Matchup of Elites I: Johnson vs. Tillman


Matchup of Elites I: Johnson vs. Tillman

Every so often a game brings together not just elite players but elite players for two teams in exactly opposing positions, with the prospect of going against each other virtually every snap.
Such will the case be on Sunday when the Bears and Houston Texans line up against each other (assuming that one is not called away to be with his wife in childbirth):
Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. Bears CB Charles Tillman.
Bears WR Brandon Marshall vs. Texans CB Johnathan Joseph.
All four have been Pro Bowl selections. Both cornerbacks were chosen last year. Marshall has represented the AFC three times (MVP once), Johnson five times. Johnson is 6-3, the opponents' big receiver against whom 6-2 Tillman has been matched ever since his rookie year.
Johnson has an NFL record 60-plus receptions in each of his first eight seasons, 42 this year, tied for 18th in the NFL. Tillman, who endured Johnsons 10 catches, 148 yards and two touchdowns in Houstons 2008 game-16 win that cost the Bears the playoffs, has shut down Calvin Johnson this year to go with his two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns.
I knew that about Tillman last time we played him, Johnson said. Whenever you get the ball, you just have to make sure youve got it tucked away well and make sure youve got it protected.
Lovie Smith saw Johnson in 2004, Smiths first as Bears coach, Johnsons second with the Texans (drafted third overall in 2003, the year Tillman was drafted in the secod round). He saw Johnson again in 2008. Four more years have not dimmed the luster of an elite at his position.
He was a great player back then. We see the same thing now, Smith said. The last couple of years he had some injuries thats hurt him a little bit. When hes healthy, hes as good as there is. We played some good receivers this year, and hes as good as there is out there.

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

USA Today

Can Cairo Santos be the kicker the Bears need?

Since the Bears inserted Mitchell Trubisky as their starting quarterback, they've had 12 drives end with a field goal — an average of two per game. Connor Barth hit nine of those dozen kicks, which had an average distance of 38.4 yards, but all three of Barth’s misses came from 45 yards or longer. 

Barth’s missed game-tying 46-yarder in the final seconds Sunday against the Detroit Lions was the last straw for someone who hadn’t been consistent in his one and a half years in Chicago. So enter Cairo Santos, who made 89 of 105 field goals (85 percent) from 2014-2017 with the Kansas City Chiefs. More importantly: Santos has made 73 percent of his career field goals from 40 or more yards; Barth made 52 percent of his kicks from the same distance with the Bears. 

(73 percent from long range isn’t bad, but it’s not great, either: Philadelphia Eagles kicker and Lyons Township High School alum Jake Elliott has made 88 percent of his 40-plus-yard kicks; Harrison Butker, who replaced Santos in Kansas City, has made 90 percent of his kicks from that distance. Both players are rookies who were drafted and cut prior to the season.)

Santos was released by the Chiefs in late September after a groin injury landed him on injured reserve (he played in three games prior to being released). The injury wasn’t expected to be season-ending, and Santos said he’s felt 100 percent for about two weeks before joining the Bears on Monday. 

“It was a long and difficult battle, but I was confident that it wasn’t going to be a serious injury, I just needed time,” Santos said. “I dealt with it in training camp, I was kicking really well, I was the only kicker in KC, and I didn’t have the appropriate time to heal. I tried to play the first three games and it got worse, so my main goal was to get 100 percent. I’ve been kicking for about a month now and finally the last week been able to come here and visit with the Bears. The muscle is in good shape to come and take a full load of a week’s practice and games, so thankful the opportunity worked out.”

For Santos, these next six weeks can be an audition for him to stick in Chicago next year. If the Bears can look optimistically at the improvements made by the Philadelphia Eagles and Los Angeles Rams with second-year top-drafted quarterbacks, they’ll need to figure out their kicking situation sooner rather than later. Bringing in Santos provides a good opportunity for that down the stretch. 

“He’s kicked in Kansas City, which is a similar climate,” special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers said. “Their field is similar to Soldier Field. He’s played in some big games, played in some important situations and he’s, by and large, been successful in those situations.”

Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga


Another wild twist in the Derrick Rose saga

We may have seen the last of Derrick Rose on a basketball court. 

According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Adrian Wojnarowski, the point guard, who's currently recovering from ankle injury, is away from the Cavaliers organization and contemplating his future in basketball: 

The news may come as a shock considering Rose is still only 29 years old, but the Chicago native has experienced triumphant highs and depressing lows like few others in league history. Undoubtedly, that's taken a toll. 

From youngest MVP in league history to injury-prone backup, the former No. 1 pick of the Bulls has seen it all in his nine-year career. And just last season in New York, his passion for the game was called into question after missing a game without informing coaches, players or staff to attend to a family issue. 

He decided to team up with LeBron James in Cleveland last offseason -- a move that nobody could have predicted five years ago -- on a veteran's minimum contract, and averaged 14.3 points before, you guessed it, being forced to sit with injury. 

Fred Hoiberg, who coached Rose for one season in Chicago, weighed in before Friday's Bulls-Warriors game: 

If Rose ultimately decides to step away for good, eerie parallels can be drawn to Doug Collins' NBA stint. Collins didn't have quite the upside Rose had, but he was a three-time All-Star before foot and knee injuries cut his career short at, yes, also 29. 

It's another sad twist in the Derrick Rose Story. He may be the greatest 'What if' in NBA history.