Bears

Bears-Texans preview: Houston's ball

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Bears-Texans preview: Houston's ball

Dealing with a touchdown triad

The Bears defense in 2012 has faced no defense without an apparent weakness. Until now.

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster leads the AFC in rushing, fifth overall in the NFL. He has 10 rushing touchdowns; no one else has more than seven, and the Bears have seven as a team.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson devastated the Bears for 10 catches, 148 yards and two touchdowns the last time the two teams met. Two-thirds (42) of the balls thrown to him (63) have been caught. In his 10th season, he has caught at least one pass in 90 consecutive games.

Quarterback Matt Schaub was the MVP of the 2010 Pro Bowl and has a career passer rating of 92.7 to go with membership in the august 2004 quarterback class (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger).

Schaub has been sacked a total of 10 times in eight games, compared to Jay Cutlers 28. Foster leads his conference in rushing. Someone is blocking very, very well for them.

It is a triad of offense reminiscent of the Dallas Cowboys template of Troy Aikman-Emmitt Smith-Michael Irvin. None of the Texans are at those Hall of Fame levels but the problems are obvious.

Schaub is smart, hes a heck of a quarterback, and it all works together with their run game, said offensive coordinator. They sell that run and that zone blocking, and they come out and boot and play-action, and he manages that stuff extremely well. Very smart. Extremely smart. Thats a heck of an offense.

Balance, balance, balance

The NFL may be a passing league but Houston is 7-1 with an offense that is top-10 in virtually every offensive category. The Texans are No. 2 in scoring with 29.6 points per game, one-tenth of a point per game ahead of the Bears but with 24 offensive touchdowns on the season vs. the Bears 19.

It has been happening with an offense that is near perfectly balanced, even slightly tilted toward the run: 280 running plays, 264 pass plays, a 51-49 run-pass ratio.

The Texans have had exactly one offensive lineman in their history center Chris Myers, installed as a team captain this week named to a Pro Bowl. Yet they considered their line good enough last offseason to cut starting right tackle Eric Winston. The sack total on Schaub and Fosters year speak to how that line has performed.

The task for the Bears is to win enough matchups along the line to disrupt Schaubs drops and timing, and the cadence of Foster and the run game.

They are all pretty athletic, said linebacker Lance Briggs. They move well. Their running style really complements their pass because they do a lot of play action off of it -- boots, play action. They find ways to get Schaub extra seconds. They have a lot of different routes. A lot of crossing routes; a lot of zig-zag routes.

If he has enough time, theyll find a way to pick us apart.

Stopping Schaub

The Bears rank No. 1 in opponents passer rating (62.9), ahead of San Francisco (72.9) and the Texans (75.4). But Schaub is not Blaine Gabbert nor Cam Newton nor Sam Bradford.

In the past two years only Aaron Rodgers (117.3) and Tom Brady (108.8) have higher passer ratings on the road than Schaub (107.2), who has thrown only three interceptions vs. 15 touchdown passes in alien environments.

The problem with Schaub and the Houston offense is that it just does not help out defenses. The Texans have exactly six giveaways for the season and three of those were interceptions of Schaub by the Green Bay Packers, the one team to beat the Texans.

The Bears have 28 takeaways for the season, No. 1 in the NFL. But if the Bears are counting on Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman or anyone else to put points on the board, they will be in trouble.

Tennessee Titans coaches and players all talked of the preoccupation during pre-Bears practices last week with avoiding giveaways, to the point where the suspicion was that it produced added tension and tentativeness, which may have added to the turnover avalanche.

The Texans, with their lone fumble through eight games, are far more matter-of-fact.

You cant drop the ball as a running back or any skill position, Foster said simply. You always got to be cognizant of it.

LOOK: Charles Leno helps refuel Bears-themed bus

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USA Today

LOOK: Charles Leno helps refuel Bears-themed bus

Charles Leno has had a pretty spectacular career so far. Rarely do seventh-round picks play their way to a second contract, let alone a starting job at left tackle, but Leno's overcome the odds to become one of the Bears' key offensive pieces.

He's also a pretty good guy.

Leno posted a picture on his Twitter account Wednesday of a Bears-themed bus that was stranded on the side of the road. He initially drove by. But the symbolism screamed out to him: The Bears aren't breaking down this year.

Rather than continue driving, Leno turned around and offered assistance to the Bears fans at the wheel. He shared this picture of the encounter, along with his message to fans across the country:

To be clear, Leno did little more than provide company for the bus's owners. He made sure he didn't receive all the credit for their return to the road:

Leno did a good deed looking out for those Bears fans. Now, he has to make sure he protects Mitch Trubisky's blindside on the eve the team's first training camp practice.

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: 'There's no fear'

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AP

Jabari Parker unafraid of history, expectations that come with Chicago's homegrown stars: 'There's no fear'

The Chicago sunlight followed Jabari Parker as he walked through the East Atrium doors of the United Center, facing Michael Jordan’s statue before meeting with the media, introduced as a member of the Bulls for the first time.

For his sake, the brighter days are ahead instead of to his back as he’ll challenge the perception of being the hometown kid who can’t outrun his own shadow.

Parker re-enters Chicago as the No. 2 pick of the the 2014 draft the Milwaukee Bucks allowed to walk without compensation despite holding the cards through restricted free agency, damaged goods on the floor but not giving the Bulls a discount to don that white, red and black jersey he’s always dreamed of wearing.

“There were other teams but as soon as I heard Chicago, I just jumped on it,” Parker said.

