Cubs

No 'deserves' in Bears reaching 6-1 with fifth straight win

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No 'deserves' in Bears reaching 6-1 with fifth straight win

Cornerback Tim Jennings preferred to look at the result rather than steps in the process.
 
This was an ugly one, said Jennings, whose 25-yard interception return for a touchdown gave the Bears a lead in the fourth quarter. Offense didnt play well. Defense didnt play well. Special teams didnt get any big plays.
 
But we just had to keep fighting.
 
In the last half of the last quarter, the offense, defense and special teams all produced both big plays and points.
 
So whether the Bears won a 23-22 victory over the Carolina Panthers on a last-second field goal of 41 yards by Robbie Gould or the Panthers blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead really isnt important at all.
 
Beauty, or lack of, is in the minds of the critics, not in the NFL standings, which have the 6-1 Bears with the second-best record in the NFL and still two games ahead of the 5-3 Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings in the NFC North.
 
There is no such thing as an ugly win, coach Lovie Smith said. To me the team that deserves the win always ends up on top at the end.
 
Indeed, deserves has no relevance in sports, certainly not after the Bears trailed the ill-starred 1-6 Panthers by a count of 19-7 as late as the 7-minute mark of the fourth quarter. The Bears scored 13 points in the span of 8 seconds to deserve a fifth straight win for the third season in a row.
 
All phases in 7 minutes
 

Smith consistently alludes to the importance of all phases of the team offense, defense, special teams plus fan support as the fourth. All four figured prominently in one of the epic turnarounds in recent Bears history:
 
Offense
 
The victory needed quarterback Jay Cutler completing 12 of 14 passes in the fourth quarter and accomplishing his first come-from-behind win since rallying the Bears against the Philadelphia Eagles last Nov. 7.
 
The offense turned a shanked six-yard Carolina punt into a 12-yard touchdown pass from Cutler to tight end Kellen Davis with 6 minutes, 52 seconds to play.
 
After the Panthers had gone back ahead on a Justin Medlock field goal of 45 yards, Cutler picked apart a suddenly overmatched Carolina defense by completing six of seven passes to set up Goulds winning kick.
 
They were playing one coverage, said Cutler, who finished with 19-of-28 passing for 186 yards, a touchdown, an interception and passer rating of 83.3. He was sacked six times in the first half, then never again.
 
We just kept hitting them and hitting them and hitting them.
 
Defense
 
It needed Jennings eight seconds and one snap later intercepting a pass intended for wide receiver Steve Smith, who had slipped on the play. Jennings returned the ball 25 yards for an NFL-record sixth defensive touchdown on the year.
 
The play was particularly savored because it came at the expense of Smith, who hurt the Bears with seven catches and 118 receiving yards and dismissed Bears defensive backs as not his equal in the aftermath.
 
They didnt especially care.
 
Great play, said cornerback Charles Tillman. You never know whats going to happen so thats why you have to keep playing. Coach Smith is always talking about it. I think we learned a lot about our team tonight.
 
Special teams
 
It needed special teams and Gould shaking off an earlier miss from 32 yards and driving home his 13th field goal of the season as time expired.
 
Carolina collapse
 
The defeat carried a special sting. Coach Ron Rivera fell to 0-2 against former boss Lovie Smith, but more excruciatingly, five of the Panthers six losses have been by six or fewer points. The last four have been by a total of 12 points and were leaving Rivera without answers, or solutions.
 
Yeah, I am, truly, Rivera said. Im running out of ways to describe this.
 
This was anything but a meltdown by quarterback Cam Newton or anyone else. Newton completed 20 of 39 passes for 314 yards but saved his worst throw to a slipping Smith - until it mattered most.
 
I kind of felt him slipping, Newton said. I just wanted to give Steve and chance. You cant do that. You need to protect the ball better than that.
 
If you dont, you dont deserve to win. Or something like that.

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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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.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.