Big Ten

Missed opps, and now a season nearing the brink

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Missed opps, and now a season nearing the brink

Losing three out of four games constitutes falling off a seasons cliff for the Bears after a 7-1 start. No longer are they in any discussion of the NFLs best and they are in danger of being able to look over the edge at the abyss, which in the NFL is no-playoffs.

The Bears will probably clear the bar without real difficulty, although their two gimmes on the schedule are both away games, at Arizona and at Detroit, two teams with a combined eight wins for the season. The chance was there on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks to move past the San Francisco 49ers into the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye, and now the Bears are a wild-card team.

Which may not be a bad thing. The last two Super Bowl winners (Green Bay, New York Giants) played no playoff games at home. And the Bears had home-field losses to exit the 2001 and 2005 postseason in one-and-done fashion, and their 2010 NFC Championship loss was at home.

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) W 41-21

Balanced identity established with 33-35 run pass ratio and O runs up 428 yards with Jay Cutler throwing for 333 yards and 2 TDs to go with rushing TDs by Michael Bush (2) and Matt Forte (1) as part of 122 rushing yards. Nice to have caught this team while Andrew Luck was still a puppy.

@ Green Bay Packers (8-4) L 23-10

Jay Cutler berates offensive linemen on national TV for seven sacks; linemen just have to accept Cutlers four INTs apparently. Embarrassing offensive performance all around as defense holds Aaron Rodgers and Pack to 3 FGs and one TD.

St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) W 23-6

Defense sacks Sam Bradford six times and holds Rams out of the end zone. Offense scores only one TD for the second week in a row and Jay Cutler continues to find a groove with receivers.

@ Dallas Cowboys (6-6) W 34-18

Five interceptions of Tony Romo, two returned for TDs (Briggs, Tillman) and a workmanlike 360 yards on offense produce a crucial road win on MNF against the most overrated (annually) team in the NFL.

@ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) W 41-3

Bears offense runs up 501 balanced yards (214 rush, 287 pass) and explodes after a sluggish first half. Briggs and Tillman make NFL history with TD interceptions for second straight week and Brandon Marshall puts up 144 yards on 12 catches.

Sun., Oct. 14 Off week

vs. Detroit Lions (4-8) W 13-7

Jay Cutler sacked five times and survives Ndamukong Suhs WWF takedown. Bears RBs net 132 yards as run game clicks. Offense cant put Lions away but Charles Tillman D on Calvin Johnson virtually locks Bears DB into a 2nd Pro Bowl.

vs. Carolina Panthers (3-9) W 23-22

Robbie Gould 41-yard FG as time expires caps 16-point fourth quarter and rally from 19-7 deficit. Offense and defense struggle badly for three quarters but Kellen Davis catches TD pass and Tim Jennings TD return to turn back Cam Newton and reeling Ron Rivera team.

@ Tennessee Titans (4-8) W 51-20

Charles Tillmans bid for defensive player of the year got a boost from four forced fumbles, Brian Urlacher returned an INT for a touchdown and Corey Wootton scored on a blocked punt. Jay Cutler throws three TDs to Brandon Marshall in a game Bears led 28-2 after one quarter.

Houston Texans (11-1) L 13-6

Jay Cutler goes out with concussion and offense improves with Jason Campbell. But too many wasted chances with good field positions with 2 INTs and 2 lost fumbles. Arian Foster rushes for 102 but Bears adjust to control Texans offense in second half.

@ San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) L 32-7

Jason Campbell cannot survive an abysmal performance by the offensive line, allowing 5.5 sacks to Aldon Smith, while the defense makes an instant star out of Colin Kaepernick in his first NFL start.

Vikings (6-6) W 28-10

Jay Cutler returns from his concussion, completes 15 of 17 in the first half as the Bears get up 25-3 and cruise. Adrian Peterson loses to fumbles, Chris Conte intercepts Christian Ponder, and the offense turns the takeaways into 14 points.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6) L 23-17

Defense allows 459 yards as Russell Smith runs them ragged on TD drives of 97 and 80 yards for an overtime win. Bears squander numerous chances for stops and fail to convert an early fourth down vs. taking a safe FG.

