Bears

Dempster focused on Cubs, not trade deadline

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Dempster focused on Cubs, not trade deadline

Ryan Dempster pitches for the Cubs. Sure, that seems obvious, but he stressed it Saturday after another strong, shutout effort helped Chicago to a 4-1 victory over Arizona at Wrigley Field.
While most post-game questions focused on speculation Dempster will likely be traded before the non-waiver trade deadline July 31, the right-hander steered his answers toward the present.
Im well aware of things going on and rumors and things like that, Dempster said. But Im a member of the Chicago Cubs and Im trying to do my best job for this team and for my teammates.
Right now his best job has been pretty spectacular. Dempster completed six shutout innings to extend his scoreless streak to 33 consecutive innings.
The streak is the longest for a Cubs starter since Ken Holtzman also went 33 shutout innings in 1969. Dempster is one of only three Cubs starters to have shutout streaks of at least 33 innings in the past 95 years.
Bill Lee did it twice in 1938 with streaks of 35 and 37 innings. Holtzman is the other.
Dempster's success makes him a prime candidate to be dealt, though its anybodys guess as to where he could end up. Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said hes been fielding many calls since play resumed following the All-Star Game break, but did not indicate any move was imminent.
Dempster, who came to the Cubs as a free agent in 2004, knows the position hes in regarding his trade value. But hed rather not think about wearing anything but a Cubs jersey right now.
I understand the business side of baseball, he said. You can better your team for the future by being able to acquire some guys, but I havent given a whole lot of thought to what it might feel like to be somewhere else. Right now Im just enjoying playing here and winning (Saturday), and being part of this nice little run were on.
The Cubs clinched the series victory, keeping them unbeaten in their past five series (4-0-1). They have won 11 of their past 15 games, plus five straight at home to top the .500 mark (21-20) at Wrigley for the first time since early in the season.
Against the Diamondbacks, Dempster didnt have his best stuff but still didnt allow a runner past second base even after giving up one-out double to Paul Goldschmidt in the fourth inning.
Dempster only had one perfect inning -- his last. He was pulled after the sixth having thrown 89 pitches, 56 for strikes. He allowed four hits and three walks with five strikeouts, and benefitted from two double plays.
It was his second start since returning from the disabled list with right lat tightness. Manager Dale Sveum said he had Dempster on a pitch count of 90, so it was time to take him out in the sixth despite Dempster having his best inning of the game.
When I took him out he wanted to stay in, but he wasnt going to talk me out of it, Sveum said. That was the game plan today and it worked out perfectly. He got another inning in (compared with his previous start) and got to 90 pitches. The plan worked to a T today.
The plan now is for Dempster to make his next start without restrictions. The question is, will it be in a Cubs uniform?

Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

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Recalling moments in Tom Brady history ahead of his likely last meeting with Bears

As Tom Brady approaches what in all reasonable likelihood will be his last game against the Bears and in Soldier Field, the first time this reporter saw Tom Brady comes very much to mind. Actually the first times, plural. Because they were indeed memorable, for different reasons.

That was back in 2001, when Brady should have started replacing Wally Pipp as the poster athlete for what can happen when a player has to sit out and his replacement never gives the job back. Drew Bledsoe, who’d gotten the New England Patriots to a Super Bowl, had gotten injured week two of that season. Brady, who’d thrown exactly one pass as a rookie the year before, stepped in and never came out, playing the Patriots into the AFC playoffs the same year the Bears were reaching and exiting the NFC playoffs when Philadelphia’s Hugh Douglas body-slammed QB Jim Miller on his shoulder.

After that the playoff assignments were elsewhere, including the Patriots-Steelers meeting in Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. Brady started that game but left with an ankle injury and Bledsoe came off the bench to get the Patriots into Super Bowl.

Then came one of those rare moments when you are witnessing history but have the misfortune of not knowing it at the time.

The question of Super Bowl week was whether Bill Belichick would stay with Bledsoe’s winning hand or go back to Brady. Belichick of course waited deep into Super Bowl week before announcing his decision at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night, the second time that season Belichick had opted to stay with Brady over a healthy Bledsoe. And of course Belichick didn’t announce the decision himself (surprise); he had it put out by the team’s media relations director.

You did have to respect Belichick, though, going into his first Super Bowl as a head coach with a sixth-round draft choice at quarterback and leaving a former (1992) No. 1-overall pick with a $100-million contract on the bench. The Patriots upset The Greatest Show on Turf Rams in that Super Bowl, Brady was MVP, and Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo that offseason.

History.

That Super Bowl also included one of those performance snapshots the Bears envision for Mitch Trubisky but missed a chance to let him attempt last Sunday at Miami in his 17th NFL start. Brady took the Patriots on a drive starting at their own 17 with 1:30 to play and no timeouts, ending with an Adam Vinatieri field-goal winner.

If Belichick was all right letting his second-year quarterback in just his 17th start throw eight straight passes starting from inside his own red zone, the next time Matt Nagy gets the football at his own 20 with timeouts and time in hand, best guess is that the decision will be to see if his quarterback lead a game-winning drive with his arm instead of handing off.

It may not happen this Sunday. Brady is a career 4-0 vs. Bears, and if there is one constant it is that his opposite numbers play really bad football against him, or rather his coach’s defense. Bears quarterback passer ratings opposite Brady, even in years when the Bears were good: Jim Miller 51.2 in 2002, Rex Grossman 23.7 in 2006; Jay Cutler 32.9 and Cutler again in the 51-23 blowout in Foxboro. Cutler finished that game with a meaningless 108.6 rating, meaningless because Cutler put up big numbers beginning when his team was down 38-7 after he’d mucked about with a 61.7 rating, plus having a fumble returned for a TD, while the Bears were being humiliated.

A surprise would be if Trubisky bumbles around like his predecessors (New England allows an average opponent passer rating of 91.6), but whether he can produce a third straight 120-plus rating…. Then again, Pat Mahomes put a 110.0 on the Patriots last Sunday night, but Deshaun Watson managed only a 62.9 against New England in game one.

Trubisky will make the third of the three 2017 first-round QB’s to face the Patriots. The first two lost.

Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

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Bulls Talk Podcast: The ultimate Bulls briefing to get you ready for Opening Night

On this edition of the Bulls Talk podcast, Mark Schanowski sits down with Kendall Gill and Will Perdue to discuss all the need-to-know topics to get you ready for the season opener. The guys analyze how Lauri’s injury will make its mark on the early season rotation, whether Jabari will return to the starting unit or embrace the 6th-man role and why Portis betting on himself is the right move. Plus, Kendall has the key to unlock a “6th Man of the Year” award for Portis this season.

Listen to the full episode here or via the embedded player below: