Bears

Braves 15, Phillies 13: Yes, you read that right

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Braves 15, Phillies 13: Yes, you read that right

From Comcast SportsNetATLANTA (AP) -- Chipper Jones' bad left knee has limited his playing time at the start of his final season, so he says it's important to make the most of his chances."When I am in there, I want to make a splash," Jones said. "I did it tonight."Jones hit a two-run homer in the 11th inning and the Atlanta Braves overcame Carlos Ruiz's seven RBIs to outlast the Philadelphia Phillies 15-13 on Wednesday night.The seesaw game saw the Braves rally from a 6-0 deficit against Roy Halladay, then come back from four runs down in the eighth."It was just a weird game all the way around," said Brian McCann, who hit a grand slam off Halladay. "Stuff you've never seen happen."Befitting the crazy game, McCann was poked in the eye with an errant high-five from teammate Michael Bourn after the homer.Dan Uggla led off the Atlanta 11th with a single. Jones just missed a homer on a ball that landed barely foul to right, then connected against Brian Sanches (0-1). He began his path around the bases with a slow journey to first base as he and his teammates savored the dramatic moment and Braves fans stood and cheered."What a cool moment that was, not only for Chipper, but for the rest of us out there to enjoy that, to watch that," McCann said. "To see him walk down the first base line like that, that's a treat for all of us."Jones' homer ended the Braves' eight-game losing streak to the Phillies, dating back to last season. He said the homer will hold a special place on his career highlights."That's right up there just because the team that we're kind of shooting for in the division obviously is the Phillies," said Jones, who turned 40 on April 24. "Until somebody knocks them off, they're the team to beat."Jones is third all-time among switch-hitters with 458 homers, trailing only Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray. Including his time in the minor leagues, Jones said it was his 500th homer as a professional."I'm not going to get there at the major league level, but to hit 500 homers as a professional is pretty cool," he said.It was the highest-scoring extra-inning game in the majors since Cleveland beat Kansas City 15-13 in 10 innings in 2006, according to STATS LLC.Ruiz had three hits, including a three-run homer in the seventh and a three-run double in the eighth. He was the first Phillies hitter to drive in seven runs since Ryan Howard against the Yankees on June 20, 2006."He's been awesome for us," said Halladay of Ruiz. "I think that's what hurts most. When you have games like this, your teammates are out there grinding and getting it done and I didn't. And that was the difference, really."That's the toughest one, letting those guys down who really got it done today."Halladay had his worst start in five years. He gave up 12 hits -- one below his career high -- and eight runs in 5 1-3 innings."Honestly, I felt good," Halladay said after seeing his ERA climb from 1.95 to 3.40. "There were some that I didn't execute. It wasn't anything else."Laynce Nix also hit a three-run double for the Phillies.Braves closer Craig Kimbrel couldn't hold a 13-12 lead in the ninth. Shane Victorino's two-out infield hit drove in Juan Pierre, who walked and stole second and took third on a grounder.Halladay was tagged by McCann's fifth career slam in the fifth. The former Cy Young winner had not allowed as many earned runs since May 5, 2007, when he gave up nine runs in 5 1-3 innings at Texas.Martin Prado had three hits and drove in three runs, including a two-run single in the Atlanta eighth.Braves reliever Eric O'Flaherty blew an 8-6 lead before recording an out in the seventh. Ty Wigginton walked, pinch-hitter John Mayberry Jr. singled and Ruiz followed with his fourth homer to left for a 9-8 edge.Atlanta's Tommy Hanson gave up eight hits and four runs in 3 2-3 innings. It was his shortest start since he pitched 3 1-3 innings against the Mets on Aug. 6, 2011, in his last outing before he was placed on the disabled list for the remainder of the season with right shoulder tendinitis.NOTES:Phillies LHP Cliff Lee, on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique muscle, threw in the bullpen before the game. If he has no discomfort, he plans another bullpen session on Saturday. If all goes well on Saturday, Lee is expected to come off the disabled list. ... Atlanta's Jason Heyward missed his third straight start with soreness around his right oblique muscle before entering the game as a pinch-hitter and remaining in right field. ... The Phillies placed 1B Jim Thome on the 15-day disabled list with tightness in his lower back and recalled C Erik Kratz from Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The move was made retroactive to Sunday. ... The three-game series ends on Thursday when Braves RHP Randall Delgado (2-2) starts against RHP Joe Blanton (2-3).

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

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USA TODAY

A significant first practice goes well for three Bears critical to 2018 success

BOURBONNAIS, Ill. — It’s a major Bears story until it isn’t, and in Friday's first practice of training camp ’18, the story was that Leonard Floyd, Kyle Long and Allen Robinson weren’t the story. 

Not even the weather was a story, as coach Matt Nagy continued the two-hour practice without interruption despite repeated torrential downpours. Whether this represented a soggy, wet chapter of Nagy’s campaign of physical practices and getting his team “calloused” is a question, but “It's just a part of what we wanted to do,” Nagy said, with a bit of a smile. “We weren't going inside. We were coming outside unless that (lightning/tornado) horn went off. So it was a good day. The guys fought through it.”

Getting through it was of franchise-grade import for three linchpins coming off significant injuries that cost them all or part of their 2017 seasons. All had been largely held out of minicamps and training camps, making Friday a de facto shakedown cruise for three players the Bears need at the elite levels projected for them.

Floyd practiced without the large brace he’d worn during minicamp work and which he admitted was an impediment to performance. Bears medical and training staff and Floyd have been pointing to this moment as the first step toward full health for the regular season.

“I basically, this whole offseason, I've been working on getting my leg right,” Floyd said on Friday. “I’m not really looking into who's playing where. I've been looking to get back healthy. ... Yeah, I'm able to go full force.”

Floyd’s pursuit speed was noteworthy as he ran down several offensive players with the football.

Players were not in pads, but Robinson similarly flashed, at one point making a difficult catch of a ball slightly behind him as he was tumbling to the ground. If he was holding anything back, it was not apparent in his cuts, routes and runs after catches.

“I feel great,” Robinson said. “It's been a process that we've taken a little bit slower, but I think that was for the best. It just was all about getting me ready for this time right here, so I feel great. I feel 100 percent.”

Long has been buffeted by injuries requiring surgeries over the past two years. The setbacks have taken him down from the Pro Bowl level at which he played his first three seasons.

But he turns 30 in December and is entering his sixth NFL season having missed 14 games the past two years after just one the first three.

“I’m feeling great,” Long said. “It’s really a lot of fun to get out here with my teammates and start camp without any limitations and be able to contribute from Day 1. It feels good. I spent a lot of time with our training staff. I got to know Andre Tucker really well, our new head trainer. He has done a tremendous job.

“You know, it’s Day 1 and I was out there at practice, and I got to hit other guys, and that was fun. I don’t look much into psychological hurdles. But a physical hurdle? Yes, it was. I had a lot going on this offseason. I’m just really happy to be out here.”

All was not good news physically for the Bears as inside linebacker Danny Trevathan and cornerback/special teamer Sherrick McManis were held out of practice after hamstring issues surfaced in their pre-camp physicals. Nagy said neither was considered serious but gave no timetable for their returns.