It took a two-year, $40 million deal (2019-20 team option) to get Parker home, along with the selling point that he’ll start at small forward—a position that’s tough to envision him playing with on the defensive end considering three of the game’s top six scorers occupy that space.

It was a dream come true for his father, Sonny Parker, and high school coach, Simeon Academy’s Robert Smith, who both couldn’t hide their joy following the first question-and-answer session with the media.

“This is where he wanted to be,” Sonny Parker said. “His family’s happy, the support is there. All I know is the United Center will sell out every game. He can’t wait.

“Normally guys get drafted here. He signed to come here. He had a couple offers from other teams but he wanted to come here.”

The biggest examples of Chicagoans who arrived with outsized expectations for this franchise had varying results, but Derrick Rose and Eddy Curry both came away with scars of sorts that had many wondering why any hometown product would willingly choose to play for the Bulls.

The risk seems to far outweigh the reward; the emotional toll doesn’t seem worth the fare. And with the roster makeup not being ideal for Parker, no one could blame him for going to a better situation—or at least one more tailored to his skills rather than his heart.

“I think every situation is different. Derrick was excelling,” Bulls executive vice-president John Paxson said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “MVP of the league in his hometown before the injury. Eddy was just a young kid who didn’t have the savvy Derrick had. I think every situation is different. Jabari is such a grounded, solid person that he’s gonna be just fine.

“You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time with him to figure out he’s got it together. He knows who he is. Comfortable in his own skin. A quiet guy. Hopefully he’ll thrive here. The goal is it works great for him and works great for us.”

It seemed like he was bred to be a pro—and not just any pro, but the type Chicago demands of its own when a covenant to play 82 nights a year has been reached. If the constant prodding from his father didn’t break his façade, or older brother Darryl doing everything he could to coax emotion from the most gifted of the Parker clan couldn’t do it, two ACL surgeries on his left knee may pale in comparison.

The numbers from Parker’s recent stint with the Bucks don’t bear it out, but Smith sees a player who’s back on track to being what his talent has always dictated he should become.

“Even watching him work out lately, it’s like whoa,” Smith said. “But of course, everything with Chicago period you have to be cautious. With his family and the support system he has, this thing is about winning basketball games and giving back to the community.

“He’s had that (target) on his back since he stepped on the court at Simeon, coming behind Derrick and being one of the top five players as a freshman and No. 1 player as a junior. I don’t think it’s a huge problem, it can help him a little bit. If he has those moments if something doesn’t go right, he has someone to help him.”

Parker is more known for his restarts than his unique skill set in his young career, but even at 23 years old speaks with a sage of someone 20 years his senior, unwilling to tab this portion of his journey as a fresh start.

After all, it would be easy to envision his career beginning from the moment he left Simeon as a phenom followed by his one season at Duke—having two games where he totaled just 24 minutes with just two points to start the Bucks’ first-round series against the Boston Celtics isn’t typical of a star’s story if he sees himself that way.

“I don’t. I don’t want to forget all the hard work I had,” Parker said. “To forget I hurt myself and came back is to discredit my success. That in of itself is something outside the norm. I want to always remember the setbacks and failures I’ve had in my career so far. I want to use that as a sense of motivation.”

Bringing up his awkward pro beginnings in Milwaukee, where Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ascension to an unexpected strata mirrored thoughts he might’ve had of himself before his injuries, didn’t cause him to growl.

“I’ve never got jealous a day in my life. That’s why it wasn’t hard because I wasn’t jealous,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “My journey is my journey. I gotta be proud of that and be patient. I took that and I move forward.”

The mention of his defense didn’t make him defensive, either, as he definitively pointed out the truth as he saw it, that today’s game is far more offensive-minded than the bruise-fests of the previous decades. Telling by his words in subsequent interviews, the best defense is a great offense and when he’s right, there aren’t many who can get a bucket as easily and with as much diversity as himself.

The only time Parker broke serve was at the notion he’d be following in the footsteps of Rose’s perceived failures, the setbacks Rose suffered when his knees began to fail after reaching inspiring heights players like Parker wanted to emulate.

At the podium for all to see, he corrected a question formed around Rose’s “rise and fall”, a sound byte copied and pasted by a couple Chicago-bred NBA players on social media in support of Parker’s words and feelings.

“Derrick had no lows. He didn’t. He still maintained. Derrick’s a legend, no matter what…no rise and falls. Injuries are part of life. Derrick is one of the best icons in Chicago. He accomplished his duty already.”

And later, he wanted to set the record straight again, drawing a line from how the media has presented Rose compared to how the people of Chicago see him, and vice-versa.

“We didn’t turn on Derrick, the media (did),” Parker told NBCSportsChicago.com. “We’re hometown. I speak for everybody, we love our hometown.”

The love of Chicago meant more than the prospect of not being able to live up to a glorious prep past, even though he should be well aware wanderlust can turn to villainy in a heartbeat—or the wrong step.

“There’s no pressure for me,” Parker said to NBCSportsChicago.com. “I’m just happy I get to play with some young guys, and I don’t harp on the negative. Anybody and everybody is gonna have an opinion. I value more my dreams than their opinions.”

And the dreamer steps forward, with a confident gait, eyes wide open and a city hoping it doesn’t repeat the same mistakes of its past.

“There’s no fear,” Parker said. “I haven’t faced any other pressure than bouncing back. I’m back on my feet and moving on.”

“When you struggle more, you succeed more.”