Bulls

Dominant 'D' performance, 'teams' keep Texans in check

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Dominant 'D' performance, 'teams' keep Texans in check

Another dominant "D" performance, "teams" keep Texans in check

The Houston Texans came to Soldier Field averaging 29.6 points per game, second in the NFL. They left with a win on just 13 and a season-low 215 yardsbecause of individual and collective performances in all position groups.

Houston wide receiver Andre Johnson had three catches in the first quarter, one in the second and none in the second half. Running back Arian Foster had 85 yards in the first half, 17 in the second. The Bears had eight tackles for loss, sacked unsackable Matt Schaub and kept the Bears in a game that the offense was unable to be part of.

DEFENSIVE LINE A-

Against one of the most proficient offenses in the NFL, the front Julius Peppers collected a fourth-quarter sack of Schaub, only the 11th time all year he has been sacked. Peppers, Henry Melton, Nate Collins and Israel Idonije all had at least one tackle for loss. Melton had six tackles total, Idonije five and Peppers four.

Corey Wootton, who had a quarterback hit, played heavy minutes with Shea McClellin gone after one series with a concussion.

LINEBACKERS A-

Brian Urlachers tackle for loss late in the second quarter and quick call for time out gave a chance for a last Bears possession of a very bad half. His pursuit on wide plays was in the style of his early years and had a second tackle for loss among his team-high eight tackles, seven solo.

Lance Briggs (four tackles) and Nick Roach (two) were instrumental in controlling Foster, maintaining gap integrity and picking through Houstons zone blocking to disrupt run plays. Roach played 84 percent of the snaps, with the Texans using an extra lineman in a number of base offense packages and limited use of nickel groups, and added 16 special teams plays.

SECONDARY A

The Bears locked down on Andre Johnson as the game went on zero catches in the second half. Schaub missed on only eight of his passes: two were Tim Jennings interceptions and five were broken up by the two corners

Jennings saved the Bears from a first-half rout with two interceptions, giving him a Pro Bowl eight (never hurts to do that on the national NBC game).

Charles Tillman had six solo tackles and two pass breakups, while Jennings added three breakups to his INTs.

Major Wright had five solo tackles, one for loss, and Chris Conte had four.

COACHING A

Personnel groupings and matchups were adjusted well on the fly against a balanced offense with firepower in both run and pass. Adjustments were made in run defense and the coverage on Johnson varied enough to take him out of the game in the second half.

SPECIAL TEAMS

A one-score game was one return away from being evened but Houston was able to prevent Devin Hester from getting loose. Coverage units allowed the Texans little field position, the second half beginning with Houston starting at its 3-, 16- and 11-yard lines.

KICKING B

Robbie Gould gave the Bears a big boost with a 51-yard field goal in the second quarter when the offense was doing little with the turnovers from Tim Jennings. He added another from 24 yards but hit the left upright from 48 yards early in the fourth quarter. A creditable performance with horrendous footing because of rain.

Adam Podlesh punted five times for a 38.8-yard average, placing two inside the 20.

COVERAGE A-

The Texans had zero return yardage on the five Podlesh punts. Keyshawn Martin returned three kickoffs for an average of 22 yards, none longer than 23 yards. Zackary Bowman forced a fumble that was recovered by Blake Costanzo but overturned on booth review.

RETURNS B

Devin Hester provided a spark (wasted by a subsequent turnover) with a 24-yard return of Houstons punt after a three-and-out. The Texans allowed him just seven yards on two other returns and kicked away from him to blunt that threat.

COACHING A-

Houstons return game was controlled with no runback longer than the 23 yards on Martins one kickoff return. The Texans schemed to stop Hester.

Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

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Bulls Talk Podcast: Will Kris Dunn build off career night?

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski, Kendall Gill, and Kevin Anderson react to a breakout game from Kris Dunn against the Hornets Friday night. They’ll discuss his development and how it impacts rookie Lauri Markkanen. Plus just how long will both the Wolves and Bulls be judged on the Jimmy Butler trade? Is Dwight Howard a hall of famer? And a new era in Philly with Simmons and Embiid. That and more on this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast.

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Observations from Bulls-Hornets: Kris Dunn, a sigh of relief and hack-a-who?

Kris Dunn did it: You can’t play that position without an edge, without some form of “basketball killer” in you. Kris Dunn showed at the very least, he has that in his DNA in his best game as a Bull with a career-high 22 points, seven assists and five rebounds.