@ Minnesota Vikings (6-6) Sun., Dec. 9, noon

Vikings cant hold 14-10 halftime edge as Packers score 13 unanswered in the second to give Minnesota its fourth loss in the last five games.

Green Bay Packers (8-4) Sun., Dec. 16, noon

Pack survives 210 rushing yards by Adrian Peterson by intercepting Christian Ponder twice in the red zone to catch Bears in NFC North. Next: Detroit

@ Arizona Cardinals (4-8) Sun., Dec. 23, 3:15 p.m.

A new low for Cards, losing 7-6 to the N.Y. Jets who play so poorly that Mark Sanchez is benched. Five first downs and 0-for-15 on third downs to run string to eight straight losses. Next: @ Seattle

@ Detroit Lions (4-8) Sun., Dec. 30, noon

Just when you think the Lions have reached the pinnacle of classlessness, they raise their own bar, taunting and laughing at an injured Colt still down with a concussion after an Ndamukong Suh hit. Last laugh to Colts on Andrew LuckDonnie Avery TD flip. Next: @ Green Bay

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

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USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bulls' Bobby Portis publicly apologizes to Nikola Mirotic: 'I'm wrong for what I did'

Bobby Portis publicly issued an apology to Nikola Mirotic for the punch that broke two bones in Mirotic’s face and caused a concussion earlier this week.

Portis was suspended eight games by the NBA while Mirotic will be out 4-6 weeks after he goes through concussion protocol, following an incident in Tuesday’s practice where the tensions boiled over between the two power forwards.

“I'm wrong for what I did. I want to publicly apologize to Niko,” said Portis outside the Bulls locker room at the United Center, hours before the home opener against the San Antonio Spurs. “I feel like I let my fans, the Bulls organization, and most importantly my teammates down. This is not who Bobby Portis is.”

Sticking to clear talking points, repeatedly saying “we were competing” as a way to describe the incident, it was a more toned down version of Portis. Portis is usually colorful and engaging when talking to the media.

Saturday, he was muted, almost robotic in a sense. And he didn’t want to go into the incident in detail, one that many sources have said was instigated by Mirotic as the two were going back and forth physically during several possessions.

The play before, things intensified, causing assistant coach Randy Brown to step in and break things up. The next time downcourt, Mirotic apparently charged at Portis and Portis responded with one punch that sent Mirotic to the floor.

Gently choosing his words, Portis said, “We were competing and kinda went back and forth and things happened.”

When asked if he was shoved, Portis reiterated the two were competing although numerous accounts say Mirotic did push him leading up to the direct incident.

“Yes I was surprised by my own action,” Portis said. “That's not who I was, as I first stated. I'm a competitor at the end of the day but I never meant to hurt my teammate.”

Portis and Mirotic have not yet spoken, although Portis said he’s called and texted Mirotic with no response. It hasn’t been determined whether Mirotic will take legal action on Portis.

“Not concerned with that at this point,” Portis said. “At this point I’m just trying to publicly apologize to Niko and my teammates, and that I’m real sincere about the situation.”

Portis will be allowed to practice during his suspension, having returned Friday and Portis believes things can be mended with he and his teammate.

“Going forward I want to make sure that me and Niko are cool and we can be teammates again,” Portis said. “I'm pretty sure we can. We just have to repair this relationship.”

Justin Holiday said the issue will have to be addressed head on as opposed to being swept under the rug or letting the element of time naturally heal things. Whether that conversation is initiated by teammates or the coaching staff or front office, as long as both are wearing a Bulls uniform, it will be necessary.

“It hasn’t been arranged, but I’m pretty sure we’ll have to talk it out,” Portis said. “And I’m pretty sure it will be a gentle conversation. I’m pretty sure we can get past this.”