Bears

Brewer turns negative into a positive, rises to the occasion

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Brewer turns negative into a positive, rises to the occasion

After registering a DNP-CD--that's basketball jargon for the acronym "Did Not Play-Coach's Decision," which typically goes on the final statistics next to names like of fan favorite and deep reserve Brian Scalabrine in now-blowout situations--in Game 3 of the Bulls-76ers first-round playoff series, Ronnie Brewer took the high road. That doesn't mean it didn't sting.

"As a player, you dont ever want to be on the bench watching. You want to be able to get on the court and contribute, so having an opportunity in Game 4 and having another opportunity tonight, you want to add on to that and have another strong showing," he said. "Hopefully I can just continue to play better and continue to help this team out."

In Game 4, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went back to the reserve swingman and got valuable minutes, especially on the defensive end, even though the Bulls would lose the game. In Tuesday's Game 5 win, Brewer stepped it up another notch and played his role--high energy, defensive pest, opportunistic scorer, transition threat--perfectly and was a major reason why the Bulls staved off elimination, something his teammates acknowledged afterwards.

"Ronnie was great tonight. Even last game in Philly, when we were watching the tape, Coach kept talking about how great Ronnie was defensively and tonight, he did it again. He just has a knack for stealing the ball and getting into players, really affecting their shots," said Luol Deng.

"Ronnie responded great to not playing in that game. A lot of players, it could affect them with their game, sitting out the whole game, but Ronnies a pro and he knows what he needs to do to help us. Sometimes you might not see it in the stats, but defensively, hes one of the best. I really believe it. Just doesnt get a lot of credit for it, but he really comes in with a lot of energy and when hes in the game, were able to get stops, and go out and run."

Echoed Taj Gibson: "Ronnie Brewer stepped up big even after not playing in Game 3 at all. He came in, did a great job. Solid professional."

Chimed in Carlos Boozer: "To me, Ronnie Brewer was the player of the game. Came in and changed the whole game with his activity."

Brewer's modest six points doesn't tell the tale of his impact, though his eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and a blocked shot in 29 minutes of action begins to illustrate what he meant to Tuesday's season-saving victory. More importantly, his blanketing defense on Philadelphia's cadre of talented perimeter players, from scoring-oriented guards Jrue Holiday and sixth man Lou Williams to Chicago native Evan Turner and All-Star Andre Iguodala, ensured there wouldn't be another fourth-quarter defensive collapse, as the Sixers simply couldn't go one-on-one to create scoring opportunities with Brewer on guard.

"Coach Thibs told me I need to bring the energy of both ends of the floor. In the first half, I tried to do that. I got some easy baskets, my teammates were finding me. The second half, I just try to show as much energy on the defensive end as I possibly can, slow down some of their guards. Theyve been killing us the whole series. We tried to contest their shots and get easy baskets in transition," Brewer explained.

"We all know that whenever Thibs puts us in there, you have to be ready. If he doesnt call your name, you have an obligation to be the eyes and ears for the guys who are on the floor, so when he doesnt call my name out there, I still have my part by telling Lu, Rip, Kyle what I see out there and how they can have an effect on the game, so when you put me out there, I knew I had to bring something that was lacking and that was energy on the defensive end, and trying to get stops because, in my opinion, that was something that was lacking and their guards really have been hurting us this whole entire series."

Added Thibodeau: "It was just the flow of the game. I thought the energy that he brought and again, they have three very quick guys off the dribble. Youre looking at Holiday and Williams, and whether its Turner or Iguodala, I think Ronnie matches up well with those guys. I thought getting to loose balls, his defense, offensively Ronnie running the floor. I thought he played very well and the team was functioning well when he was on the floor...Ronnie Brewer was terrific."

It's doubtful that Thibodeau will again neglect Brewer, even if he's mired in an offensive slump, for an entire contest, given how well he proved to match up with the Sixers in Game 5, but the defensive-minded wing, one of the nicest, most genuine players you'll find in the league, let alone the team--and that's saying something--will continue to take the same approach team-first approach, regardless of the circumstances.

"The same situation the whole entire season. Guys have been hurt, Ive had to step in different situations. Rips been having it going, Lus been having it going, Kyles been knocking down shots, so youve just got to be patient and wait your turn. Tonight, Coach called upon me and I just had to be ready to go out there, and play hard," he said. "At the end of the day, we have one common goal and thats to win. If that means Kyle, Rip, Lu playing as many minutes and were winning, Im all about it. Im a team player and Im all about winning, so I take it to heart, being a true professional. Whenever your name is called, you have to be ready and thats all I can do."

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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USA Today Sports Images

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks and Blue Jackets both going through own challenges of Artemi Panarin and Brandon Saad trade

The Blackhawks and Blue Jackets blockbuster trade from the 2017 offseason is always a hot topic in Chicago when things aren't going great. It especially is when the two teams square off against each other, like Saturday at Nationwide Arena for the first time this season.

If it wasn't already apparent in Chicago, Artemi Panarin has emerged as a real NHL superstar and is set for a giant payday when he becomes an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2019. He set a Blue Jackets record with 82 points in a single season and has nine points (three goals, six assists) through six games this season.

Brandon Saad, on the other hand, had a challenging first year back with the Blackhawks in 2017-18 after netting only 35 points in 82 games and is off to a slow start this year as well with zero goals and two assists through six games. After a demotion to the fourth line, he was close to being a healthy scratch on Thursday, which only magnifies where things are at as the two get ready to clash.

But Saad was never going to be able to replace Panarin's offensive production. Everybody knows that. Yet, the offensive comparisons will always be there as a barometer and that's something Saad doesn't think about, no matter how much fans talk about it.

"I don't think I do it," he said. "We're different players. He's a great player. Fans are going to do whatever comparisons they want, but at the end of the day you've got to be true to yourself and do what you bring to the table. He's a great player around the league. You can see his highlights and his goals, he's definitely a special player. But at the end of the day I've got confidence in my abilities too. We both bring different attributes, but they're going to make comparisons regardless."

A big reason why the Blackhawks reacquired Saad, other than his ability to play a 200-foot game, is because he carries a $6 million cap hit through 2020-21, which is two years more than Panarin at the same cap hit. (It's also important to note that the Blackhawks hoped they were getting a reliable, young backup goaltender in Anton Forsberg, but the injury to Corey Crawford thrust him into a role he wasn't exactly prepared for.)

It's not all rainbows for Columbus right now regarding where things stand with Panarin, who has made it clear he's not ready to sign a long-term extension. All signs point to the 26-year-old winger hitting the market, putting the Blue Jackets in a tricky situation ahead of the trade deadline. The Blackhawks very well could have found themselves in this position, too, had a deal not been made.

Both sides are dealing with their own challenges of the trade. Saad is still a key piece to the Blackhawks' puzzle and they're hoping to get more out of him, for no other reason than the team's overall success.

"You want to have success regardless of who you're playing for, who you're traded for, things like that," Saad said. "Naturally, just as competitors, you want to bring that excitement and you want to have success with the team and personally."