Bulls

A 'bad' offense finds ways to lose

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A 'bad' offense finds ways to lose

The offense started in a huge hole, partly its own making, and finished with perhaps the most meaningless 438 yards in recent memory. The output was the second-highest of the season; the 41 percent third-down conversions was strong; but the 14 points were the ultimate point and the Bears found ways to undo almost every bit of good they did.

It is now officially a bad offense, which is one where players take turns failing to execute. The shuffle on the offensive line may be a problem, for example, but the reason for most of the shuffling is because of poor performance, which is far from restricted to those five positions, either.

QUARTERBACK D

Jay Cutler had devastating accuracy issues that led to lost opportunities and Minnesota points. He finished with 22 of 44 for 260 yards and a touchdown, but in a game that needed the quarterback to make plays, he failed to in too many situations while the Vikings were being credited with just four quarterback hits for the game.

Two interceptions of Cutler were the difference in the game, both contributing to touchdowns for the Vikings. The first, on the Bears first possession, was not all his fault after Alshon Jeffery went down. But his overthrow of Marshall in the third quarter was a turning point when it was intercepted and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by rookie safety Harrison Smith.

Cutler forced too many throws to Marshall in coverage but the other options werent inspiring trust and he occasionally held the football too long, although receivers were at some fault for that. Cutler skipped a ball to a wide-open Devin Hester in the second quarter for a missed big gainer.

Jason Campbell was in at mop-up time after Cutler appeared dazed from a blow to the head and other hits.

RUNNING BACK B

Matt Forte was against a stout front but provided a solid all-around game. He finished with 85 rushing yards on 13 carries, including a run for 36 yards in the third quarter and had a 15-yard run for a second-quarter first down for a contribution on the scoring drive.

Forte also caught six of seven passes thrown to him for an additional 34 yards. Michael Bush and Armando Allen were used on just one carry each, Bush for six yards and Allen for three.

Forte also was active in pass protection, delivering frequent chips on his way out of the backfield and into his routes.

RECEIVERS AF

Brandon Marshall (the "A") was virtually the only offense in the first half when the game was getting away from the Bears. Marshall, who finished with 10 catches, 160 yards and a touchdown, got the Bears out of a huge hole in the second quarter with a 39-yard back-shoulder grab against double coverage.

Marshalls touchdown catch in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter brought the Bears back to near-life with a chance to recover an onsides kick and go for a tie.

After Marshall, however

Alshon Jeffery signaled his return from a second injury stint with a 22-yard TD catch with 1:52 in the first half, which was a major play at the moment.

But his slipping down contributed to a crushing interception on the Bears first series that set up Minnesotas second touchdown. Jeffery had a chance for a third-quarter TD on a broken play but failed to make the catch in the end zone.

Devin Hester dropped a touchdown pass at the Minnesota 13 with under five minutes to play and a chance to pull the Bears to within one score. The Bears still scored but needed several more plays to do that at a time when they didnt have time.

Tight end Kellen Davis was overthrown on several occasions but also failed to make catches in some crucial situations.

OFFENSIVE LINE D

The protection of Jay Cutler was spotty, not all the OLs fault. But the Bears were never able to gain consistent control at the point of attack on the running game. That part of the offense may have averaged 6.6 yards per carry (including quarterback scrambles) but never had any control of the game the way it did in the Vikings game two weeks ago.

The line had penalties assessed on four of the five positions JMarcus Webb cost the Bears with a holding penalty in the second quarter that was a net minus-20 yards by wiping out a big completion to Marshall. Roberto Garza was beaten for a sack on the next play and a promising drive was stopped. Gabe Carimi was flagged for a false start on a first-down play and Brown had a holding penalty of his own.

Left guard Edwin Williams was benched in favor of rookie undrafted free agent James Brown in the first half.

The Vikings swarmed around Cutler at times but the quarterback and receivers were frequently the reason as plays went on too long with the football still in Cutlers hands.

COACHING D-

The run game was marginally effective and coaches managed to use the run enough even with a 14-point deficit through most of the first quarter. But the final tally of 55 passing plays vs. 18 running plays (three by quarterbacks) was a recipe for disaster and with Cutlers accuracy problems, disaster happened.

The lack of discipline on the offensive line (four penalties) was a concern and is inexcusable in the 14th week of a season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

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USA TODAY

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander stock is on the rise; just how high will he climb?

