Bears Campbell gears up for big stage facing 49ers


Bears Campbell gears up for big stage facing 49ers

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) When Jay Cutler got hurt last November, the Chicago Bears' promising season fell apart fast, with no capable backup behind him.

The Bears went from 7-3 and looking toward the playoffs to losing five of their final six to finish 8-8 and with no postseason berth.

Chicago acquired an insurance policy during the offseason, and now the Bears (7-2) will see if that move pays off. Jason Campbell is set to make his first NFL start in more than a year in place of the concussed Cutler in a key NFC showdown with the San Francisco 49ers (6-2-1) on Monday night at Candlestick Park.

It's not like Campbell hasn't been in big games before. He has 70 career starts to his name in eight NFL seasons.

``It's a tough opponent we have Monday night. No one said it was going to be easy,'' Campbell said. ``So, we've got to go there, we've got to fight and play together as a unit.''

That was something Chicago couldn't do when Cutler broke his right thumb last fall, with Caleb Hanie playing in his place.

The Bears can't afford a repeat of their late-season demise, and that's why they brought in Campbell.

``We didn't handle last year well,'' coach Lovie Smith said. ``Of course, it's documented we didn't. That's why we went out and we felt like we've upgraded the position. I know the guys have a lot of confidence in Jason. He's played a lot of football, started a lot of games, so yeah, we're hopeful. That's why we can't wait to get to this game. Injuries do happen, and we'll see exactly where we are, but we think we're going to be OK.

Campbell went 10-5 over his last 15 starts with the Oakland Raiders, completing 60.3 percent of his passes with 17 touchdowns, eight interceptions and an 89.6 passer rating. He missed the final 10 games with a broken collarbone, then became a free agent and joined the Bears.

San Francisco is fully aware of his resume, and the Niners' defense doesn't expect many new looks with Campbell under center.

``We're going to take it as he's the starter, and we're going to go out there and do what we're supposed to do,'' 49ers safety Donte Whitner said. ``He's a veteran guy with a big, strong arm. I never felt he got his fair shake in Washington, the guys he had around him, and Oakland, also. Once he got injured, they just shipped him out and brought another guy in. We understand that he can make plays, and we can't go into this game thinking we have it made and the backup quarterback is in there.

``That's when you get embarrassed.''

For San Francisco, all signs point to quarterback Alex Smith starting after he also sustained a concussion last week in a 24-24 tie with St. Louis. He was still listed as questionable in Saturday's formal practice report, and spent the week practicing in a non-contact black jersey. The decision on Smith's status might not be made until Monday, within hours of kickoff.

And Lovie Smith insists all Chicago can do is prepare for the position, not one quarterback or another. Colin Kaepernick is Smith's backup.

This week, 49ers running back Frank Gore was rooting for both starting quarterbacks to get healthy in a hurry.

``We want their best, like they want our best,'' Gore said. ``I know they will want Alex Smith to play. We want Cutler to play.''

San Francisco got another scare when coach Jim Harbaugh missed most of Thursday to undergo a minor procedure for an irregular heartbeat. He returned Friday, energized and eager to get back to work.

Harbaugh said he spent extra time studying Chicago at home to make up for the half-day he missed.

``You're not here and the rest of the team's out here practicing, that's not a good feeling,'' he said. ``It's like, I've had that dream before many times where it's like you're supposed to be taking a test, or the team's out there practicing and you're not out there.''

San Francisco's defense knows it must slow down wideout Brandon Marshall, because Campbell will certainly target him with his 67 catches for 904 yards and seven touchdowns.

``He's their best receiver by far,'' 49ers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. ``And I'm sure he'll be looking for him.''

Gore still has memories of Cutler's five-interception day in a 10-6 San Francisco win at home the last time these teams met three years ago - and Gore's 14-yard touchdown run during a 104-yard night accounted for the lone TD of the game.

Plenty has changed since then.

``Both teams were down that year, both teams didn't have a good team. Now, we're doing good, they're doing good. It will be a good game,'' Gore said. ``They're coming off a loss. We tied. Both teams want to come out on top. Two good teams get to see how it goes on Monday.''

For Campbell, getting off to a fast start would be ideal against one of the NFL's top defenses. Everybody knows it could be a low-scoring night with two teams allowing fewer than 15 points per game.

