Bears' grades: Defense and special teams

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Bears' grades: Defense and special teams

When the Bears defense allows just 248 yards, 160 of those after an initial drive, and the Bears lose, the problem was not the defense (again). But a third straight touchdown drive of 80 or more yards (the last two vs. Seattle and Minnesotas first on Sunday) rocked the Bears on both sides of the ball.

In road games coach Lovie Smith typically prefers to have his defense on the field first in order to take home crowds enthusiasm down. He was handed that situation Sunday when the Vikings won the toss and elected to put Adrian Peterson and that offense out to start the game.

The game was dangerously close to be effectively over with less than six minutes played after the defense was trampled by Peterson, who had a franchise-record 104 yards in the first quarter. The unit rallied and did not allow a score over the final 54 minutes of the game but it was not enough with the offense giving Minnesota help in the form of two interceptions that resulted in scores.

The problem with evaluating this side of the ball in this game was that the numbers were generally in the Bears favor but one good Minnesota drive was one too many.

DEFENSIVE LINE B-

Corey Woottons sack of Christian Ponder was a major momentum bump in the first quarter after Minnesota had scored twice. But it was one of the few times the front four got any real pressure on a shake-able quarterback, who took just one official hit in the game.

Julius Peppers played one of his more active games in recent weeks, particularly with little time off. Peppers led all defensive linemen with four tackles, one for loss.

Being without starting nose tackle Stephen Paea hurt the run defense. Shea McClellin missed a TFL of Peterson that allowed a 14-yard gain in the first quarter. McClellin and Henry Melton (for a while) were out with injuries in the first half, forcing the rest of the group to play heavy snaps and Israel Idonije to spend more time inside at tackle.

The lack of work on Ponder was a significant failure.

LINEBACKERS C

The Vikings went right after fill-in Geno Hayes on the first play and were able to gash the front seven and Minnesota schemes got linebackers on wideouts too often in the first half.

Lance Briggs played a superior game, all over the field in coverage and the Vikings backfield. Briggs finished with 11 tackles, one for loss.

Nick Roach had nine tackles two for loss and performed serviceably in the middle in place of Brian Urlacher. Hayes had three solo tackles, one for loss.

But the overall of 154 yards for Peterson, which started with 51 on the first play of the game, was possible because of both sloppy tackling and some late fills into gaps, allowing Peterson to get up speed and pick up additional yardage after first contact.

SECONDARY C

Kelvin Hayden missed a tackle in the hole that allowed Adrian Peterson to break loose for 51 yards on the first play of the game. Hayden was victimized with a second missed tackle in the first quarter for another first down.

Major Wrights interception late in the second quarter ended a threat and gave the Bears an energy boost going in at halftime.

The group was without Tim Jennings (shoulder) and lost safety Craig Steltz in the third quarter. Charles Tillmans unnecessary roughness penalty in the fourth quarter was simply stupid, a late hit into a pile of down players.

COACHING D

The scheme to stop Adrian Peterson was strangely adequate despite the big yardage total. Missed assignments were repeatedly apparent in all areas, not something that falls to the coaches.

However, the Vikings were able to get wide receivers, particularly Jarius Wright, matched up on linebackers in coverage too many times. Christian Ponder was allowed to be an efficient 11 of 17 even for a pedestrian 91 yards and the Bears were not able to harass him even with blitzes.

SPECIAL TEAMS

Losing kicker Robbie Gould during pregame warmups was a setback but did not figure in the outcome. A lack of impact returns did, however. And Bears special teams had three penalties assessed on the unit.

KICKING B-

Robbie Gould appeared to injure his left calf in pregame, forcing Adam Podlesh to handle kickoffs. Podlesh, whose last kickoff came in his first NFL game in 2007, managed to get a touchback on his opening boot. Podlesh averaged 37.5 yards on his six punts, four placed inside the 20 to assist the defense.

COVERAGE A-

The Bears lost a huge opportunity by forcing a fumble on a second-quarter KOR but failing to find the ball in time to make a recovery at what would have been inside the Minnesota 25. Zackary Bowman flipped a ball back out of the end zone to Eric Weems to put the Vikings at the Minnesota 1 late in the third quarter.

