and while it wouldn’t seem to make sense on the surface, Rodney Hood could be a good fit for the Bulls.

Hood will be a restricted free agent this summer and the Bulls would retain the rights to match any offer if they felt like the former Duke Blue Devil was the right piece to join the new core of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, and Kris Dunn.

There is one complication in a potential Mirotic for Hood deal; the salaries don’t quite match. Utah would need to send another player like Alec Burks to Chicago in the deal. The Bulls would have to be OK taking on Burks’ $11.5 million salary for the 2018-19 season and his cap hit in free agency. Good news though, the free agent class this summer is very thin at small forward, the main position the Bulls have a need for.

Another road block, the Bulls are set to max out LaVine this July, and they may be wary on tying up a good part of their cap space for the next four years on two players.

Acquiring Hood hurts the ‘tank’ but you’d have a three-month audition of a 25-year old shooter that on paper would seem to work with the current rotation. If the Bulls felt like Hood wasn’t a good fit, let him walk in free agency. They would then keep their cap space intact for the 2019 super free agent class.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks return to action against Islanders

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the New York Islanders tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Erik Gustafsson's season debut.

The Blackhawks recalled one of their top defensive prospects on Jan. 9 but haven't been able to get him some game action yet. All signs point to that changing tonight.

He skated on a pairing with Brent Seabrook during Friday's practice, and was even placed on the second power play unit during special teams drills. Joel Quenneville was excited about the possibility of finally getting Gustafsson into the lineup.

"Good option, good opportunity," Quenneville said. "We’re not for sure but certainly he’s been around, he’s eager to go. I look forward to seeing what he can do."

2. Anthony Duclair's promotion.

He hasn't been in Chicago for very long but Duclair is quickly working his way up the lineup. The newly-acquired Blackhawk registered an assist in his team debut last Friday in a 2-1 victory over Winnipeg, and was put on a power play unit as well.

On Friday, Duclair was promoted to the top line with Brandon Saad and Jonathan Toews and continued getting reps on the second power-play unit. Let's see if the 22-year-old can take advantage of that opportunity in a top-six role.

3. Mathew Barzal.

Three rookies will be named finalists for the Calder Trophy at the end of the season. Barzal is a lock to be one of them.

He not only leads all rookies with 48 points, but he ranks 15th in the entire league in the scoring race and is the only first-year player averaging at least a point per game. 

The 20-year-old center has been sensational and he already has two five-point games in his young professional career. To put that into perspective, Patrick Kane recorded his first NHL five-point effort two weeks ago against the Ottawa Senators.