John Calipari's 2017 recruiting class featured five McDonald's All-Americans and Hamidou Diallo, a former five-star recruit who nearly jumped to the NBA the previous year. It also included a lanky 6-foot-6 point guard named Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. And for the first part of the 2017-18 season, the Toronto native who played his final two high school years in Tennessee, appeared to be a nice fit off the bench for Calipari.

But something flipped. Gilgeous-Alexander was inserted into the starting lineup for good on January 9 and never looked back. He played his best basketball beginning in late February to the end of the season, a span of 10 games against eight NCAA Tournament opponents. In those games Gilgeous-Alexander averaged 19.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists. He shot 51 percent from the field, 50 percent from deep and 84 percent from the free throw line, and added 1.4 steals in nearly 38 minutes per game for good measure. He was one of the best players in the country, and on a team with five McDonald's All-Americans, he was Calipari's best freshman.

"I knew with how hard I worked that anything was possible," SGA said at last week's NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. "It was just a matter of time before it started clicking and I started to get it rolling."

That stretch included a 17-point, 10-assist double-double against Ole Miss, a 29-point showing against Tennessee in the SEC Tournament, and 27 more points in the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Buffalo. Even in his worst game of the stretch, a 15-point effort against Kansas State in the Tournament, he made up for 2 of 10 shooting by getting to the free throw line 12, converting 11 of them.

It made his decision to make the jump to the NBA an easy one - that, and another loaded Calipari recruiting class incoming. He stands taller than just about any other point guard in the class and might have as good a jump shot as any. He's adept at getting to the rim, averaging 4.7 free throw attempts per game (that number jumped to 5.6 after he became a starter, and 7.5 in those final 10 games of the season. He isn't the quickest guard in the class, but he uses his feet well, is able to find open shooters due to his height and improved on making mistakes on drive-and-kicks as the season went on.

"I think I translate really well to the next level with there being so much more space on the floor and the open court stretched out," he said. "It only benefits me and my ability to get in the lane and make plays."

There's something to be said for him being the next in line of the Calipari point guards. The ever-growing list includes players like Derrick Rose, John Wall, Tyreke Evans, Eric Bledsoe, Jamal Murray and DeAaron Fox. It's the NBA's version of Penn State linebackers or Alabama defensive linemen. The success rate is nearly 100 percent when it comes to Calipari's freshmen point guards; even Brandon Knight averaged 18.1 points over a three-year span in the NBA.

"That’s why guys go to Kentucky," Gilgeous-Alexander said. "It prepares them for the next level. Coach (Calipari) does a really good job, especially with point guards, getting them ready for that next level in a short amount of time."

Gilgeous-Alexander didn't test or play in the 5-on-5 scrimmages, but he still came out of Chicago a winner. He measured 6-foot-6 in shoes with a ridiculous 6-foot-11 1/2 wingspan, a full three inches longer than any other point guard at the Combine. He also added, rather uniquely, that he watches of film Kawhi Leonard playing defense. Most players don't mention watching film on different-position players; most players aren't 6-foot-6 point guards.

"(It's) obviously a more versatile league and playing small ball. And with me being able to guard multiple positions, a lot of teams are switching things like the pick and roll off ball screens, so me being able to switch and guard multiple positions can help an organization."

Gilgeous-Alexander's arrow is pointing way up. He appears to be teetering near Lottery pick status, though that could go one way or the other in private team workouts, especially if he's pitted against fellow top point guards like Trae Young and Collin Sexton. But if his rise at Kentucky is any indication, he'll only continue to improve his game, his stock and eventually his draft position.

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

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AP

Danny Farquhar to throw out the first pitch before White Sox game on June 1

In another example of how amazing Danny Farquhar’s recovery has been, the pitcher will throw out the ceremonial first pitch before the White Sox game on June 1.

Farquhar suffered a brain hemorrhage from a ruptured aneurysm during the sixth inning of the team’s April 20 game against the Houston Astros. But his recovery has been astounding, and he was discharged from the hospital on May 7. Farquhar’s neurosurgeon expects him to be able to pitch again in future seasons.

Farquhar has been back to visit his teammates at Guaranteed Rate Field a couple times since leaving the hospital. June 1 will mark his return to a big league mound, even if it’s only for a ceremonial first pitch with his wife and three children. Doctors, nurses and staff from RUSH University Medical Center will be on hand for Farquhar’s pitch on June 1.

The White Sox announced that in celebration of Farquhar’s recovery, they will donate proceeds from all fundraising efforts on June 1 to the Joe Niekro Foundation, an organization committed to supporting patients and families, research, treatment and awareness of brain aneurysms.