``It's all about coming out in the first quarter and trying to set a tempo,'' Campbell said. ``As a quarterback, you got to not try to dictate the game, but do everything you possibly can to get your own rhythm, by not forcing things and everything like that.

``But, at the same time, just have fun. You got to let it hang out in a game like this.''


AP Sports Writer Andrew Seligman in Chicago contributed to this story.


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Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Wizards display lack of urgency in loss to Nuggets and Scott Brooks is frustrated

Following their seventh loss in 11 games and another lackluster performance in key areas, Wizards head coach Scott Brooks reverted back to a critique that characterized many defeats months ago. He called into question the effort of his team, more specifically their urgency. How they could overlook the stakes at this point of the season and with so much on the line had escaped him.

Brooks wasn't pleased following Washington's 108-100 loss to the Denver Nuggets on Friday night. He didn't like their three-point defense, their inability to force turnovers and their lack of zip on offense. But overall, it was the apparent lack of realization that time is running out in the regular season and off-nights cannot be afforded.

"We have to play with more spirit [and] we have to take some pride in our home court," Brooks said. "We’re building our habits going into the playoffs and these are moments where we need to take advantage because it’s playoff implications in every game."


Pride is something Brooks has referenced after the Wizards' worst defeats since he took over. This one didn't qualify, as they only lost by eight points and had opportunities late to write a different ending. But they were playing a team fighting for their own playoff position in the opposite conference and for the most part did not match their intensity.

The Nuggets, to put it plainly, are among the worst defensive teams in basketball. They were missing their leading scorer, Gary Harris. And they tightened their rotation to just eight players.

Yet the Wizards only managed 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers. Aside from their 33-point third quarter, the Wizards' offense was effectively stalled. 

"We can’t have guys that are not going to participate with hard cuts and hard setups and good screens. We need everybody. It’s not one person, it’s all," Brooks said.


The Wizards only forced 10 turnovers on the Nuggets and only three in the first half. That held back their offense in the sense they had few opportunities for fastbreak buckets.

"That’s where we get most of our offense from anyways, getting stops, getting out in transition," forward Otto Porter said.

The Wizards have lost two straight games. Meanwhile, the Cavaliers and Pacers both won on Friday night.

The Wizards are sixth place in the East and just 1 1/2 games out of fourth, but there is a huge difference in those spots. Sixth could mean meeting the Cavs in the first round and they have won three straight since Kevin Love returned from injury.


The Cavaliers could quickly become the most dangerous team in the Eastern Conference. Their record is deceiving due to Love's injury and they still boast LeBron James, the best player on the planet. No one can control a playoff series quite like he can.

An argument could be made the Wizards would be better off moving down than up, as the seventh spot would match them up with the injury-riddled Boston Celtics. The Wizards are just 1 1/2 games ahead of the seventh-seed Miami Heat.

The Wizards, though, would prefer to move up and they still have a chance to get into fourth, which would mean home court advantage.

John Wall will return at some point, likely soon. In the short-term, Brooks would like to some urgency and for his team to get back to the trademark ball movement that allowed them to go 10-3 in their first 13 games when Wall went down.

"We can get it back, but it’s not going to come back. We have to go get it. It’s time to do it; it’s time," Brooks said.

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

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Game 75 Capitals at Canadiens Date, Time, How to Watch, Game Thread

What: Washington Capitals vs. Montreal Canadiens

Where: Bell Centre, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

When: 7:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Canadiens will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


The Capitals (43-24-7) take on the Canadiens (27-36-12) Saturday, March 24 at 7:00 p.m. ET in Montreal.


The Capitals-Canadiens game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Washington. Coverage kicks off on NBC Sports Washington with Capitals FaceOff at 6:00 p.m. followed by Caps GameTime at 6:30 p.m. Stay with NBC Sports Washington after the game for Caps Extra and Caps Overtime at 10:00 p.m. for postgame coverage. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:00 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
6:30 p.m. — Caps GameTime
7:00 p.m. — Capitals at Canadiens
9:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
10:00 p.m. — Caps Overtime


You can watch the Capitals-Canadiens game on NBC Sports' live stream page.


Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

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