Bulls

Bears-Seahawks preview: Protect the protectors

953245.png

Bears-Seahawks preview: Protect the protectors

Long-ago Bears defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan always said that he learned his most basic tenet while the New York Jets defensive line coach and he saw the single-mindedness with which head coach Weeb Ewbank protecting quarterback Joe Namath. Ryan said he concluded that if taking care of the quarterback was that important, then getting to the quarterback should be the prime directive for his group, and when he became a coordinator in Chicago, it remained his guiding principle.

Jay Cutler, whether for reasons of strategy or simple self-preservation, is of like mind.

First and foremost, youve got to protect the quarterback, Cutler said. Its hard throwing out of a phone booth all the time. It makes life difficult when youre getting hit so you should be protected. If its better to have a few more guys in helping out, then thats what weve got to do.

So, how to do it

Saying it and doing it are different matters entirely. And, besides the fact that Seattle ranks No. 3 defensively in scoring (16.8 points per game; the Bears are No. 2 at 15.9 and San Francisco still No. 1), heres the first problem:

A weakness in the Bears offense an offensive line still with moving parts after injuries and demotions is directly opposite core strength of the Seattle Seahawks defense.

The Seahawks made defensive end Bruce Irvin the 15th overall pick of this years draft. He has seven sacks (nine, according to ProFootballFocus.com), five QB hits and 14 hurries despite playing almost exclusively in nickel situations and less than half (280) of Seattle opponents 667 snaps.

Chris Clemons has eight sacks and 17 hits. Clemons is 6-foot-3, 254 pounds, or just about the same size as San Franciscos Aldon Smith, who ran over and through the Bears for 5.5 sacks.

Seattle starts Clemons along with three massives: end Red Bryant (6-4, 323), who returned an interception of a Caleb Hanie pass last year for a touchdown; and tackles Alan Branch (6-6, 325) and Brandon Mebane (6-1, 311).

Theyve got some size about them, said offensive coordinator Mike Tice. And 91 Clemons is a prolific pass rusher.

Finding a weakness

The Bears stated goal every game is to render an opponent one-dimensional by taking away the run game. The Seahawks believe the same but have inexplicably struggled stopping the run, however, going from No. 4 in the NFL in yards per carry allowed to No. 26 this season.

But Seattle ranks seventh in sacks per pass play and the Bears are an alarming 32nd in sacks allowed per play. And the Seahawks allow opposing quarterbacks a pedestrian 75.4 passer rating per game. Only the Bears (65.1) and Arizona Cardinals (74.3) are tougher.

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

11-24_gsw_matchup_nba_chi_blank.jpg

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

chicago-thankful.jpg
USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.