Cubs

Who are you?

Who are you?

Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2010
2:32 PM

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

Its the ultimate question isnt it? We ask it about others and sometimes even ourselves. While we dont have enough time or space here for me to ponder this question about myself, I have spent considerable time trying to figure what this question means as it pertains to my professional football, um, rooting interests.

Its what the first four weeks of the regular season are for. Now that we can put the preseason behind us, (Good thing we used all of the things we learned there! I love how people use a teams performance during half-speed time to predict regular season results. Indy was 0-4. Detroit 3-1. Houston 1-3. And Im sure you remember the Bears staggering through a 0-4 summer. Did any of this predict what we see now? I always find preseason prognostication as a waste of time. Do you know how many of the local experts picked the Bears last year as a double-digit winner and playoff team? How about every one of the ones I read or talked to. Why watch the preseason? Just drink your Kool-aid, then make your picks!) its time to try and figure out the truths, and the illusions, that are in front of us. Of course, as always, I do this for conversational purposes only!

How could I not start with the Bears? Has 2-0 ever felt this good? Well as a matter of fact, it has felt much better. The last time the Bears started out this well, 2006, they went to the Super Bowl. That team though had a lot of expectations. They were coming off of a playoff appearance and had a dominant defense that was in its prime. This team? Well, with the stench of the last two campaigns still not totally removed, theres more apprehension than expectation for this team. They have a maddening ability to pull the rug from out of under you every time that you start to believe.
One difference this year is Jay Cutler. Last year at this time, Cutler-mania was in full bloom. The team started out 3-1 (after a 3-1 preseason!) and all was great. Wasnt it? After a horrid 4-pick effort in the opener, a loss, he had a 7-1 TD to interception ratio in the next 3 games, all wins, so the natural summation was that he was headed, along with the team, to the promised land. We all know how that turned out. But as we watched, there was a feeling that thing were not all good. There was just a feeling that the team was not as good as its record. And in spite of some of his success, Cutler did not seem to always be on the same page with his receivers, or he was just plain reckless with the ball. 26 interceptions later, we saw how that played out.

I know its still early, but Im going to go out on a limb and say that Cutlers results are going to be different this year. Im still not sold on the O-lines ability to protect him, but he has a different feel to him this year. I think all of the negativity, following a summer of love upon his arrival here, has had an effect. I think hes motivated to make amends and reclaim his status as a golden-boy. This also includes his interactions with a media that he disdains. Ive not seen many guys, who just because of their personality, get so much scorn and ill will with media members. I know that we all are entertained by Peyton Manning and his sense of humor, which is on display in many places, but what makes him Peyton Manning is his ability to lead a football team.

3-13 quarterbacks are just not funny or lovable. Combine this desire with an offensive coordinator, who I think gets him, and also gets aggressive, pass-oriented football, and I think that good things are in store for this Bears team on the offensive side of the ball.

On the defensive side, I dont know if I feel as good. Big win and thats what its all about, but giving up 410 yards is giving up 410 yards. Much will be made of the swagger and big hits, but is that enough to stop Aaron Rogers? What you have to like is that in spite of the amount of yards given up, it was bend-but-dont-break, only yielding 1 defensive touchdown.

Also, in what I think will be the most telling stat for the defense all year, were the 3 turnovers created. Turnovers have a way of negating yardage and also get into the head of an opponent. They also are supposed to be a trademark of a Lovie Smith defense. In this defining year of Smiths tenure here, they better come in abundance.

So who are the Bears? Do any of us know? This is the NFL and that stands for: Not For Long. Things we see now may not be what they appear. One thing for sure though, a home Monday Night game against the Packers, with both teams 2-0, should be the barometer we need. 3-0 would be time for everyone to hop on the Bears express. Who are you?

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

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USA TODAY

Breaking down where Cubs can turn NLCS around and beat L.A.

“Sometimes, you got to lay your marbles out there,” Jon Lester said Sunday night inside Dodger Stadium’s visiting clubhouse, before the Cubs flew home from Los Angeles down 0-2 in the National League Championship Series. “And you get beat.”

It will be extremely difficult for the Cubs to win four of the next five games against the Dodgers, starting Tuesday night at Wrigley Field. But the Cubs had the, uh, marbles to win last year’s World Series and have developed the muscle memory from winning six playoff rounds and playing in 33 postseason games since October 2015.

There is a cross section left of the 2015 team that beat the Pittsburgh Pirates and silenced PNC Park’s blackout crowd in a sudden-death wild-card game. While 2016 is seen in hindsight as a year of destiny, those Cubs still had to kill the myths about the even-year San Francisco Giants, survive a 21-inning scoreless streak against the Dodgers and win Games 5, 6, 7 against the Cleveland Indians under enormous stress.

