Impact of Calvin Johnson exit likely to echo throughout NFC North


Impact of Calvin Johnson exit likely to echo throughout NFC North

The prospect of wide receiver Calvin Johnson retiring quite likely had Vic Fangio, Kyle Fuller and every other individual involved in NFC North pass defense allowing at least a little relaxed exhale Sunday night. It should be more than a little one.

The epitome of a consistent professional, Johnson averaged 5.6 catches in his 17 games against the Bears and 16 against the Green Bay Packers, 5.4 in his 15 vs. the Minnesota Vikings. Those are just about equal to the 5.4 per game league-wide for his career.

“He’s a great receiver,” Fangio said last season while preparing to defend against him. “He’s a tough matchup because of his size and speed and strength. And they’ve thrown him the ball down the field. Even though you might have tight coverage, Stafford feels comfortable throwing him the balls that he might outfight the game with his size.”

[MORE: Lions WR Calvin Johnson reportedly plans to retire]

But the greater impact will be where it matters most – on the scoreboard.

Johnson averaged a touchdown every 8.8 receptions for his career. Compare that to Larry Fitzgerald (one every 10.4), Alshon Jeffery (one every 10.5) or Brandon Marshall (one every 11.2). Johnson scored one TD every nine catches vs. Minnesota, one every six vs. Green Bay and one every 8.7 vs. the Bears.

The loss of Johnson equates roughly to what Jordy Nelson’s missed season meant to the Packers, who got a touchdown every 8.2 Nelson catches. Not solely because of Nelson’s absence, obviously, but the Packers were No. 1 in scoring in 2014 and 15th last season.

[SHOP: Gear up, Bears fans!]

The Lions were middle-of-the-pack offensively last season with Johnson starting 16 games, albeit with myriad injuries. Without him…?  Golden Tate caught a career-best 90 passes last year, with defenses needing to account heavily for Johnson.

Randall Cobb caught 91 passes in 2014 with Nelson. His production dipped to 79 catches without Nelson and his yards per catch were a career-low 10.5.

ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history


ICYMI: The Bears lose in OT, the Bulls season nears, the Blackhawks make history

The Bears suffered a heartbreaking defeat (that makes two of those), but the Bulls are days away from the start of a new season and the Blackhawks did something that has never happened before in sports history.


The Bears had a slow first half, failing to score against the shorthanded Dolphins, but picked things up in the third quarter. It all fell apart late in the fourth quarter and then again in overtime in a 31-28 defeat. Miami went up against the Bears without starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill, but Brock Osweiler threw for 380 yards and three touchdowns. What does that say about the Bears' defense?

Matt Nagy was a bit chippy with the media after the game, but there were still positive signs from the offense.

Plus, Dwyane Wade was there and repped the Bears on the road.


The Bulls wrapped up the preseason Friday with a 98-93 loss to the Nuggets. Wendell Carter Jr. and Bobby Portis both showed well in the preseason finale and Jabari Parker flashed his potential as well.

With the preseason complete, Mark Strotman graded each player on the Bulls roster. You may not want to calculate the team GPA.

The roster is being finalized as well, with Ryan Arcidiacono making the team and local product Tyler Ulis getting picked up off waivers.


Saturday was an eventful day for the Blackhawks. First, it marked the 1,000th career game for Duncan Keith. Keith talked about the emotional night after the game.

As for the game itself, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-3 in overtime. That was the second time the Hawks beat the Blues in OT this season, adding to a 5-4 OT win in St. Louis on Oct. 6.

Unbelievably, that was the fifth straight OT game for the Blackhawks. Every game has gone to overtime this season, and not one of those has even gone to a shootout. No NHL team has done that since the league introduced a regular-season overtime period in 1983-84, per the Elias Sports Bureau. Overtimes are more rare in other sports, but that also holds true for the NBA, NFL and MLB.

The Hawks don't play against until Thursday, when the host Arizona.

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

Bears notes: Was Trey Burton’s penalty justified?

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — In a game full of pivotal moments, one seemed to irk the Bears in particular following Sunday’s 31-28 overtime loss to the Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium.

Driving on the Dolphins three-yard line, the Bears lined up in a T formation with Jordan Howard, Trey Burton and Tarik Cohen lined up left to right in the backfield behind Mitch Trubisky, who was under center. Burton motioned out of the backfield and to the right, and ran his route into linebacker Kiko Alonso.

Trubisky threw a short pass to a wide open Cohen for a touchdown, with Alonso late getting to the running back after being hit by Burton. But that score was taken off the board for offensive pass interference, with officials ruling what Burton did amounted to an illegal pick play.

“Trey did everything I asked him to do,” Matt Nagy said, sharply.

On the next play, Trubisky forced a pass into double coverage in the end zone, which was easily picked off by Dolphins safety T.J. McDonald. Miami turned that interception into eight points on Albert Wilson’s 43-yard touchdown and an ensuing two-point conversion.

The way Burton understood the rule was that offensive pass interference was only assessed on a pick play if he intentionally ran into a defender without running a true route. That’s what Burton felt he did; the officiating crew disagreed.

“I thought I ran a route and the guy ran into me,” Burton said. “I thought they changed the rule this year or last year — if you run the route, it doesn’t matter if you pick the guy or not, you’re good. Obviously they called it.”

A Rough Return

The conversations surrounding the Bears Sunday into Monday would be awfully different had a number of things happened — Trubisky doesn’t throw that interception, the Bears’ defense gets a stop, Tarik Cohen doesn’t fumble near midfield, etc. In that same group: If Cody Parkey hits what would’ve been a game-winning 53-yard field goal in overtime.

Parkey, instead, missed that kick wide right. His career long is 54 yards, which he hit last year while with the Miami Dolphins (and that was a game-winner with about a minute left against the Los Angeles Chargers).

“I had the distance, I just didn’t kick it straight enough, bottom line,” Parkey said. “But you’ve got to move on. I’ve made game winners, I’ve missed game winners. As long as I keep playing, I’m just going to keep trying to kick my best.

“… I control what I can control, and unfortunately I missed a field goal. I’d like to have that one back, but it is what it is and I’m just going to focus on the next game. That’s all I can do.”