The Vikings fair-caught five punts and the sixth was downed. Their only kickoff return was for 20 yards.

RETURNS C-

Eric Weems handled kickoff returns, not well to just the 17- and 11-yard lines. Devin Hester was part of a mixup fielding a 2nd-quarter punt that went out of bounds at the Chicago 3.

Matt Spaeth nullified a long Weems return with a holding penalty in the third quarter.

Hester averaged 11.6 yards on five punt returns but Weems had no kickoff runback longer than 18 yards and averaged 14.8 on his four returns.

COACHING B-

The punt coverage plans were exceptional, with lanes maintained and the Vikings able to do no damage on any returns. The penalties on the unit reflected some lack of discipline but the unit did nothing to hurt the overall for the day.

White Sox still reeling after Royals rally for comeback victory

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White Sox still reeling after Royals rally for comeback victory

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox can’t seem to stop the bleeding.

The Kansas City Royals inflicted another painful wound on Friday night as they rallied from four runs down to send the White Sox to a 7-5 loss in front of 28,508 at Kauffman Stadium. Eric Hosmer homered and drove in four runs, including a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh inning to send the White Sox to their 12th loss in 16 games.

Melky Cabrera had a grand slam, and Todd Frazier also homered during a five-run rally that had the White Sox well positioned to win. But the bullpen faltered again as Dan Jennings, Matt Albers and Zach Duke combined to allow three runs in a four-run, seventh-inning Kansas City rally.

“It’s one of those games, not really much to say,” Frazier said. “They just kept clawing back. They came after us (in the seventh) and kept chipping away, and that’s what they do. We gotta find a way to put the fire out, and we couldn’t do it.”

The White Sox had to be in high spirits after the top of the sixth inning.

Not only did they finally crack Royals starter Danny Duffy, who retired the first 16 batters he faced, they broke the game wide open.

Those warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t last very long.

White Sox starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, who celebrated his 32nd birthday Friday, gave up an opposite-field solo homer to Hosmer in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 5-2 game. Gonzalez, who retired 16 of 19 after he allowed a pair of singles to start the game, exited after Brett Eibner’s one-out double in the seventh.

Then all hell broke loose as the White Sox used five pitchers to navigate the inning.

Jennings walked Jarrod Dyson, and Albers entered and allowed an infield single to Alcides Escobar to load the bases. Rookie Whit Merrifield followed with a two-run single to make it 5-4. After an umpire review, Escobar — who originally was ruled out — and Merrifield advanced into scoring position when Albers uncorked a wild pitch.

Albers struck out Cain and gave way to Duke, as the White Sox opted to face Hosmer with first base open. Duke jumped ahead 0-1 in the count, but Hosmer, who also had an RBI groundout in the first, dumped a slider off the outside corner into left for a 6-5 lead.

Nate Jones entered and recorded the final out of the seventh. He allowed an insurance run in the eighth.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he preferred to face Hosmer with Duke versus loading the bases for Salvador Perez and calling upon Jones.

“You consider it,” Ventura said. “I mean you load it up, you don’t give Jonesy much to work with there. Dukie has had some good numbers against Hosmer.”

The White Sox had a chance with two on in the eighth against Kelvin Herrera, but he struck out Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton. Wade Davis pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out.

Duffy looked content to extend a recent miserable run by the White Sox offense.

Working on a pitch count of 75 to 80, Duffy’s start looked special for 16 outs.

He overpowered White Sox hitters early, striking out four of the first six batters he faced. Rarely did he go deep into any counts, save for at-bats by Austin Jackson and Abreu, both of which resulted in fly ball outs. And none of the contact Duffy induced was hard, either.

Then they woke up.

Trailing 1-0, Avisail Garcia singled to right with one out, and Dioner Navarro dumped a single into shallow right. Jackson also singled to right to load the bases for Cabrera, who jumped on the first pitch he saw for a grand slam — his first since July 29, 2011, when he played for Kansas City. Frazier gave his team a four-run lead with a 413-foot homer to left, his 15th.

But all it added up to was another deep cut inflicted by the Royals.

