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Bears need help from Packers after beating Arizona

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Bears need help from Packers after beating Arizona

GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) Now the Chicago Bears are in the odd position of cheering on the Green Bay Packers, their age-old nemesis.

The Bears kept their playoff hopes alive by beating the Arizona Cardinals 28-13 on Sunday. To earn a wild-card spot, they need to win at Detroit in their regular-season finale and have the Packers beat the Minnesota Vikings.

`` (The Packers) put up 55 points today,'' Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler said, ``so hopefully (Aaron) Rodgers can put on another show next week.''

After losing five of six, the Bears (9-6) lost control of their playoff fate and need some help.

First, though, they had to beat the punchless Cardinals, and they did it with a defense that returned to the opportunistic ways that had helped the team race to a 7-1 start to the season.

Charles Tillman returned an interception 10 yards for a score and Zack Bowman returned a fumble 1 yard for another TD.

``It was the third pick Tillman has brought back for a touchdown this season and the eighth overall by Chicago, one shy of the NFL record. Julius Peppers had three of the Bears' four sacks.

``Defensively we asked them to take over and play the way they have been capable of doing,'' Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. ``Of course, how we played early, taking the ball away specifically, is what I am talking about. It was an added bonus getting a couple of scores. ``

A gigantic contingent of Bears fans cheered on their team.

``The Chicago fan support was amazing out there,'' Tillman said. ``It felt like a home game.''

Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 68 yards and a TD, breaking the Bears' franchise record for yards receiving in a season in the process. But, especially after calling out his team to show accountability, Marshall was highly critical of his performance.

``I stunk the field up,'' he said. ``Throwing around that word accountability, I can't do that, especially in this situation. For the defense to step up and other guys in offense to step up, that says a lot. I am proud that guys were able to make big plays, huge plays. Now we need to go out next weekend and control what we can control.''

Chicago snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in seven tries. The Cardinals (5-10) lost for the 10th time in 11 games.

``I can't even state how big this is. It is either win or you are done,'' Peppers said. ``We can't control what happens next week with other teams, but if we don't win today, we don't have a shot.''

Matt Forte gained 88 yards in 12 carries, including a 4-yard TD run for Chicago before aggravating a right ankle injury and leaving early in the second half.

Cutler completed just one of his first 11 passes, then went 5 of 5 on a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half. He finished 12 of 26 for 146 yards and a touchdown.

The Cardinals, with the NFL's worst offense, continued to search for someone to move the ball.

After he threw the interception to Tillman that put Chicago up 28-6 on Arizona's first offensive series after halftime, rookie Ryan Lindley was benched in favor of Brian Hoyer, claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh 13 days earlier.

``It's obviously not ideal, but football is football,''' said Hoyer, who spent three seasons as a backup in New England. ``You just want to go out and play the best you can and definitely improve off of this and just try to make the most of the opportunity.''

Hoyer completed 11 of 19 passes for 105 yards and one interception. Kelvin Hayden picked off his pass late in the game and returned it 39 yards to the Arizona 10.

But Adrian Wilson, the 12-year NFL veteran who might have been playing his last home game for the Cardinals, blocked Olindo Mare's 20-yard field goal try and Justin Bethel returned it 82 yards with 1:46 to play for the Cardinals' lone TD.

Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 111 yards, just his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. The first was in Week 3 against Philadelphia when the Cardinals were headed to a 4-0 start.

``It's been a long season, man,'' Fitzgerald said. ``Whenever I can make a play and make an impact, I try to do it. Today some things opened up. We were able to make some plays. But it didn't equate to a win, so it's all for nothing.''

Chicago pinned the Cardinals deep and, on second-and-11 from the 3, Beanie Wells' right knee gave way and he dropped the ball as he went backside first to the ground. Bowman grabbed it and skidded over the goal line for the first touchdown for the Bears' defense since Nov. 4.

Jay Feely's 49-yard field goal cut it to 7-3.

But Forte rambled 36 yards on the final play of the first quarter and Cutler threw 30 yards to Marshall to the Arizona 4 - the quarterback's first completion of the game in seven throws. Forte carried it in from there and Chicago led 14-3.

Chicago gave Arizona another chance when Dave Zastudil's punt careened off the Bears' D.J. Moore. The Cardinals recovered at the 36, leading to Feely's 35-yard field goal that cut the lead to 14-6.

With no timeouts and after completing just one of his first 11 passes, Cutler went 5-for-5, capped by an 11-yarder to a wide-open Marshall with 19 seconds left in the half.

``We were really struggling and got into a two-minute situation and guys were still working to get open,'' Cutler said. ``They made some great catches for me. It wasn't the best game. It wasn't the prettiest game, but we got done what we needed to get done.''

NOTES: The record for interceptions returned for TDs is nine by San Diego in 1961. ... Cardinals have not thrown a TD pass in six games. In last five games, Arizona has thrown 12 interceptions, four returned for TDs. ... Zastudil set the NFL season record with 44 punts inside the opponent's 20-yard line, for the second week in a row a franchise record six of them against the Bears. ... Chicago S Chris Conti left the game in the first half with a hamstring injury.

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Follow Bob Baum at www.twitter.com/Thebaumerphx

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Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

Though not a big man, first round pick Troy Brown fills several needs for Wizards

The Wizards' selection of Troy Brown of the University of Oregon with their first round pick has been met with a strong reaction among fans, many of whom argue he doesn't play a position of need, that it was a luxury pick when other areas could have been addressed, most notably in their frontcourt. Big man Robert Williams of Texas A&M, for example, was still on the board. 

The Wizards, though, did address needs by picking Brown. And really, they arguably filled more pressing needs in the short-term than those at power forward and center.

