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NFL-best NFC North just will not let Bears pull away

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NFL-best NFC North just will not let Bears pull away

The 51-20 win at Tennessee kept the Bears (7-1) a game behind Atlanta for the best record in the NFC. The Falcons have a difficult meeting at New Orleans next weekend but the Bears get AFC-best Houston Sunday night.
But the Bears cannot afford to look up or too far forward. The NFC North is the only division with no team sub-.500. Even Minnesota has come crashing back to the pack, the Bears have won six straight but Green Bay, the only second-place team in the NFL with six wins, has won four straight and Detroit three of its last four.
Indianapolis Colts (5-3) W 41-21
Balanced identity established with 33-35 run pass ratio and O runs up 428 yards with Jay Cutler throwing for 333 yards and 2 TDs to go with rushing TDs by Michael Bush (2) and Matt Forte (1) as part of 122 rushing yards. Nice to have caught this team while Andrew Luck was still a puppy.
@ Green Bay Packers (6-3) L 23-10
Jay Cutler berates offensive linemen on national TV for seven sacks; linemen just have to accept Cutlers four INTs apparently. Embarrassing offensive performance all around as defense holds Aaron Rodgers and Pack to 3 FGs and one TD.
St. Louis Rams (3-5) W 23-6
Defense sacks Sam Bradford six times and holds Rams out of the end zone. Offense scores only one TD for the second week in a row and Jay Cutler continues to find a groove with receivers.
@ Dallas Cowboys (3-5) W 34-18
Five interceptions of Tony Romo, two returned for TDs (Briggs, Tillman) and a workmanlike 360 yards on offense produce a crucial road win on MNF against the most overrated (annually) team in the NFL.
@ Jacksonville Jaguars (1-7) W 41-3
Bears offense runs up 501 balanced yards (214 rush, 287 pass) and explodes after a sluggish first half. Briggs and Tillman make NFL history with TD interceptions for second straight week and Brandon Marshall puts up 144 yards on 12 catches.
Sun., Oct. 14 Off week
vs. Detroit Lions (4-4) W 13-7
Jay Cutler sacked five times and survives Ndamukong Suhs WWF takedown. Bears RBs net 132 yards as run game clicks. Offense cant put Lions away but Charles Tillman D on Calvin Johnson virtually locks Bears DB into a 2nd Pro Bowl.
vs. Carolina Panthers (2-6) W 23-22
Robbie Gould 41-yard FG as time expires caps 16-point fourth quarter and rally from 19-7 deficit. Offense and defense struggle badly for three quarters but Kellen Davis catches TD pass and Tim Jennings TD return to turn back Cam Newton and reeling Ron Rivera team.
@ Tennessee Titans (3-6) W 51-20
Charles Tillmans bid for defensive player of the year got a boost from four forced fumbles, Brian Urlacher returned an INT for a touchdown and Corey Wootton scored on a blocked punt. Jay Cutler throws three TDs to Brandon Marshall in a game Bears led 28-2 after one quarter.
Houston Texans (7-1) Sun., Nov. 11, 7:20 p.m
Arian Foster carries 24 times for 111 yards and Andre Johnson catches nine for 118 in easy win over Buffalo. Think Mario Williams misses Houston or the Texans miss him more? Now let the Super Bowl preview? hype begin. Next: at BEARS
@ San Francisco 49ers (6-2) Mon., Nov. 19, 7:30 p.m.
A rest week for 49ers before home games vs. St. Louis and MNF with the Bears.
Vikings (5-4) Sun., Nov. 25, noon
Three losses in four weeks as Christian Ponder keeps collapsing (sub-70 passing yards second week in three) as Vikings waste a 182-yard run game by Adrian Peterson in road loss to Seattle. Next: vs. Detroit
Seattle Seahawks (5-4) Sun., Dec. 2, noon
Taking care of Minnesota 30-20 at home keeps Seahawks within hailing distance of San Francisco. A cross-country trip by the bumbling Jets should be a momentum-builder Seattle. Next: N.Y. Jets
@ Minnesota Vikings (5-4) Sun., Dec. 9, noon
Green Bay Packers (6-3) Sun., Dec. 16, noon
Injuries continue to be a concern (Bryan Bulaga, Clay Matthews, Jordy Nelson, severity uknown)) but Aaron Rodgers still throws for four TDs vs. Arizoa despite completing just 47 percent. No sign of letting the Bears pull away. Next: Off
@ Arizona Cardinals (4-5) Sun., Dec. 23, 3:15 p.m.
Losing streak reaches five as Cards become an afterthought after a sparkling start. Maybe a break will help. Probably not. Next: Off
@ Detroit Lions (4-4) Sun., Dec. 30, noon
After 1-3 start, Detroit has won three of four, beating Jacksonville with Mikel Leshoure and Joique Bell combining for 143 rushing yards and Calvin Johnson catching seven for 129 despite a bad knee. Next step is to keep Vikings sliding. Next: @ Minnesota

ICYMI: The Bears lose a shootout, the Bulls drop their home-opener and the Blackhawks

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USA TODAY

ICYMI: The Bears lose a shootout, the Bulls drop their home-opener and the Blackhawks

It was a busy weekend for Chicago sports fans, from the Bulls' home-opener, to two Blackhawks games and a shootout at Soldier Field between the Bears and Patriots.

Bears

The Bears came a yard away on a Hail Mary pass from forcing overtime, ultimately losing a 38-31 shootout to the Patriots and showing they still have much to prove. Mitchell Trubisky said that there is a new standard and that coming up short is not good enough anymore.

While Trubisky's accuracy was uneven Sunday, he showed continued development, throwing for 300+ yards for the third straight game. He also scored on a nifty eight-yard rushing touchdown in which he covered 71.9 yards of distance.

While the Bears struggled to contain the Patriots' offense and recorded just one sack, the defense is still confident in the unit and team overall. 

Bulls

Off the court, Denzel Valentine suffered a setback on his injured left ankle and will be reevaluated in two weeks. On the court, the Bulls' defense cost them Saturday against the Pistons, but especially late on Ish Smith's game-winning basket for the Pistons.

With Kris Dunn on paternity leave, the Bulls signed guard Shaquille Harrison and waived center Omer Asik. The move comes on the heels of Fred Hoiberg saying potential lineup changes are "still up in the air." 

The Bulls also announced three broadcasters that will call the first five road games minus-longtime play-by-play man Neil Funk. Funk is cutting 20 road games from his schedule this season.

Blackhawks

Corey Crawford picked up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017, leading the Blackhawks to victory in vintage fashion. The Blackhawks were outshot 28-15 through two periods, and Crawford stood tall en route to a 4-1 Blackhawks' win.

Following his return from a major injury, the Blackhawks will monitor Crawford's workload moving forward. 

Meanwhile, in Columbus, Blue Jackets forward Anthony Duclair regrets not making the most of his stint with the Blackhawks last season. Also, the Blue Jackets and Blackhawks are both experiencing challenges as a result of the Brandon Saad-Artemi Panarin trade from last summer.

Unfortunately for the Blackhawks, they set an NHL record and tied a franchise record (confusing, we know) by allowing 33 shots on goal during the second period Sunday. The Blackhawks ultimately fell 6-3, though Alexandre Fortin scored his first career NHL goal in the process.

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.