Cubs

Missed opportunities plague Bears again

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Missed opportunities plague Bears again

The Packers backward pass when they received a Bears fourth-quarter punt looked like something out of a comedy sketch. The Bears, surprised as anyone, were attentive enough to recover the fumble created by said screwy play, on Green Bays 16-yard line.

Down 21-10 at the time, the Bears had a golden opportunity to get a touchdown and put the squeeze on the Packers. But much like a third-quarter drive where the Bears couldnt capitalize big on Packers' miscues, they couldnt do it this time, either.

The Bears offensive issues were magnified on two second-half drives in a 21-13 loss to Green Bay. On the third-quarter one, back-to-back Packers penalties set the Bears up at Green Bays 5-yard line. But after Matt Forte gained four yards on first-and-goal, the Bears were stalled and had to settle for an Olindo Mare 34-yard field goal.

On the goal line, the offensive line has got to get movement. I looked for a hole and try to hit it, said Forte, who was stopped on second and third downs for no gain. There are going to be unblocked players. My deal is I have to slam it up in there. Thats what I was doing. You have to give them credit, too. They played tough defense on the goal line.

Right tackle Jonathan Scott said, somewhere, it wasnt 11 people working in unison. Im not saying thats what the reason was. But usually when we all work in unison, good things happen.

And while the Bears have been banged up and rotating different players at different spots on the offensive line, Scott said thats not an issue.

We work well together, we talk, we communicate, Scott said. They have faith in all seven linemen, and all seven linemen have to be accountable.

But the Bears got the chance to make amends. Flash forward to that bizarre Packers special-teams call in the fourth quarter. Not only did the Bears fail to get a touchdown starting at Green Bays 16, they didnt even gain a yard.

Thats another opportunity weve got to take advantage of, said quarterback Jay Cutler, who was surprised at the Packers pass. To get a ball like that, when the score is 21-10, those things dont happen often. To get a turnover was a great job by special teams. For us not to take advantage of that kind of opportunity is another reason you lose football games.

Not that the Bears were alone. Twice, the Packers couldve extended their lead on Sunday. Beleaguered kicker Mason Crosbys frustrating season continued, however, as he missed 43- and 42-yard field goals. Hes now 17-of-29 for the season. Didnt matter: Aaron Rodgers three touchdown passes to James Jones were eventually enough.

The Bears offense has had its struggles all season. But not getting the optimum number of points on those two drives, in this big of a game, against their division rival, was incredibly costly.

It hurts, coach Lovie Smith said. It was a one-score game at the end. We had excellent field position. Youve got to capitalize and thats the case most of the time. You cant rely on field goals in those situations. We need to get touchdowns.

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. gave another example of his all-around game

Albert Almora Jr. might be in the middle of a breakout season. The 24-year-old outfielder continues to show his impressive range in center field and is having his best year at the plate.

In Sunday's 8-3 win against the Giants, Almora had three hits and showed off his wheels in center to rob Evan Longoria of extra bases. The catch is visible in the video above.

"Defensively, right now he's playing as well as he possibly can," Maddon said.

On top of the defense he has become known for, he is hitting .326. That's good for fifth in the National League in batting.

"He's playing absolutely great," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "He's working good at-bats. His at-bats have gotten better vs. righties.

"The thing about it, is there's power there. The home runs are gonna start showing up, too."

There's also this stat, which implies Almora is having a growing significance on the Cubs as a whole:

There may be some correlation, but not causality in that. However, with Almora's center field play and growing accolades at the plate, the argument is becoming easier and easier that he is one of the most important players on the Cubs. That also goes for Almora's regular spot in the lineup, which has been up in the air with Maddon continuing to juggle the lineup.

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

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USA Today Sports Images

Bears still see Dion Sims as a valuable piece to their offensive puzzle

Dion Sims is still here, which is the outcome he expected but perhaps wasn’t a slam dunk — at least to those outside the walls at Halas Hall. 

The Bears could’ve cut ties with Sims prior to March 16 and saved $5.666 million against the cap, quite a figure for a guy coming off a disappointing 2017 season (15 catches, 180 yards, one touchdown). But the Bears are sticking with Sims, even after splashing eight figures to land Trey Burton in free agency earlier this year. 

“In my mind, I thought I was coming back,” Sims said. “I signed to be here three years and that’s what I expect. But I understand how things go and my job is come out here and work hard every day and play with a chip on my shoulder to prove myself and just be a team guy.”

The Bears signed Sims to that three-year, $18 million contract 14 months ago viewing him as a rock-solid blocking tight end with some receiving upside. The receiving upside never materialized, and his blocking was uneven at times as the Bears’ offense slogged through a bleak 11-loss season. 

“The situation we were in, we weren’t — we could’ve done a better job of being successful,” Sims said. “Things didn’t go how we thought it would. We just had to pretty much try to figure out how to come together and build momentum into coming into this year. I just think there were a lot of things we could have done, but because of the circumstances we were limited a little bit. 

“… It was a lot of things going on. Guys hurt, situations — it was tough for us. We couldn’t figure it out, along with losing, that was a big part of it too.”

Sims will be given a fresh start in 2018, even as Adam Shaheen will be expected to compete to cut into Sims’ playing time at the “Y” tight end position this year. The other side of that thought: Shaheen won’t necessarily slide into being the Bears’ primary in-line tight end this year. 

Sims averaged 23 receptions, 222 yards and two touchdowns from 2014-2016; that might be a good starting point for his 2018 numbers, even if it would represent an improvement from 2017. More important, perhaps, is what Sims does as a run blocker — and that was the first thing Nagy mentioned when talking about how Sims fits into his offense. 

“The nice thing with Dion is that he’s a guy that’s proven to be a solid blocker,” Nagy said. “He can be in there and be your Y-tight end, but yet he still has really good hands. He can make plays on intermediate routes. He’s not going to be anybody that’s a downfield threat — I think he knows that, we all know that — but he’s a valuable piece of this puzzle.”