Though the Wizards clearly need some help at big man in the long-term, as both of their starting bigs are on expiring deals, they need help immediately at both shooting guard and small forward. Brown, though he is only 18 years old and offers no guarantees to contribute right away, can play both of those positions.

Shooting guard is where he can help the most. The Wizards have one backup shooting guard in Jodie Meeks and he is due to miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season while serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs.

Even when Meeks was available this past season, he only helped so much. He shot just 39.9 percent from the field and 34.3 percent from three. Head coach Scott Brooks often chose to rely more on starter Bradley Beal than go to Meeks as his replacement. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any player in the NBA.

More depth at shooting guard will help relieve Beal of some of that workload. That would be great for keeping him fresh throughout the season and help him be at his best when they need him most in the playoffs.

The Wizards also have some urgency at small forward. It is their strongest position in terms of one-two on the depth chart, but they have no logical third option. That was magnified in the playoffs once Otto Porter got injured. They were left with Kelly Oubre, Jr. and had to trot out Tomas Satoransky, who has limited experience at the position.

Brown can play both shooting guard and small forward, giving them much needed depth. If he can play well enough to earn a rotation spot, the emergency situations the Wizards encountered last season could be avoided in 2018-19.

The Wizards still need to find long-term solutions at power forward and center, but they were going to need to find answers at shooting guard and small forward as well. Both Meeks and Oubre have one year left on their deals. Brown helps solidify the long-term outlook at wing.

Now, there's no denying the Wizards already had considerable talent at both shooting guard and small forward with Beal, Porter and Oubre. That begs the question of how much Brown can offer particularly in the first year of his career. But the Wizards would like to play more positionless basketball and to do that requires depth at wing.

The Boston Celtics have helped make positionless basketball famous and their roster shows that the one player-type you can't have enough of is similar to Brown. Boston has Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Morris. All are around 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 and offer versatility on both ends of the floor.

The Wizards also now have four players of that size and with positional versatility in Brown, Porter, Oubre and Satoransky. They can roll out different combinations of those guys and possibly have an advantage on defense with the ability to switch seamlessly on screens.

In the age of positionless basketball, players of Brown's ilk have become major assets especially for teams that have many of them. There is such a thing as having too many point guards or centers because they can't coexist on the floor. Versatile wings, in most scenarios, can play together in numbers.

It's different but in a way similar to certain positions in other sports. In baseball, you can have too many catchers but you can't have too many talented pitchers and utility players. In football, you can have too many running backs or tight ends, but you can't have too many defensive linemen. 

Brown gives them options from a roster perspective in the long-term. Oubre has one year left on his contract and if he continues his trejectory with a strong 2018-19 season, he could price himself out of Washington. Brown could move up the depth chart as his replacement one year from now. The Wizards also now have the option to consider trades at the position given their depth.

The problem, one could argue, with drafting Brown over a Williams-type is that it limits their options at center in particular. Drafting Williams would have made it easier to trade Marcin Gortat, for instance, because they would have had depth to deal from. Now, it's more difficult to trade Gortat, whom they have shopped on and off for months, without a plan to replace him. Finding a Gortat substitute in free agency with the limited resource they have would not be easy.

But big man wasn't their only need and in Brown the Wizards may have found a solution at other areas where they clearly needed help.

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

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Wizards' second round pick Issuf Sanon will take time, much like Tomas Satoransky did

The first round of the NBA Draft played out expectedly for what the Wizards had planned for the night. In Troy Brown, they clearly got the guy they wanted all along, seeing as there were many interesting prospects they passed on to choose him.

The second round was a bit more chaotic. Team president Ernie Grunfeld said there were a few players picked just ahead of them at No. 44 that they had their eyes on. They contemplated trading up, but no perfect deals were presented.

So, they decided to think long-term, like really long-term. In choosing Ukrainian point guard Issuf Sanon, the Wizards understand it may be years before he plays in the NBA.

"We hope to have him developed in a few years," Grunfeld said.

Sanon, just 18, plays for Olimpija Ljubljana in Slovenia. He may stay in Europe into his 20s before he comes to the United States.

The Wizards have utilized the draft-and-stash model with other players. Their 2015 second round pick, Aaron White, has been playing in Europe for the past three seasons.

Sometimes those players never convey and contribute for the Wizards. But sometimes they do and Grunfeld pointed to a player already on their roster as a model to consider.

"We drafted Tomas [Satoransky] at an earlier age, he went overseas [and] he played at the highest level and it got him ready for the NBA," Grunfeld said.

The difference between now and then is that the Wizards have a G-League franchise starting this fall, the Capital City Go-Go. Because of that, it seemed more likely going into the draft that the Wizards would use the second round pick on a guy who can play there right away. 

Grunfeld, however, opted for roster flexibility. By keeping Sanon in Europe, the Wizards can have another open roster spot. They could either fill that spot, or leave spots on the end of their roster open as they did for much of last season.

"We want to preserve a roster spot, so just because you draft someone in your second round, if you sign him, he still has a roster spot even if you let him play for the GoGo," Grunfeld said.

Sanon may have a bright future. He is a 6-foot-4 point guard with impressive athleticism who doesn't turn 19 until October. He said he models his game after Russell Westbrook, as a guard who can score the ball. More will be known about him once he plays for their summer league team in July.

The Wizards passed on several interesting prospects to pick Sanon. Still on the board were Keita Bates-Diop of Ohio State, Hamidou Diallo of Kentucky and Svi Mykhailiuk of Kansas, three players they brought in for pre-draft workouts. But instead, they went with a long-term investment, hoping they found the next Satoransky.

MORE 2018 NBA DRAFT COVERAGE:

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