Cubs

Loyola's defense stymies Palatine in playoff victory

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Loyola's defense stymies Palatine in playoff victory

By Matt Harness
Season Pass

Instead of talking up his own skills, Cody Sullivan ceded almost all of the credit Saturday for his career-high three interceptions to his coaches.

Loyolas senior linebacker caught as many passes from Ethan Olles as Alex Nawrot, the Palatine quarterbacks third-leading receiver.

Sullivans second pick preceded Julius Holleys 2-yard touchdown run with 2:58 to go before the break, and the No. 5-ranked Ramblers never looked back in their 19-7 win over the seventh-ranked Pirates in the Class 8A quarterfinals.

I absolutely saw it all on film, Sullivan said. The coaches put us in the right spots. They told us where to be and good things happened.

Loyola (11-1) won for the 10th time in a row and is in the state semifinals for the fourth consecutive season. The Ramblers will play No. 8 Glenbard North at home Saturday for the second year in a row in the semifinals.

This feels good, but we still have things to work for, Sullivan said. Anything less that a state championship is not what we want this year.

Danny Rafferty picked off a pass on the first play of the game, and sophomore Mike Kurzydlowski kicked a 25-yard field for a lead Loyola never surrendered.

The Ramblers didnt allow a touchdown on defense for the third time in five games. Palatines points came on Cam Kuksas 47-yard punt return early in the third quarter that left the score 10-7 in favor of Loyola.

But the Ramblers responded by piecing together their best series of the game, a nine-play, 80-yard drive that ended with Peter Pujals 21-yard scoring strike to Luke Ford to up the teams advantage to 16-7 with 7:16 left in the third quarter.

Even still, the senior quarterback deflected the applause.

The defense won that game for us, said Pujals, who finished 13-for-23 for 158 yards and didnt turn over the ball.

Palatine (10-2) lost for the first time since the opening week. The Pirates also ended their 2010 season in the quarterfinals with a loss to Loyola.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

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USA TODAY

Could Bears improve and still lose ground? The MMQB's Albert Breer weighs in on tough NFC North

NBC Sports Chicago’s John "Moon" Mullin talked with The MMQB's Albert Breer, who shared his thoughts on where the Bears stand — and if they’ll be able to compete — in a highly competitive NFC North.

Moon: The Bears have made upgrades, but they’re in the NFC North and not many divisions are tougher, given the strength at quarterbacks.

Breer: Yes. You look at the other three teams, and they all very much believe they’re in a window for winning a championship. The Packers are going through some changes, but they’ve gotten Mike Pettine in there as defensive coordinator and a new general manager who was aggressive on draft day. I know that internally they feel that’s going to give them a boost, and bringing Aaron Rodgers back obviously is the biggest thing of all.

Minnesota, all the things they did this offseason, signing (quarterback) Kirk Cousins, (defensive lineman) Sheldon Richardson, and they were knocking on the door last year.

The Lions have been building for two years under (general manager) Bob Quinn and (new coach) Matt Patricia, who lines right up with the general manager — the two of them worked together in New England. They really believe that Matthew Stafford is ready to take the sort of jump that Matt Ryan made in Atlanta a few years ago, where you see that mid-career breakthrough from a quarterback that we see sometimes now.

It’s one of the toughest divisions in football, and every team in the division believes that it’s in the position to contend right now.

Moon: We didn’t see a lot of Mitch Trubisky — 12 games — so it sounds possible that the Bears could improve and still lose ground.

Breer: The Lions were pretty good last year. The Vikings were in the NFC Championship game. And who knows where the Packers would’ve been if Rodgers hadn’t broken his collarbone. The biggest change is that Aaron Rodgers will be back, and that’s the best player in the league. It was a really good division last year, and you’re adding back in a Hall of Fame quarterback.

As far as the Bears, there’s going to be questions where the organization is going. It’s been seven years since they were in the playoffs. I think they certainly got the coach hire right. This is a guy who I know other organizations liked quite a bit and was going to be a head coach sooner or later.

And I think he matches up well with Mitch. I think the Bears are in a good spot, but as you said, they’re competing in a difficult environment, so it may not show up in their record.

Moon: A lot of love for the Vikings after they get to the NFC Championship and then add Kirk Cousins.

Breer: A lot of people look at Minnesota and think Kirk Cousins’ll be a huge improvement. And maybe he will be. I think he’s a very good quarterback, top dozen in the league. But Case Keenum played really, really well last year, so it wasn’t like they weren’t getting anything out of that position last year.

The NFC right now is clearly the strength of the league. If you picked the top 10 teams in the league, you could make a case that seven or eight of them are in the NFC. I think there will be NFC teams that miss the playoffs who could be in the Super Bowl coming out of the AFC. There’s a little bit of an imbalance there.

Moon: Trubisky projects as part of a wave of new quarterbacks league-wide, a sea change in the NFL.

Breer: The interesting thing is that this is probably as stable as the league has been at quarterback in a long time. There’ve been questions where the next great quarterbacks will come from, but I don’t know that there’s a team right now in the NFL like you looked at the Jets or Browns last year, where you say that team is definitely drafting a quarterback in 2019.

Everyone either has a big-money veteran or former first-round pick on their roster. One team that doesn’t is the Cowboys, but they’ve got Dak Prescott who’s played really well. Every team in the league has some stability at the position. I think the position is as healthy as it’s been in a long time, and you’ve got a lot of good young prospects.