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Cutler says don't expect Bears' offense to match D

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Cutler says don't expect Bears' offense to match D

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The idea that the Chicago Bears' offense will match its jaw-dropping defense this season just might be a little far-fetched.

That's the word from quarterback Jay Cutler.

``We're not going to catch the defense this year,'' Cutler said. ``It's not going to happen. We're eight, nine years behind those guys. They've been in the same system a long time. We've just go to focus on ourselves. Every guy has just got to get a little bit better each week, every day at practice. If we get a little bit better by the end of the season, we'll be better.''

For all the hype coming into the season, the offense remains a work in progress. That hasn't stopped the Bears (7-1, No. 3 In AP Pro32) from grabbing the NFC North lead heading into Sunday's showdown with AFC South leader Houston.

It just hasn't happened quite the way they envisioned. Now, they're going against a dominant defense in a matchup between two of the league's best teams.

It's a big test for an offense that many thought had the potential to be explosive isn't quite living up to the billing.

``I think you guys have to understand we're not going to look like the New England Patriots,'' star receiver Brandon Marshall said. ``We're not going to look like the New Orleans Saints' offense. We're the Chicago Bears' offense.''

And it might not be as shiny and flashy, at least not this season.

That didn't stop Marshall from pointing out that the offense scored 37 points in last week's 51-20 win at Tennessee, even though three of that group's touchdowns came on drives of 16 yards or less. The offense really didn't do much in that game until the second half.

He mentioned that the Bears have an elite quarterback in Cutler and running back in Matt Forte. Yet, he also said those expecting the Bears' offense to resemble New England's, New Orleans', Green Bay's or even Denver's when he and Cutler were there should probably forget about that, at least for now.

``We're going to do it our own way,'' Marshall said.

So when will it really click?

``I'm thinking 2015,'' he said in jest, before turning serious. ``We have goals. We want to win now. We want to win now. We're doing a good job of it and will we be a No. 1 offense this year? I don't know. It doesn't look like it but what we're doing is effective. We just have to be a little bit more productive and start a little bit faster.''

The Bears rank 25th overall on offense and 29th in the passing game, a surprise considering how dominant Marshall has been.

Now, they're about to meet a defense that might be overshadowed a bit this week even though it ranks among the league's best. For all the publicity the Bears' defenders are getting, consider what the Texans are doing.

They're third overall on defense, second against the run and fourth against the pass.

They're tied with Chicago for third with 25 sacks along with the New York Giants and Seattle Seahawks, including a league-leading 101/2 by J.J. Watt, and they're going up against a team with well-documented issues when it comes to protection. Cutler has been sacked 28 times and is second only to Aaron Rodgers in that category.

``He has been sacked a lot,'' Texans outside linebacker Whitney Mercilus said. ``They're having a lot of difficulty in pass protection. Any defensive players likes that, so the thing is, we're going to work our best moves and try to get to him as best we can.''

And yet, the Texans also realize they could be in for a tough time.

No one needs to remind them about Cutler's mobility and arm strength, Forte's versatility in the backfield or Marshall's sheer dominance so far. The Bears' prized offseason acquisition, he's second in the league with 797 yards receiving on 59 receptions.

``Everybody knows the type of player he is,'' said Houston safety Danieal Manning, who played in Chicago from 2006-10. ``He's been targeted much now that he's back with his guy (Cutler). Those guys are hooking up a lot. Brandon has been catching it well, he's a big-body guy who can run routes and stretch the field. Wherever he is, you'd be crazy not to pay attention to where that guy is. Not only him, they do have other playmakers on that team.''

Yet, the Bears are still a bit clunky on offense at times, particularly early in games.

``I think we've got to recognize what they're playing and attack them a certain way according to what coverage and fronts we're seeing,'' Cutler said. ``It's a mixed bag of things, but at the end of the day, with our defense, as long as we make another team's offense go 80, 90 yards, I think we're going to be OK.''

Notes: Bears WR Alshon Jeffery (hand) remained sidelined, while DE Israel Idonije (ankle), DT Henry Melton (back) and DT Matt Toeaina (calf) were limited in practice on Wednesday.

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?

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