Leave it to Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg to point out a forgotten stat: one turnover in 26 minutes.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Dunn said. “Everyone knows I’ve had a lot of careless turnovers in the season. It’s one thing I’ll take credit for.”

Dunn scored 13 with six assists in the fourth quarter alone as the Bulls outscored the Hornets 40-28 for the comeback victory. More than anything, it was his competitive spirit and aggressiveness that stood out. Kemba Walker stood across the way and gave Dunn—and the Bulls—every bit of 47 points.

“He tested my conditioning, for sure,” Dunn admitted. “He’s a great player. He’s been in the league for so long. It was good to go out there and compete with him.”

It could’ve went a different way had Walker not been bothered by Lauri Markkanen’s challenge at the rim, blowing a layup that would’ve given the Hornets the lead back with seconds remaining but he missed it and the narrative changed at least for a night.

And when teams are talking about learning experiences, it’s good to have them in a win every now and again. Markkanen’s challenge at the rim followed by his closing free throws right after, along with a quietly effective 16 points and seven rebounds, proved huge on this night.

Dunn finally having a confidence booster was imperative.

Dunn scored but it wasn’t an easy 20 or a smooth 20. It was an attacking 20, a necessary 20. He did hit some elbow jumpers, especially in the fourth as the defense laid off him.

But his biggest basket was a slithering drive to the rim for a layup with 2:24 left, because he attacked and was under control.

“That’s huge growth for Kris,” Hoiberg said. “He made the right play darn near every time he had the ball in his hands. Rose up with confidence, knocked down huge shots. Defensively got them going, got steals.”

What a relief: Nobody wanted to say it, but it bore out on the floor, the sheer desperation the Bulls played with.

Coming in with a five-game losing streak and headed out west to for four games in the next week, they were staring in the face of a possible double-digit losing streak to end November.

Confidence was sparse after three bad losses, and it’s a dangerous time for a team that will struggle to win games all season.

The United Center crowd got into it, particularly late when the Bulls began climbing back into contention to start the fourth quarter. The fans wanted this win too, even with the eyes being on a larger prize coming in mid-2018.

The relief was written all over Hoiberg’s usually-stress ridden face and he even cracked a couple jokes that weren’t aimed in his direction, as self-deprecation is normally his escape of choice.

“It is important but I asked the guys: is it hard to play with that type of effort? When you play with that type of energy and effort and swagger, it’s fun,” Hoiberg said. “When you play low energy and hang your head, it’s a drag. It’s hard to play at this level with that mentality.”

Starting change: Justin Holiday returned after his quick leave with his wife delivering a baby girl recently and his game-high 27 points showed he missed the Bulls as much as they missed his shooting, hitting four triples and going 10 for 15 from the field.

“Guys were serious about getting their jobs done,” Holiday said. “It was a lot of energy, a lot of energy, competitiveness. That’s how we have to play every night for our team to do well.”

Denzel Valentine, although he didn’t want to say it, wants to be a starter. Hoiberg chose Quincy Pondexter over him recently and then made the change Friday to insert Valentine for more scoring.

Valentine scored 18 with six assists and five rebounds in 32 minutes of run—and with those two starting as scoring options, the Bulls surpassed that seven-point first-quarter mark really early and scored 26 overall.

He hit a big triple in the fourth with 2:49 left to give the Bulls a 110-109 lead on a set play the Bulls actually executed between Valentine, Dunn as a setup man and Robin Lopez as a screen to pop Valentine open.

If he continues to hit 3-pointers at a 40 percent clip, especially with the way the Bulls have struggled to start games, he’ll have the right to feel he belongs in the first five.

“It’s definitely more confidence,” Valentine said. “You feel you’re an NBA starter, you get to go in and feel it out for a second and bring some energy to start the game.”

He didn’t mince words about starting, with a little honesty saying, “I think it’s huge being a starter.”

When asked if he felt validated by his performance and the result being a high-scoring win, it was just as telling.

“I think I deserve…I think I deserved a starting role,” Valentine said. “At the same time it’s different combinations, different people that need to be on the floor at certain times, so if he feels like I don’t need to start, I won’t start. But I feel very comfortable starting as well.”

Hack-a-Dwight: It could be Hack-a-Dwight, hack-a-Drummond, hack-a-Wilt or Shaq or Charles Shackleford.

The Bulls went to it and Howard went two of four from the line but it took a little rhythm from the Hornets and probably slowed Kemba Walker down just enough before he got cooking in the last 90 seconds and almost pulled a win out of his keister.

But…

I hate it. Get it out of the game completely.