Capitals

Schedule about to take tough turn for Bears

201211041531559041163-p2.jpeg

Schedule about to take tough turn for Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) The Chicago Bears breezed through the first half of their schedule in good shape, leading NFC North at 7-1. Things are about to get much tougher.

Houston visits Sunday night in a matchup of two of the league's best teams, and then comes a game at San Francisco next week between NFC contenders.

To that, coach Lovie Smith said, bring it on.

``I don't want the guys to start thinking, `Hey, let's hold on, something bad's going to happen,''' he said Monday. ``We're a 7-1 team. You are what your record says you are and we're a 7-1 football team. We're a good football team. We're excited about playing the Texans. Each game as you continue to win, the stakes go up a little bit higher.

``We realize that and we're going to embrace it,'' he added. ``We're going to embrace this national stage that we have this Sunday night. I see our team getting better and better. We haven't peaked yet.''

They sure looked good dismantling Tennessee, scoring the most points for Chicago since 1980 on their way to a 51-20 win.

They got four forced fumbles from Charles Tillman, and their seventh interception return for a touchdown when Brian Urlacher ran one back, extending their single-season record. They also matched one set in 1942 with their seventh defensive touchdown, and they kicked the romp off with a franchise-record 28 points in the first quarter even though their offense got off to a clunky start.

It didn't matter because the defense forced three turnovers in the first 13 minutes, leading to 14 points, and Corey Wootton returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.

``Right now, we're talking an awful lot about our defense,'' Smith said. ``But before this season is over, hopefully this week, it's going to shift where we're going to be talking an awful lot about the weapons we have and the offensive plays that we're making. You can look at that yesterday.''

The Bears found their stride on offense in the second half and wound up with 358 yards after being outgained 145 yards to 136 through the first two quarters.

Jay Cutler threw for 229 yards and finished with a 138.1 rating.

Brandon Marshall had 122 yards and three touchdowns receiving. Matt Forte ran for 103 and a score, but the Bears are going to need more at the start if they're going to get by the rest of the way.

``It took a little bit of time,'' Cutler said. ``I think we shortened up some of our routes, just tried to get the ball out quicker, get it in the receivers' hands and get some rhythm that way.''

Only one of the remaining games is against a team with a losing record at the moment and none are against a defense ranked lower than 13th. The next two weeks, the Bears will be facing top three defenses, with Houston ranked third and San Francisco second, meaning the offense could be in for some more difficulties.

``We're not there yet, but we are taking steps forward I think,'' Forte said.

It still hasn't clicked quite the way the Bears envisioned after that busy offseason.

The Bears rank 25th overall on offense and 29th in the passing game, not quite the way they drew it up.

Marshall, their big acquisition, has been everything they thought he would be with 797 yards and seven touchdown catches. He already has more yards than last year's leading receiver Johnny Knox, who had 727 in 14 appearances before a season-ending back injury.

But protection continues to be an issue.

Only Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay has been sacked more times than Cutler, who has absorbed 28 this season. Tennessee got to him three times and he took several more hits, although Smith said the line wasn't to blame for most of that.

Otherwise, he liked what he saw from the offense, particularly in the second half of that game. They'll need more of that with the schedule taking a tougher turn.

``I know we have the Texans next, and I have an idea of some of the other teams we have coming up,'' Smith said. ``But I think this team has enough veterans in the room to stay focused. They know how we do things. They're not looking too far, one play at a time.''

---

Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 Eastern Conference Final 2018: Date, Time, How to Watch, live stream

When the Capitals take the ice in Game 6, they will be playing for their playoff lives. After losing Game 5 on Saturday to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Caps must win on Monday or their season will be over.

In order to do that, the Caps will have to change some things. First, they have to figure out how to win at home, something they have yet to do in this series. Second, they will have to find a way to get to Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy who has been dominant the past three games. Alex Ovechkin also needs to win the matchup against the fourth line since he has only two five-on-five points through five games. Finally, the defense will have to be better. Matt Niskanen took the blame for Game 5, but really it was a tough night all around.

