Blackhawks

Not pretty, but Bears get the better of Lions

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Not pretty, but Bears get the better of Lions

When a grizzly bear surprised the two campers around their fire, one yelled, Run!
 
The second yelled, You cant outrun a bear!
 
To which the first hollered over his shoulder, I dont have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you!
 
It really doesnt matter (yet) whether the Bears are a very good team, only that they are better than the ones they play. Right now they are, particularly the Detroit Lions, who are now officially not a good football team. Not well coached, not well much of anything.
 
But the more important point as far as the Bears were concerned Monday night was the Bears were better than they were, 13-7 better, the lowest point total for a Bears win since the 10-0 handling of the New York Jets in 2010.
 
The result Monday night was a win that may have lacked the flash or the flash points of recent Bears-Lions games. But the more important point as far as the Bears were concerned Monday night was they were better than the Lions were, 13-7 better -- the lowest point total for a Bears win since the 10-0 handling of the New York Jets in 2010.
 
Only the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) have fewer than the Bears one loss. Lovie Smith teams have now won six of the last seven times playing after week off, a testament to preparation and coaching.
 
Were 5-1, Smith said. Thats the position we wanted to be in.
 
For point of reference: The Lions also won last week after their week off. They committed 17 penalties in that game. So much for focus and tightening up. And against the Bears the coaches called 52 pass plays and 15 run plays despite backs averaging 5 yards per carry. Bears defenders talk about stopping the run and making a team one-dimensional. Lions coach Jim Schwartz did that for them.
 
The Bears took the ball away from the Lions four times, making for a total of 10 over the last two times the teams played in Soldier Field, where Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford remains winless for his career. And safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright had near-interceptions in their hands or the total would have been higher.
 
The offense wasnt particularly good, just good enough, with a first-quarter first-possession touchdown, only the second first-quarter TD of the season (Indianapolis).
 
Neither Stafford nor Jay Cutler posted a passer rating as high as 80. But Cutler did his with damaged ribs, five sacks and nine hits. Stafford was sacked three times. He may have thrown for 5,000 yards last year but thats a stat, not leadership, and the Bears have more of that, top to bottom, than the Lions.
 
That doesnt necessarily mean theyre as good as they need or are going to be. But they are 5-1 and thats enough right now to outrun the grizzly. And clearly the Lions.
 
Were not concerned with stats and whos the best, this or that, said defensive end Julius Peppers, who had a sack and two hits on Stafford. Were just trying to get better.
Box score

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

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USA TODAY

It's official: Blackhawks-Bruins to play at Notre Dame Stadium in 2019 Winter Classic

It’s official: The Blackhawks are headed back outdoors.

The NHL announced that the 2019 Winter Classic will be held at Notre Dame Stadium, featuring the Blackhawks and Boston Bruins on Jan. 1.

"The Blackhawks and Bruins, two of our most historic franchises, will be meeting outdoors for the first time at the 2019 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic," NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman said in a statement. "Notre Dame Stadium, with its capacity approaching 80,000, will provide an ideal setting for this ground-breaking event and will host the largest live audience ever to witness a game by either of these teams."

"The Chicago Blackhawks are honored to be participating in this marquee event at an iconic venue like Notre Dame Stadium," Blackhawks President & CEO John McDonough said in a statement. "The University of Notre Dame has strong alumni roots in both Chicago and Boston, and, with an established rivalry between the Blackhawks and Bruins, fans will be treated to an exciting game in a unique atmosphere. We appreciate the invitation to the game and look forward to what will be a great day for both franchises and the National Hockey League."

It's the sixth time the Blackhawks will be playing outdoors, and their league-leading fourth Winter Classic. The Blackhawks are 1-4-0 in outdoor games, and are winless in three Winter Classic games.

Chicago's only outdoor win came against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2014 Stadium Series Classic, a 5-1 victory at Soldier Field.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.