Cubs

Bears offensive report card just good enough

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Bears offensive report card just good enough

Call it a workmanlike effort, nothing special, except that it was good enough to win. The offense finished with 296 yards and 13 points, lowest point total in a win since the 10-0 victory against the New York Jets in 2006.

The critical element was not turning the ball over in a close game and the Bears didnt, while defense and special teams were taking the ball away four times from the Detroit Lions.

QUARTERBACK C

Most of the breath left Soldier Field when Jay Cutler went down with a rib injury in the second quarter, bringing on Jason Campbell for a total of five plays.

Cutlers rollout and measured flip to Brandon Marshall produced the Bears first first-quarter TD since the Indianapolis game and only touchdown of the night. Cutler hurt the Lions with his scrambles in the first half, totaling 34 yards on three runs.

Passing was so-so, with 16 completions in 31 attempts for 150 yards and a 76.0 rating, but done in the face of five sacks.

RUNNING BACKS B

Matt Fortes 39-yard gallop through the Detroit right side set up the first Bears score and Forte finished with 96 yards on 22 carries in addition to three pass receptions, though for a net of four yards. Michael Bush added 36 yards on six carries.

The combination of backs averaged 4.7 yards per carry, many of the yards coming after first hits.

RECEIVERS B

Brandon Marshall had the better of Calvin Johnson for the evening, with a TD catch in the first quarter and two big third-down catches in the second, both for conversions. Marshall tied for the game high with six receptions for a total of 81 yards.

Devin Hesters 23-yard run with a fourth-quarter screen pass got the Bears out of a hole. He caught three of the six passes directed his way and combined with Earl Bennetts three to give some balance opposite Marshall, who faced double coverage much of the game.

Tight ends were not much of a factor receiving (one of four targets) but Kellen Davis, Matt Spaeth and Kyle Adams contributed with run blocking.

OFFENSIVE LINE C-

Protection of Cutler in the first half was generally adequate but he was sacked five times in the game and hit another nine times. Cutler contributed to problems by holding the ball too long on occasion but he also was running from pressure too often.

Run blocking by left guard Chilo Rachal and left tackle JMarcus Webb broke Fortes big first-quarter run and the Bears were able to achieve some run-pass balance.

Gabe Carimi had a second straight difficult evening with a pair of penalties and Rachal took an ill-advised personal foul penalty in the fourth quarter. Robeto Garza was called for a pair of false starts.

COACHING B

Commitment to the run was critical against the Detroit pass rush from the front four. Coaches called 41 pass plays, including the four QB scrambles, and ran the ball 28 times against a defense stacked to take Matt Forte away.

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?