Also, a few penalty calls against Tampa Bay would be nice too.

Where: Capital One Arena

When: 8:00 p.m. ET

How to Watch: Capitals-Lightning, Game 6 will be broadcast on NBCSN

Live Stream: You can watch Capitals-Lightning Game 6 on NBC Sports' live stream page.

WHEN IS GAME 6 OF THE CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING PLAYOFF SERIES?

Game 6 of the Capitals vs. Lightning 2018 NHL Playoff series takes place on Monday, May 21 at 8:00 p.m. at Capital One Arnea.

WHAT CHANNEL IS GAME 6 OF CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING ON?

The TV broadcast of Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is on NBCSN. Capitals pre- and postgame coverage takes place on NBC Sports Washington. (NBC Sports Washington channel Finder)

6:30 p.m. — Caps FaceOff
7:00 p.m. — Caps GameTime
8:00 p.m. — Capitals vs. Lightning Game 6 on NBCSN
10:30 p.m. — Caps Extra
11:30 p.m. — Caps Overtime

WHERE CAN I STREAM GAME 6 OF THE CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING SERIES?

Game 6 between the Capitals and Lightning is available to stream online on Monday, May 21 live here through the NBC Sports live stream page.

WHAT ARE THE PROJECTED LINES FOR GAME 6 OF CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING?

Capitals projected lines:

Alex Ovechkin - Evgeny Kuznetsov - Tom Wilson
Chandler Stephenson - Nicklas Backstrom - T.J. Oshie
Jakub Vrana - Lars Eller - Brett Connolly
Devante Smith-Pelly -  Jay Beagle - Alex Chiasson

Michal Kempny - John Carlson
Dmitry Orlov - Matt Niskanen
Brooks Orpik - Christian Djoos

Braden Holtby with Philipp Grubauer as backup.

Lightning projected lines:

Ondrej Palat - Steven Stamkos - Nikita Kucherov
Tyler Johnson - Brayden Point - Yanni Gourde
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - J.T. Miller
Chris Kunitz - Cedric Paquette - Ryan Callahan

Victor Hedman - Dan Girardi
Ryan McDonagh - Anton Stralman
Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrei Vasilevskiy starts with Louis Domingue as backup.

CAPITALS vs. LIGHTNING GAME 6 OPEN THREAD

Use the comment section below to discuss the game action with other Capitals fans. 

For all the latest Caps coverage, follow Capitals Insider Tarik El-Bashir, Capitals correspondent JJ Regan and the NBC Sports Capitals account on Twitter. Be sure check out our Capitals page and NBC Sports Washington's Facebook page.

MORE CAPITALS NEWS:

Quick Links

Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

sotogood.jpg
USA TODAY Sports

Soto makes debut in Nationals loss to Dodgers

WASHINGTON  -- Kike Hernandez and Yasiel Puig each hit two-run homers, and the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Washington Nationals 7-2 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep.

Hernandez's blast off Stephen Strasburg in the fifth inning put the Dodgers up 3-2. Yasmani Grandal also homered off Strasburg (5-4), who allowed three runs and five hits over 6 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts.

Alex Wood (1-4) pitched six innings, allowing just three hits and two earned runs. Wood came out to start the seventh, but returned to the clubhouse after showing some discomfort during his warm-up tosses.

Trea Turner homered for Washington, which swept Arizona last weekend and then went five days without playing a full game because of rain before getting swept by the Dodgers.

Los Angeles, after losing six consecutive games, has now won four straight overall and five of six over Washington this season.

Washington's Juan Soto, at 19 the youngest active player in the majors, made his debut in the eighth as a pinch-hitter and struck out against Erik Goeddel.

The Dodgers added two runs in the ninth. Josh Fields recorded the final four outs for his second save of the season.

2018 MLB POWER RANKINGS AND OTHER NATS NEWS:

- Rankings Update: Where does your team fall?
- Cause For Concern?: How worried should Nats fans be?
- Very Persuasive: How Rizzo convinced Reynolds to come to D.C.