White Sox

Bears vs. Detroit Lions on MNF: And the winner is...

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Bears vs. Detroit Lions on MNF: And the winner is...

The Bears and Detroit Lions dont like each other very much. No surprise there; nobody much likes the Lions and their sometimes miscreant ways. NFL officials didnt think much of the Lions last week when they flagged Detroit 17 times and walked off 16 penalties in the game against Philadelphia, won in OT by the Lions.

Its not like I have to bring out the George Halas pep talk to get them ready to play Detroit, coach Lovie Smith said.

Ready will be the key.

Offense ready for next step?

The Bears rank No. 2 in the NFL scoring 29.8 points per game. But that is with five defensive touchdowns in the last three games, without which the average is less than 23 per game.

The offense managed just one touchdown in each game last season vs. Detroit, and even those needed help.

In game two, Matt Fortes six-yard touchdown run came at the end of a drive that started after Julius Peppers forced a fumble that Brian Urlacher recovered and took to the Detroit 16.

The other 30 points in the game came from a Devin Hester punt return, TD interceptions by Charles Tillman and Major Wright, and three Robbie Gould field goals.

The Bears moved the ball reasonably well (359 yards) in the first game but stopped themselves with six false-start penalties.

Since the last time the Bears saw the Lions (in Soldier Field last November) they have muscled up the offensive line mauler Chilo Rachal at left guard, No. 1 pick Gabe Carimi back at right tackle after missing both 2011 games with a knee injury, and JMarcus Webb a long, long way from the false-start machine that the Lions exploited when the teams met in Detroit on a Monday night last Oct. 10.

They have muscled up at wide receiver Brandon Marshall with 35 catches, only two fewer than co-leaders Johnny Knox and Roy Williams had for all of 2011.

And they have powered up overall with Mike Tice as coordinator, with his commitment to running the ball to establish the threat of play action. Tice was at the core of turnaround changes in game planning the past two seasons and the offense right now is statistically ahead of where it was in nearly all key areas from where it was at the time of Jay Cutlers thumb injury last year.

Turning point

Typically it is at about this point of seasons with Cutler, and Tice, that the offense shifts into a bigger gear.

Offensively, I think since Ive been here, weve been learning new offenses pretty much each year and trying to grow with it, so it takes time for those things, Cutler said. Its not like you can just wake up one day and learn a new offense and its just going to click. It doesnt work.

It takes some time for everyone to get a feel for what were doing and know their assignments and experience things, and maybe theyve got to mess a couple things up before they really get it right.

With Green Bay and Minnesota winning on Sunday, the Bears remain the hunted in the NFC North, a division that would be a blown officials call (Green Bay at Seattle) of having three teams in the playoffs if they were starting today.

It should be like that in the division, and when everyone is playing good ball, you have to be ready each play, Smith said. There are a lot of stars for fans to watch in this game. And then to get a chance to play on Monday night. Theres just a lot of things. For us, having played a couple games on the road, were excited about coming back home this week.

And so

Heres how I saw this game and the season to this point back before it all started:

7. Detroit Lions (10-6) Mon., Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m.

Analysis: Character issues are unanswered with the Jim Schwartz Lions, who have talent and went OL with their top pick (T Reilly Reiff) to deal with Julius Peppers. It wont be enough with Detroits problems in the secondary.

Result: W (5-1)

Well, Reiff hasnt been able to unseat aging vet Jeff Backus at left tackle but thats a side story. The Detroit secondary has been helped by the return of safety Louis Delmas from knee surgery but has injury problems at cornerback.

The Lions survived against Philadelphia in part of Matthew Staffords passing and Calvin Johnsons receiving at the finish of a game in which the Eagles proved so inept that they fired their defensive coordinator after the game.

The Bears wont be firing their D-coordinator. They wont have reason to:

Bears 24 Lions 13

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

Yoan Moncada’s time down near the bottom of the White Sox batting order came to a quick end this weekend. After just five games, Moncada returned to the top of the lineup for Friday’s game and was there again for Game 2 of the series with the visiting Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

It ended up being the “break” that manager Rick Renteria described it as, and the skipper, for one, believes that short stretch was beneficial to Moncada, who was struggling mightily when Renteria made that move last week.

