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.

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Can the Bears make enough plays to beat the Carolina Panthers?

Everything changed for the Bears after going up 17-3 last week against the Baltimore Ravens. Mitchell Trubisky’s 27-yard touchdown to Dion Sims was immediately followed by Bobby Rainey running a kickoff back 96 yards for a touchdown, then the offense was bogged down with three fumbles (two lost) on three consecutive possessions. 

But Adrian Amos seemed to seal the game with his 90-yard pick six — that is, until Michael Campanaro ran Pat O’Donnell’s punt back 77 yards for what wound up being a game-tying touchdown after a two-point conversion.

The point is the Bears should’ve cruised to a comfortable win last week; a few critical mistakes didn’t allow that to happen. The Bears haven’t led at the end of the fourth quarter this year, a pretty strong indicator they haven’t played a complete game yet despite having two wins. 

The Carolina Panthers have road wins over the Detroit Lions and New England Patriots this year, and only lost to the Philadelphia Eagles by five points last week (despite Cam Newton throwing three interceptions). The bet here is the Bears keep things close on the backs of a strong defense, but either can’t make enough plays or make too many mistakes to win. 

Prediction: Panthers 20, Bears 16

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

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USA TODAY

Offseason of change begins with Cubs firing pitching coach Chris Bosio

"Of course," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in the middle of the National League Championship — he would like his coaches back in 2018. Pitching coach Chris Bosio told the team's flagship radio station this week that the staff expected to return next year. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein didn't go that far during Friday afternoon's end-of-season news conference at Wrigley Field, but he did say: "Rest assured, Joe will have every coach back that he wants back."

That's Cub: USA Today columnist Bob Nightengale first reported Saturday morning that Bosio had been fired, the team declining a club contract option for next year and making a major influence on the Wrigleyville rebuild a free agent. Epstein and Bosio did not immediately respond to text messages and the club has not officially outlined the shape of the 2018 coaching staff.

Those exit meetings on Friday at Wrigley Field are just the beginning of an offseason that could lead to sweeping changes, with the Cubs looking to replace 40 percent of their rotation, identify an established closer (whether or not that's Wade Davis), find another leadoff option and maybe break up their World Series core of hitters to acquire pitching. 

The obvious candidate to replace Bosio is Jim Hickey, Maddon's longtime pitching coach with the Tampa Bay Rays who has Chicago roots and recently parted ways with the small-market franchise that stayed competitive by consistently developing young arms like David Price and Chris Archer.

Of course, Maddon denied that speculation during an NLCS where the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs in every phase of the game and the manager's bullpen decisions kept getting second-guessed.

Bosio has a big personality and strong opinions that rocked the boat at times, but he brought instant credibility as an accomplished big-league pitcher who helped implement the team's sophisticated game-planning system.

Originally a Dale Sveum hire for the 2012 season/Epstein regime Year 1 where the Cubs lost 101 games, Bosio helped coach up and market short-term assets like Ryan Dempster, Scott Feldman, Matt Garza and Jeff Samardzija. 

Those win-later trades combined with Bosio's expertise led to a 2016 major-league ERA leader (Kyle Hendricks) and a 2015 NL Cy Young Award winner (Jake Arrieta) plus setup guys Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell.

Bosio helped set the foundation for the group that won last year's World Series and has made three consecutive trips to the NLCS. But as the Cubs are going to find out this winter, there is a shelf life to everything, even for those who made their mark during a golden age of baseball on the North Side.