There is at least a baseline of experience to draw from and the sense that the Cubs won’t panic and beat themselves, the way the Washington Nationals broke down in the NL Division Series.

· Remember the Cubs pointed to how their rotation set up as soon as Cleveland took a 3-1 lead in last year’s World Series: Lester, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks would each give them a chance to win that night. The Dodgers will now have to deal with last year’s major-league ERA leader (Hendricks) in Game 3 and a Cy Young Award winner (Arrieta) on Wednesday night in Game 4.

“Obviously, we know we need to get wins at this point,” Hendricks said. “But approaching it as a must-win is a little extreme. We've just got to go out there and play our brand of baseball.

“Since we accomplished that, we know we just have to take it game by game. Even being down 3-1 (in the World Series), we worry about the next game. In that situation, we didn’t think we had to win three in a row or anything like that. We just came to the ballpark the next day and worried about what we had to do that day.”

· The history lessons only go so far when the Dodgers can line up Yu Darvish as their Game 3 starter instead of, say, Josh Tomlin. There is also a huge difference between facing a worn-down Cleveland staff in late October/early November and a rested Dodger team that clinched a division title on Sept. 22 and swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the first round. Joe Blanton and Pedro Baez aren’t walking through that bullpen door, either.

“We’ve done it before. We’ve been there before,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “But this year’s a new year. That’s a different ballclub. We’re definitely going to have to bring it.”

· Outside of Kenley Jansen, can you name anyone else in the Los Angeles bullpen off the top of your head? No doubt, the Dodger relievers have been awesome in Games 1 and 2 combined: Eight scoreless innings, zero hits, zero walks and Anthony Rizzo the only one out of 25 batters to reach base when Jansen hit him with a 93.7-mph pitch.

But the Dodgers are going to make mistakes, and the Cubs will have to capitalize. Unless this is the same kind of synthesis from the 2015 NLCS, when the New York Mets used exhaustive scouting reports, power pitching and pinpoint execution to sweep a Cubs team that had already hit the wall.

“Their bullpen is a lot stronger than it was last year,” Kris Bryant said. “They’re really good at throwing high fastballs in the zone. A lot of other teams try to, and they might hit it one out of every four. But this team, it seems like they really can hammer the top of the zone. And they have guys that throw in the upper 90s, so when you mix those two, it’s tough to catch up.”

· Bryant is not having a good October (5-for-28 with 13 strikeouts) and both Lester and Jose Quintana have more hits (one each) than Javier Baez (0-for-19 with eight strikeouts) during the playoffs. But we are still talking about the reigning NL MVP and last year’s NLCS co-MVP.

Ben Zobrist is clearly diminished and no longer the switch-hitting force who became last year’s World Series MVP. Kyle Schwarber doesn’t have the same intimidation factor or playoff aura right now. But one well-timed bunt from Zobrist or a “Schwarbomb” onto the video board could change the entire direction of this series and put the pressure on a Dodger team that knows this year is World Series or bust.

“We need to hit a couple balls hard consecutively,” manager Joe Maddon said. “Once we’re able to do that, we’ll gain our offensive mojo back. That's all that’s going on.

“I inherited something from my dad, and that was patience. So you’ve got to be patient right now. You’ve got to keep putting the boys back out there. You keep believing in them, and eventually it comes back to you.”

· Maddon is a 63-year-old man who opened Monday’s stadium club press conference at Wrigley Field by talking about dry-humping, clearly annoyed by all the second-guessers on Twitter and know-it-all sports writers who couldn’t believe All-Star closer Wade Davis got stranded in the bullpen, watching the ninth inning of Sunday’s 1-1 game turn into a 4-1 walk-off loss.

By the time a potential save situation develops on Tuesday night, roughly 120 hours will have passed since Davis threw his 44th and final pitch at Nationals Park, striking out Bryce Harper to end an instant classic. Just guessing that Maddon will be in the mood to unleash Davis.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Should the Bears let Mitch Trubisky throw more?

Adam Jahns (Chicago Sun-Times), Ben Finfer (ESPN 1000) and Jordan Cornette (The U/ESPN 1000) join Kap on the panel. Justin Turner hits a walk-off 3-run HR off of John Lackey to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead in the NLCS. So why was Lackey even in the game? How much blame should Joe Maddon get for the loss?

The Bears run the ball over and over and over again to beat the Ravens in overtime, but should they have let Mitch Trubisky throw the ball more?