Bears

Bears OL getting nasty too nasty?

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Bears OL getting nasty too nasty?

According to the stat experts at Pro Football Focus, the Bears offensive line has improved from laughingstock to No. 22 overall. The group is ranked No. 22 overall 25th in pass blocking, seventh in run blocking and would rate considerably higher but for its No. 30 slot for penalties. More on that in moment.

The balance-oriented Bears have had no game with fewer than 93 rushing yards through six games in 2012. Last year they were sub-90 in three of the first six (with a 3-3 record). In 2010 they rushed for fewer than 80 yards in five games of the 4-3 start.

As coaches and players maintain, running the ball well is in some measure a state of mind. For all of the focus on Ndamukong Suhs savage ways, the meanest states of mind last Monday appeared to have resided in ones blocking Suh and his associates.

The state of mind on the Bears offensive line is becoming nasty. Sometimes even a little too nasty.

Case by case nasty

Gabe Carimi wants to kill guys, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. He gets himself out of whack because hes being a little overly aggressive. So, were going to settle him down, make sure he brings his feet with him on some of these blocks where it does look ugly or hes getting those penalties. But he plays extremely hard. Theyre all playing hard right now, but he plays very hard.

Gabe Carimi is at right tackle in part because he is a mauler in the Tice assessment. He has become a penalty risk the past two games, not simply because of poor play, but for being too aggressive.

Ive just got to calm down on a couple things, Carimi said. A couple of penalties here and there. Its just my style of play, though. Im a very aggressive player.

Yeah, Im overaggressive, but I do a lot of good things when Im overaggressive, too. There are some times I need to just bring it back a little bit.

On the other side, JMarcus Webb has brought it up a bit, quite a bit from the debacle in Green Bay. He was the Bears only offensive lineman not penalized in the Detroit game. He has played 424 snaps this season and allowed a total of three sacks.

Matt Fortes 39-yard run on the Bears fifth play Sunday? Between Webb and left guard Chilo Rachal.

Interior nasty

Right guard Lance Louis long has fit that physical mold. Roberto Garza was a guard before moving to center.

Chilo Rachal replaced Chris Spencer at left guard after the Green Bay game. He wasnt the only reason, obviously, but the Bears averaged 104 rushing yards in the first two games. With Rachal at left guard, the Bears have averaged 145 over the last five.

Rachal, self-described as a mauler, was hit with a personal-foul penalty in the fourth quarter of the Detroit game. It wasnt entirely a random act of unkindness.

Where Suh has drawn fines for stomping a player on the ground and hits on quarterbacks, Rachal drew his flag for going to the defense of running back Michael Bush after he was tackled.

I want to keep guys off my running backs, Rachal said. If I feel that a linebacker still trying to go after someone, then apparently the running back is still running with the ball. So I just want to keep him off of our guy.

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?

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Dry humping and second-guessing: Joe Maddon defends his Game 2 bullpen decisions

Joe Maddon has no easy decisions.

With the way his tattered bullpen has pitched this postseason, there's a very real possibility that any guy he calls on to pitch is the "wrong" guy or the right guy in the "wrong" spot.

For everybody wanting Maddon to ride Wade Davis as a workhorse this fall — something the Cubs skipper has already done just to get to this NLCS — remember how much flak he took for overusing Aroldis Chapman a year ago at this time.

Davis also hasn't been superhuman this postseason, allowing a pair of runs (including a homer) and seven baserunners in 4.1 playoff innings, good for a 4.15 ERA and 1.62 WHIP.

So when Maddon sat in the dugout late Sunday evening watching helplessly as John Lackey served up a walk-off homer to Tormund Giantsbane Justin Turner, the "Madd Scientist" immediately found himself in the crosshairs of Cubs fans and the media.

The first question he fielded in his postgame press conference was about not using Davis and there were several follow-ups. That and the offensive futility is about all anybody wanted to talk about after the Cubs fell down 0-2 in the NLCS.

Maddon explained Davis was available only in a save situation due to workload issues — the Cubs closer was in uncharted territory Thursday night/Friday morning, throwing the most pitches (44) and innings (2.1) he's thrown since Aug. 24, 2013 when he was still working as a starter. That's a span of 1,511 days.

"Wade knew that going into the game, it was going to be with the say," Maddon said. "We caught the lead, he's in the game. So whatever the narrative was, it's really a false narrative. He was not coming into that game until we grabbed the lead. He was not going to pitch more than three outs. That's it."

How does Maddon respond to his second-guessers?

"Doesn't matter," Maddon said. "First of all, social media, the moment I start worrying about that, I really need to retire. Second of all, that was all predetermined [Sunday] night again."

Davis also has a recent history of arm troubles (he was on the disabled list twice in 2016 for a forearm issue) and also saw his workload jump in September just to help the Cubs get to the postseason. In the final month of the regular season, Davis threw 237 pitches, 42 more than he threw in any other month of 2017. The last time he topped 200 pitches in any month was May 2015.

TV cameras showed Davis throwing in the Cubs bullpen alongside Lackey at one point in the ninth inning, leading to surprise by a huge faction of the (*looks around and whispers*) social media fanbase when the game broadcast resumed after commercials and the pitching change was to bring Lackey — not Davis — into the game.

"Wade was not warming up to come in that game," Maddon said. "Wade was probably just testing his arm at that point. We had talked about it before the game — up and in. 

"For those that aren't involved in Major League Baseball and professional baseball in general, when a guy's throwing too much, it's very important to not dry hump him, as the saying goes. Get him up and put him back down and bring him back in later. So I wasn't going to do that."

(Wow, really was not expecting to hear or write the phrase "dry hump" regarding this story.)

Maddon insists health is not the problem with Davis.

"Yes [he's healthy]. Oh yeah," Maddon said. "Listen, this guy just did yeoman kind of work — I love that word — in Washington and was not prepared to go more than three outs. I don't understand why that's difficult to understand.

"And furthermore, you have to also understand it wasn't the last game of the year or the second to last game. It was about winning eight more games. All these things are factors."

Maddon has a point. This isn't a Buck Showalter case where the Baltimore Orioles manager failed to use his best reliever — Zach Britton — in a non-save situation in a winner-take-all American League wild card game because he wanted the closer to be ready for a save.

The Cubs went down in a game that was tied 1-1 with their best reliever failing to get in the game even though he hadn't pitched in the last two days. 

But Davis can't cover every inning in relief, especially when the Cubs' two starters (Jose Quintana and Jon Lester) lasted just 9.2 innings against the Dodgers, leaving the Cubs bullpen to account for the other 8+ innings somehow.

The rest of the Cubs bullpen has to step up, too, which they did before the ninth inning of Game 2.

Still, Maddon couldn't resist getting one more defensive shot in before putting the matter to bed:

"I really hope you all understand that social media doesn't count at all," he said. "Twitter doesn't count at all. And really, as sportswriters, you should do a better job than relying on Twitter to write a story, quite frankly."

Well then.