Preps Talk

Peterson or Ponder: Which is the real threat?

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Peterson or Ponder: Which is the real threat?

The Bears defense has gone to sleep this week with visions of Adrian Peterson in its collective head. That may not be its sole cause for concern, however.

Pondering Ponder

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has been a disappointment in 2012. After a promising rookie year that effectively began with his relieving Donovan McNabb against the Bears, he has muddled along with a passer rating of 75 this season.

In his first six games he had none with a completion percentage lower than 60 and the Vikings were 4-2. In the last six he has had just one game with a completion rate above 55. The Vikings have gone 2-4.

Hes pretty much what you see, said new middle linebacker Nick Roach. Hes very athletic, he can throw the ball if he has time, and he doesnt seem to get rattled, which you would tend to maybe associate with young guys. Hes a good test.

The reason: For all of his inconsistencies, Ponder is 5-1 at home this season.

Visions of 28

But the Bears mission statement is always to make a team one-dimensional by taking away its running game. And nowhere has this appeared to prove more effective than against the Vikings.

Minnesota won four of the first five games in Adrian Petersons career against the Bears. In those, Peterson averaged 128 yards per game. The Vikings have lost the last six (two with Peterson missing due to injury) with the games best running back averaging 73 yards in the four he played, including the 108 he had in the 28-10 loss on Nov. 25.

The quirky part is that Peterson has rushed for no fewer than those 108 yards in each of the last six games and the Vikings won just two of those, against woefuls Arizona and Detroit.

He trampled the Green Bay Packers for 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries last Sunday. The Vikings lost 23-14.

But in the mind of the Bears there is still a clear No. 1 target and way to neutralize that.

Gang-tackling, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Its gap security and knowing exactly what were doing and playing extremely hard and fast. That game he played last week at Green Bay was special. We know what we have in store for us. Were competing for a championship and we got to get him on the ground.

Something missing

The Bears have been successful in their last six games against Minnesota. They also have had Brian Urlacher in all of those. Now they dont.

Roach has been very solid this season with an arrow pointing up at this point of the year. He had four tackles against San Francisco as well as a half-sack and quarterback pressure and pass breakup. He totaled seven stops against the Vikings and forced a fumble, and he followed that with five tackles against Seattle. Of his 16 tackles over the past three games, 11 have been solos.

But as WBBMWSCR Bears reporter Zach Zaidman noted, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has never handled a game through any other channel than Urlacher. This will be the first time he is communicating his defensive moves through someone other than Urlacher.

Sound off

Communicating is the operative word here.

One popular notion in Roachs previous time at middle linebacker (2009, three games, 1-2) was that he simply was not loud enough. Two of those three games were outdoors.

This game is inside one of the acknowledged loudest venues in sports. Teammates are satisfied that Roach can and will be heard.

His voice has developed, said linebacker Lance Briggs, smiling. I dont know the right word but its matured. He sounds louder on the field.

Communication is not going to be a problem. Even if guys dont hear, weve been in the system long enough where we understand we should all understand by recognizing.

Roach was amused: Lance is a funny guy. I try to make a conscious effort to get the communications clear so the guys can hear it.

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

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AP

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”