Bears

Kings dominating on the road

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Kings dominating on the road

NEW YORK Winning on the road: its a necessity for any team that strives to win a championship. And any time a team can steal a victory on the road, it goes far.

But what the Los Angeles Kings are doing sets a whole new standard in thievery. The No. 8 seed has now won 10 consecutive road playoff games on their remarkable run, as the Kings continue to treat opposing buildings like their home ice.

When the Kings beat the Devils 2-1 in overtime on Saturday night, they took a 2-0 lead in the Stanley Cup finals series and extended their astounding road victory run. The Kings are the fourth team to collect 10 postseason road victories in the same year the Devils did it in 1995 and 2000, and Calgary did it in 2004. The 95 Devils won the Cup, and it certainly looks like the Kings are headed for the same.

OK, maybe were getting a tad ahead of ourselves with that. But considering how the Kings have efficiently whipped through these playoffs, maybe it isnt. Los Angeles swept through the Western Conference in fabulous fashion, wrapping up series against Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix in five, four and five games, respectively.

So even though they havent reached that ultimate goal just yet, they have to stop and admire that 10-game road winning streak a little, right?

Its nuts. But you cant think about it right now, said defenseman Matt Greene, whose Kings have started each playoff series up 2-0. You try to take one game at a time, just worry about the game youre suiting up for.

Sounds pretty close to what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after Game 1. The Kings won nine in a row at the time but Sutter stressed the Cup finals were a new series, and it was just one road victory. Still, its nevertheless impressive. And the Kings realize that, considering where they started in the playoffs, winning on the road was a must.

Its a big accomplishment for us, but we definitely had to do it, starting as an eighth seed, starting on the road every series, Dustin Penner said. Weve been the beneficiaries of timely goals and good bounces, and weve had to work for them. In every game weve won on the road, more times than not, we couldve lost them, too.

Bounces, breaks and other lucky occurrences have their place in a successful teams playoff history. But winning on the road requires focus, dedication to defense and a simple game, as well. The Kings have had all of it, from timely goals to stifling defense to the brilliant goaltending of Jonathan Quick.

The Kings are on the cusp of history. Theyve already set a heck of a road standard along the way.

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: