Cubs

Peterson or Ponder: Which is the real threat?

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Peterson or Ponder: Which is the real threat?

The Bears defense has gone to sleep this week with visions of Adrian Peterson in its collective head. That may not be its sole cause for concern, however.

Pondering Ponder

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has been a disappointment in 2012. After a promising rookie year that effectively began with his relieving Donovan McNabb against the Bears, he has muddled along with a passer rating of 75 this season.

In his first six games he had none with a completion percentage lower than 60 and the Vikings were 4-2. In the last six he has had just one game with a completion rate above 55. The Vikings have gone 2-4.

Hes pretty much what you see, said new middle linebacker Nick Roach. Hes very athletic, he can throw the ball if he has time, and he doesnt seem to get rattled, which you would tend to maybe associate with young guys. Hes a good test.

The reason: For all of his inconsistencies, Ponder is 5-1 at home this season.

Visions of 28

But the Bears mission statement is always to make a team one-dimensional by taking away its running game. And nowhere has this appeared to prove more effective than against the Vikings.

Minnesota won four of the first five games in Adrian Petersons career against the Bears. In those, Peterson averaged 128 yards per game. The Vikings have lost the last six (two with Peterson missing due to injury) with the games best running back averaging 73 yards in the four he played, including the 108 he had in the 28-10 loss on Nov. 25.

The quirky part is that Peterson has rushed for no fewer than those 108 yards in each of the last six games and the Vikings won just two of those, against woefuls Arizona and Detroit.

He trampled the Green Bay Packers for 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries last Sunday. The Vikings lost 23-14.

But in the mind of the Bears there is still a clear No. 1 target and way to neutralize that.

Gang-tackling, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Its gap security and knowing exactly what were doing and playing extremely hard and fast. That game he played last week at Green Bay was special. We know what we have in store for us. Were competing for a championship and we got to get him on the ground.

Something missing

The Bears have been successful in their last six games against Minnesota. They also have had Brian Urlacher in all of those. Now they dont.

Roach has been very solid this season with an arrow pointing up at this point of the year. He had four tackles against San Francisco as well as a half-sack and quarterback pressure and pass breakup. He totaled seven stops against the Vikings and forced a fumble, and he followed that with five tackles against Seattle. Of his 16 tackles over the past three games, 11 have been solos.

But as WBBMWSCR Bears reporter Zach Zaidman noted, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has never handled a game through any other channel than Urlacher. This will be the first time he is communicating his defensive moves through someone other than Urlacher.

Sound off

Communicating is the operative word here.

One popular notion in Roachs previous time at middle linebacker (2009, three games, 1-2) was that he simply was not loud enough. Two of those three games were outdoors.

This game is inside one of the acknowledged loudest venues in sports. Teammates are satisfied that Roach can and will be heard.

His voice has developed, said linebacker Lance Briggs, smiling. I dont know the right word but its matured. He sounds louder on the field.

Communication is not going to be a problem. Even if guys dont hear, weve been in the system long enough where we understand we should all understand by recognizing.

Roach was amused: Lance is a funny guy. I try to make a conscious effort to get the communications clear so the guys can hear it.

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

Joe Maddon goes after Sean Doolittle's delivery: ‘That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do’

The Cubs finished Saturday's loss at the Nationals under protest after Joe Maddon saw what he believed to be an inconsistency in how illegal pitches are being called.

Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle came in to close the game out in the ninth with the Nats up 5-2. After one pitch, Maddon went to the umpires to complain. This dragged on throughout the inning.

Maddon didn't like that Doolittle's delivery involved him pausing and potentially even touching the ground in the middle of his wind up before coming home with the pitch. To Maddon, it was clearly an illegal pitch and he was fired up because that's something Carl Edwards Jr. got called for earlier in the season. By comparison, Edwards' version may be more deliberate, but Maddon thinks it is the same thing.

"That's exactly what I was told Carl can't do," Maddon said postgame in a video posted by ESPN's Jesse Rogers. "There's no judgment. If he taps the ground, it's an illegal pitch, period. There's nothing to judge. You can judge whether he did or not. It's obvious that he did, or if you can't tell that then there's something absolutely wrong."

Maddon and the Cubs protested the game as a result. If they win the protest, the game would be restarted with one out in the ninth, when Maddon notified the umpires of the protest.

Doolittle was less than amused by Maddon's protest.

"I have no qualms against Doolittle," Maddon said. "He's great, but they took it away from our guy so for me to sit in the dugout and permit that to happen while they stripped us of that ability earlier this year with Carl, how could I do that? You can't do that. I got to say something."

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Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

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USA TODAY

Jon Lester's hot streak comes to an end at Nationals

Jon Lester was on a heck of a run since coming off the IL in late April, but it came to a screeching halt on Saturday.

Lester had by far his worst start of the season at the Nationals in a 5-2 Cubs loss. He labored through his start, giving up five runs in 4 1/3 innings.

Lester gave up 10 hits, which matches the most he has given up since joining the Cubs. He gave up a fair number of hits in his last two starts, but was able to avoid trouble on the scoreboard. Lester gave up nine hits in 6 2/3 innings against the Brewers last time out, but only gave up an unearned run. On May 7, Lester gave up eight hits to the Marlins, but only allowed two unearned runs in six innings of work.

This time, Lester couldn’t stay out of trouble. Brian Dozier got the Nats on the board with a solo shot in the second and then the wheels came off in the third.

To open the third inning Lester gave up six straight hits. The Nats got three runs that inning and then added another in the fifth, when Lester departed the game.

Since Lester came off the IL on April 25, he had allowed just one earned run (four runs in total) in 24 2/3 innings. During that stretch, he had 25 strikeouts against just two walks. His ERA fell to 1.16, which would have led all of baseball if he had enough innings to qualify. It’s at 2.09 after Saturday’s loss.

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