Bears

Devils calm in the face of adversity

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Devils calm in the face of adversity

NEWARK, N.J. Adam Henrique didnt think it unusual that there was a calm, almost cool attitude, resonating through the New Jersey Devils locker room on Saturday morning.

Maybe its just the rookies outlook on things. Or maybe, with your team down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup finals, stressing out just isnt going to help with an already daunting task.

Theres no need to be uptight and not smiling and not having fun. You have to enjoy it, he said. Guys are still coming in and having fun.

Whether the Devils fun continues depends on them, as they host the Los Angeles Kings in Game 5 tonight at the Prudential Center. As far as lineups, neither team will be making any changes for tonights game. The Devils have got some belief again after avoiding the sweep in L.A. But continuing that will be a tough task.

Meanwhile, the Kings had a bit of a different feeling in their locker room. Whether it was the look in their eyes or their pregame answers, some players had that lets get this over with vibe to them.

After losing the last game, a lot of guys are ready to take it to another level, and that starts with preparation, Kings forward Dustin Brown said. The key is our start. Its going to be a hostile, loud crowd. Im sure theyll have some extra energy.

So whats it going to be in Game 5? Will the Devils top guns start bringing the offense and keep the series going? Will Jonathan Quick throw together another tremendous performance for the Kings? The pregame demeanors were one thing. The on-ice performance later tonight are quite another.

We knew the situation were in. Were a team thats enjoying this (playoff run), David Clarkson said. Were down 3-1 but you take it game by game, shift by shift. Thats what we did last game and thats what were going to do tonight.

Bears notes: Unlikely contributors Bilal Nichols, Sherrick McManis come through in the clutch

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears notes: Unlikely contributors Bilal Nichols, Sherrick McManis come through in the clutch

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Bears got massive contributions on defense from the guys you’d expect, like Khalil Mack (two sacks, one forced fumble), Akiem Hicks (one sack, one forced fumble) and Eddie Jackson (one interception). But the collective effort put forth by this defense was exceedingly apparent in the final two drives of Sunday’s 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Facing a third-and-two at their own 42-yard line just after the two-minute warning, rookie defensive lineman Bilal Nichols blew up a Chase Edmonds run for a loss of three. On the next play, Bryce Callahan — who’s had a fantastic start to 2018 — picked off Josh Rosen, making sure the Cardinals didn’t get into range for what could’ve been a game-winning field goal. 

“It was a great call by coach Vic (Fangio),” Nichols said. “My teammates did a real good job of executing everything and then I kind of relied on my training and just read my keys and tried to make a play. 

“… I knew it was third and one and I knew it probably was going to be a run play, so I just tried to be as disruptive as possible.”

The Cardinals got the ball back and got near midfield with five seconds left — in range, at least, for Rosen to fire a Hail Mary toward the end zone. But instead of dropping eight or nine into coverage, Fangio sent a blitz, and Sherrick McManis — the ace special teamer who also picked off his first pass in eight years on Sunday — hit home for a game-ending sack. 

“I love it,” McManis said. “It was a great call. Coaches did an awesome job putting us in the right places and we did a good job of executing.”

The Bears' defense isn't having the success it is just because of Mack, or some of the top-end players on it. The across-the-board contributions it's getting from every corner of the depth chart is key in that dominance, too. 

Quiet, Please

The Cardinals aren’t the first Phoenix-area sports team to feel like they don’t have much of a home field/court/rink advantage when a squad from Chicago comes to town, that’s for sure. But Bears fans travelled so well to Glendale on Sunday that the Cardinals almost had to do something that’s usually reserved for road games. 

“It’s tough. There were a few times that we thought we were going to have to go silent cadence but if you’re not winning, the fans aren’t going to come out,” Cardinals offensive lineman Justin Pugh said. “If we go out and put a better product on the field, fans will come out and watch us and support us.”

No matter how expected it may be, it was still a striking sight to see Bears players — like Mack and Jackson — raise their arms in the air to encourage a crowd to make more noise at a road game. 

Mack Attack

Mack had an interesting description of his forced fumble, which came when Bradford tried to scramble into the Bears’ red zone early in the fourth quarter. It was a pivotal play in the game, and led to an offensive drive that ended with Cody Parkey’s game-winning field goal. 

But in light of the NFL’s raging, self-inflicted controversy about its roughing the passer rule, how Mack explained making that play stands out.

“I knew he was going to have the ball in his right hand, got my head out of the way because that’s a big part of the rules nowadays, and tried to make a play,” Mack said. “It was what we worked on all week, punching the ball out. That’s what coaches were preaching all week.”

So on a Sunday on which Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Clay Matthews was again flagged for roughing the passer after landing on a quarterback, and in a climate where lowering the head constitutes a penalty, Mack pulled off a game-changing play without doing anything the NFL rulebook considers illegal. The Bears have not been flagged for roughing the passer this year, and instead have had multiple strip-sacks in each of their first three games. 

Under Center Podcast: Bears in first place after ugly win

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USA TODAY

Under Center Podcast: Bears in first place after ugly win

It wasn’t pretty, but the Bears are in 1st place in the NFC North after a 16-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals.

Matt Forte, Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Laurence Holmes discuss the good side of things as Khalil Mack and the Bears defense get it done once again – and the bad, as Mitchell Trubisky and the Bears offense continue to sputter.

Plus, will the Bears see Famous Jameis or Fitz-Magic next week against the Buccaneers? Forte provides some inside info on his former teammate, Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: