Bears facing Houston D-lineman J.J. Watt: a case of 'Wheres Waldo?'


Bears facing Houston D-lineman J.J. Watt: a case of 'Wheres Waldo?'

When right tackle Gabe Carimi was selected by the Bears in the first round of the 2011 draft, one of the distinctions on his pedigree was that he had gone against four other No. 1 picks of the draft. He had gone against the best of the defensivelineman class:

Ryan Kerrigan (Washington, 16th) from Purdue, Adrian Clayborn (Tampa Bay, 20th) from Iowa), Ohio States Cameron Heyward (Pittsburgh, 31st).

And J.J. Watt, to Houston at No. 11. From Wisconsin. Like Carimi.

Watt, a leading candidate for NFL defensive player of the year, went against Badgers teammate John Moffett (third round, Seattle) more often in practice, Carimi told But Carimi saw enough of Watt to know that he and the Bears offensive line are looking at with the defensive lineman on Sunday.

He plays a different position than he did in Wisconsin, Carimi said. Houston is in a 3-4 so he plays a lot of inside stuff. Thats where he does a lot of his good plays, on the inside. I dont think it matters or pertains as much. He does line up at defensive end sometimes, five-technique, but a lot of times hell be over Lance Louis.

Watt is already close to making a spot for himself in NFL history. He has 10.5 sacks through eight games plus 10 passes deflected (Charles Tillman has five; team leader Tim Jennings has 12). Since the NFL started tracking pass-breakups in 1991, only 11 players have recorded 10 sacks and 10 passes defensed in a single season.

Watt has become the Texans equivalent of Julius Peppers, a 6-foot-66-foot-7, 290-pound athlete who is moved around for positions of mismatch advantage. Watt will be opposite right guard Louis; he will be over Carimi; he will be over the nose.

Were able to move him around, do some different things with him, inside, outside, nickel, base, said Texans coach Gary Kubiak, so thats been a big plus.

Plus may not be the first word Bears blockers think of watching film of Watt. Of his 10 pass deflections, four have been intercepted and eventually led to scores.

Hes a big guy, he can move, he plays with a lot of passion for the game, said center Roberto Garza. So its good, it will be a good challenge for our guys. Were looking forward to it.

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Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

Five Things from Blackhawks-Canucks: Corey Crawford rebounds

The Blackhawks’ starts have been all over the map this season but their finishes have usually been strong. That was the case again on Sunday night as the Blackhawks took a lead, lost a lead and regained a lead for good in their 4-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.

This one featured a little bit of everything. So let’s just get to the Five Things to take from the Blackhawks’ victory over Vancouver.

1. Jonathan Toews breaks through. If the Blackhawks captain’s confidence was a little shaken with his lack of scoring this season, it should’ve gotten a boost with his Sunday outing. Toews’ goal and three assists were as big for him as they were the Blackhawks, who needed every bit of it late against the Canucks. In his last 12 games Toews has three goals and eight assists. He’s getting there. Said coach Joel Quenneville, “it seems like he was around the puck way more and when he does that, usually good things happen.”

2. Great start. This hasn’t been written very often but it was more than evident on Sunday night. If this wasn’t the Blackhawks’ best opening period of the season it was pretty close, as they broke out to a 2-0 lead against the Canucks. The Blackhawks, outside of a 3 ½-minute sequence without a shot on goal, were tenacious and ready to shoot, taking an 18-9 shots-on-goal edge in that first.

3. Corey Crawford rebounds. Quenneville considered Scott Darling for this game, an understandable thought with Darling coming off a 30-stop shutout. But he wanted Crawford to get back to where he was prior to his appendectomy, and Crawford took a step in that direction on Sunday night. In stopping 25 of 27 shots Crawford got his 18th victory of the season and 200th of his career. Quenneville said Crawford “looked like he was in control.”

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4. Michal Kempny’s tough stretch. When Kempny has been good this season he’s been very good. When he’s been bad... The defenseman was in the penalty box when the Canucks scored their first goal and he was beaten by Bo Horvat on the Canucks’ second goal. Kempny didn’t play the final 14 minutes of the game. Quenneville, who liked what Kempny brought on the team’s road trip, said Kempny just has to work through some things. “Coverage with awareness and knowing sometimes it’s man coverage, sometimes it’s playing the puck and clearing the loose stuff,” Quenneville said. “Defenseman is a tough position as you’re growing and learning it, but the more you play the better you play and I still think he’s making progress.”

5. Brian Campbell gets to keep No. 500 this time. Campbell thought he had his 500th point against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday night but it was taken away. Well he got it back on Sunday night, setting up Richard Panik’s 11th goal of the season in the first period.