Through the first 19 games of the second half, Moncada slashed .122/.250/.216 with three extra-base hits, four RBIs and 33 strikeouts. It was as noticeable a period of struggles at the plate as he’s had in his first full season in the majors, a campaign that has to this point failed to meet the big expectations the former No. 1 prospect in baseball carried with him into this season.

Renteria said that bumping Moncada down in the lineup would allow him to watch opposing pitchers face several other batters and remove the need to do certain things that come with batting leadoff.

For what it’s worth, Moncada got four hits — two of them for extra bases and one a home run — and walked twice in 18 plate appearances over the five games against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. He struck out nine times. Friday, he returned to the leadoff spot and went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored (and no strikeouts).

“When we put him down in the bottom of the lineup, it’s because I wanted to have him see other players have multiple at-bats over the course of a couple of games,” Renteria said Saturday. “When you’re leading off, you have a chance of either working very well, working on base, getting your hits, whatever the case might be. But if it’s not working out, you start to get a little frustrated. You’re still grinding through it.

“The perspective that I’m giving him is, ‘Hey, listen, no matter who I put in there, they also make outs. Sometimes they don’t get on. Understand it’s just not you. It’s a difficult position in which you lead off the ballgame.’ I just wanted him to take a breath, take a step back, look at it, and then make an adjustment, allow him to get back into that situation.”

While the numbers from that five-game stretch aren’t enough to determine whether this is the start of a second-half turnaround for Moncada, Renteria said he did believe the experience to be a beneficial one for his second baseman.

“I thought it was beneficial,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily have this conversation to say, ‘Hey, did it work out for you for the last few days?’ Nothing like that. But as you’re talking to him, just in passing, as you go through conversations and you see where they’re at, hopefully we’re making the right decision and the right adjustments for them.”

Moncada still owns a .149 batting average in the second half. He’s on pace to strike out 235 times this season, which would be a new single-season major league record.

But this rebuilding season was always going to be about developmental growing pains. And the idea is that the experiences he’s going through now will pay dividends down the road, when the White Sox shift from rebuilding to contending and Moncada, the hope is, shifts from the developmental stage to the superstar stage.

Power Rankings: #6 - Nazareth

Power Rankings: #6 - Nazareth

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Nazareth Academy

Head coach: Tim Racki

Assistant coaches: Casey Moran, Joe Reynolds, Rudy Luna, Brody Budmayr, Jeff Tumpane, Joe Battaglia, Steve Gray, Tom Minogue, Matt Letcher, Larry White, Jonathon Bittle, Joe Felice

How they fared in 2017: 12-2 (6-1 East Suburban Catholic Conference), Nazareth Academy made the 2017 Class 6A state playoff field, defeated Springfield, Danville, Sacred Heart Griffin and Providence Catholic before losing to Prairie Ridge in the 6A state title game.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs. Lutheran North (Mo.)

Aug. 31 @ Lake Zurich

Sept. 7 @ Marian Central Catholic

Sept. 14 vs. St. Patrick

Sept. 21 @ Benet Academy

Sept. 28 @ Carmel

Oct. 5 vs. Marist

Oct. 12 vs. Joliet Catholic

Oct. 19 @ Marian Catholic

Biggest storyline: Can the Road Runners move up a class to 7A and win a state title in 2018?

Names to watch this season: RB/DB Devin Blakley (Miami of Ohio), WR/DB Michael Love (Bowling Green)

Biggest holes to fill: The Roadrunners welcome back 16 returning starters (7 offense, 9 defense) from last year's Class 6A state title runner-up team, yet more depth will be needed playing "up" in 7A this playoff season.

EDGY's Early Take: The Roadrunners and head coach Tim Racki (who will be playing up in Class 7A this year due to the IHSA Success Factor rule) came up just short in winning the Class 6A state title in 2017 and the 2018 Roadrunners bring back nearly every key player from that squad this fall. The offense will need to settle on a starting quarterback (including D1 recruit sophomore QB JJ McCarthy) while the offensive skills group is a major strength this fall. The Nazareth Academy defense is also loaded and senior DB/WR Diamond Evans along with senior DT Cameron Leach are just names among several others who are expected to make a major impact this season. If the Roadrunners offense can settle in under a new quarterback this team has the potential to win a state title in Class 7A.