Blackhawks

Cutler in 4th quarters: Getting better but...

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Cutler in 4th quarters: Getting better but...

Jay Cutler is leading the NFL in fourth-quarter passing. He has a passer rating of 132.0 through seven games and his performance last Sunday 12-of-14 passing, TD was the 13th comeback win of Cutlers career, sixth as a Bear.

It is a crucial stat but possibly a little misleading.

What it suggests is that Cutler, whose fourth-quarter rating last year was 60.5 with two TD passes vs. five interceptions, is becoming better under pressure. That is not universally considered a strength of his.

"He's one of those guys that can get shook quick, said Carolina Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy told CSNChicago.com after Sundays game. We wanted to get him out of his comfort zone."

Which the Panthers did for three quarters.

The key is less what the rest of the NFL thinks, however, and more what his own huddle thinks in fourth quarters with games at stake.

A couple of weeks ago I was trying to figure out a nickname, said wide receiver Brandon Marshall. I texted him over a few nicknames, like The Closer and Ace. Jay is one of those guys where he has that clutch gene. You hear guys talking about it and some believe it, some dont, but Jay has it.

Maybe. But Cutler has six comeback wins in 48 games as a Chicago Bear. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning had eight last year.

Cutler has been helped by the fact that the Bears have trailed in only two fourth quarters this season: Carolina and at Green Bay, where they lost. The Bears defense has held opponent scoring down and Cutler has had the advantage of rarely being in must-throw situations in the final 15 minutes, meaning that opposing defenses are typically gearing to play the run.

No. 2 Peyton Manning averages nine fourth-quarter passes per game. No. 3 Aaron Rodgers averages 9.5. No. 4 Andy Dalton averages 9.4.

Cutler averages 6.6 fourth-quarter passes per game.

But Cutler has not always been good under game pressure so the improvement from last years 60.5, which was 39th among qualifying quarterbacks, is important.

I think this team, weve talked about it being a young offense and now were kind of coming together, Cutler said. It takes us a little bit longer to make adjustments in games and get everything straightened out.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks face Golden Knights for first time

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Vegas Golden Knights Tuesday on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 8:45 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Corey Crawford vs. ... Oscar Dansk? 

The Golden Knights have seen both Marc-Andre Fleury and Malcolm Subban go down with injuries, so they're scraping for goaltenders at this point.

On one end of the ice, you have one of the best netminders in the league and a two-time Stanley Cup champion in Crawford. On the other, you have a 23-year-old rookie in Dansk making his first official NHL start who will be backed up by a 24-year-old rookie in Maxime Lagace, who has never appeared in an NHL game.

In his first game action, Dansk stopped 10 of 11 shots in relief during Saturday's 3-2 overtime win over St. Louis.

2. Fast start.

The Blackhawks are tied for second in both goals scored (13) and fewest goals allowed (four) in the first period, which has a large reason for their early season success.

The Golden Knights aren't the kind of team that gets out to a blazing start. They've allowed only five goals in the opening frame, but they've scored only five as well, which ranks among the bottom 10 teams in the league. 

3. Beware of James Neal.

The Golden Knights became the first team in NHL history to win six of their first seven games of their inaugural season. And they probably don't have half of those wins if it weren't for Neal, who scored the game-winning goal in each of their first three games.

He leads the club with six goals and eight points, and serves as the motor for a team that doesn't have much offensive talent. He's the go-to guy, and somebody you have to keep an eye on when he's on the ice.

 

Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls square off against LeBron and the Cavaliers

Here are Three Things to Watch in the Bulls' Tuesday night tilt against the Cavaliers on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live.

1. LeBron James will be on your television

Love him or hate him, LeBron James is must-see TV. Now in his 15th NBA season, James has shown no signs of slowing down. Despite playing just one preseason game (against the Bulls), James has shown anything but rust in three games, averaging 25.0 points on 60 percent shooting, 8.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in nearly 37 minutes. He's a threat every night to do something you've never seen on a basketball court, His Airness included. Justin Holiday and Paul Zipser will have their hands full against the game's best player.

2. Lauri Markkanen, Week 2

Small sample size alert! But through the season's first week Markkanen and Ben Simmons are the only rookies averaging a double-double (Dallas' Dennis Smith has played just one game, averaging 16 points and 10 assists). While the Bulls have struggled through two games, Markkanen's net rating is third best on the team and he leads the Bulls bigs in rebounds per game and rebound percentage. Markkanen has shown some versatility offensively, and his 7 free-throw attempts have been a nice surprise as well.

3. Don't forget: The Bulls swept the Cavaliers last year

OK, so expecting a victory Tuesday night in Cleveland isn't smart. The Bulls will be underdogs just like they were in each of the four games last season, all of which were Bulls winners. It was the first time in 52 division series that LeBron James had been swept, which is pretty remarkable considering the Bulls were the No. 8 seed and the Cavs coasted to a third straight NBA Finals. We're not over here predicting a win. But just remember: the Bulls have fared well against James in the regular season.