“It’s tough,” Albers said. “We’re battling. We’re not giving in. There’s nobody hanging their heads. You’ve got to battle. It’s tough. Long season. It’s never fun going through these stretches, but you can’t let it get you down, can’t let it change the fun part of the game, going after hitters, for me especially. Just get ready for tomorrow and try to get some more outs.”

Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

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Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

Kevan Smith has had a roller coaster of a month, and it's back on the downfall. On Tuesday, Smith returned to Triple-A Charlotte after missing about a month due to a back injury. But after the game, Smith went back on the DL with an undisclosed injury. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run.

Smith was promoted to the main roster on April 24 to replace catcher Alex Avila, who went on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring. The following day, Smith suffered a sacroiliac joint dysfunction injury during warm-ups without making his MLB debut.

Nate Jones returned to action last week after missing a few games due to a bruised foot caused by a line drive. Jones made three consecutive appearances from May 21-23. In those games, he pitched a combined 1.2 innings and only allowed one hit while striking out three.

Jake Petricka (right hip impingement) and Daniel Webb (right elbow flexor inflammation) are still on the 15-day disabled list. There's no timetable for their returns. On Saturday, manager Robin Ventura said Petricka was still battling soreness in his hip. 

CUBS

The Cubs dodged a serious injury bullet a week ago when Jason Heyward crashed into the wall in San Francisco. The Cubs outfielder wound up missing just three-plus games and returned to the lineup Tuesday against his old team in St. Louis.

Heyward went just 1-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts in the final two games against the Cardinals, but his re-insertion into the lineup has helped create a butterfly effect with the Cubs lineup. Heyward did make his one hit count — a two-run double in the Cubs' 9-8 victory Wednesday.

The Cubs got more positive outfield news when Matt Szczur was activated from the disabled list Saturday and has looked completely over his hamstring issue.

Szczur has appeared in every game since his return, going 3-for-6 with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored. He his now hitting .389 with a 1.089 OPS on the season.

'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

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'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

"Yay me!"

That's how David Ross announced his presence to the Chicago media Friday afternoon, almost four hours after hitting his 100th career homer.

Ross' three-run blast in the fourth inning (before a pair of rain delays lasting 93 minutes) helped lead the Cubs and Jon Lester to a 6-2 victory Friday.

"It was just my personal thing," Ross said. "It was nice to have a nice, round number. One hundred in The Show is pretty cool for me. But it affected the game and impacted the game, so it's even better. It wasn't just a blowout or a meaningless homer when you're down a bunch."

The Cubs have been counting down to 100 since last season and finally got to celebrate with "Grandpa Rossy," who sported a Papa Bear T-shirt after the game.

Joe Maddon gave Ross a bottle of wine and Lester gifted his personal catcher a bottle of champagne in a box signed by everybody on the roster.

"The boys were excited. I was excited," Ross said. "I think my favorite part while all this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. Makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me.

"They're as happy as I am, so that makes me feel good."

As soon as Ross made contact, he knew it was gone, slowly walking a few steps and uncharacteristically admiring it a bit before beginning his trot.

He got a curtain call, too, and he acknowledged hitting his 100th blast was extra special coming in front of the Cubs fanbase.

"I run down in the outfield before the game and ever since I hit 99, that's all I hear: 'Hit a homer, Grandpa,' I mean, nobody even knows my first name anymore," Ross joked.

"It was cool. There was even a David Ross sign a little girl had today. I mean, who doesn't like seeing that? Stuff like that is just really cool."

It was Ross' fourth homer of the season and he now has 17 RBI and an .828 OPS. Compare that to the 39-year-old's one homer, nine RBI and .519 OPS last season.

"It's awesome," Lester said. "Obviously, going into last year, we all knew where he was. I did. He'll admit: He didn't swing the bat like he wanted to last year.

"It's just nice to see him feel comfortable and be the old Rossy. I'm glad he did it. It's kinda nice he did it the day I was pitching to add a little bit to it."

Ross' 100th homer ball wound up glancing off the Nuveen sign in left field and wound up on Waveland. The fan that ended up with it only asked for a photo with Ross in return.

"Who wants a picture of me?!" Ross laughed. "I'm surprised he didn't ask for [Kris Bryant] or [Anthony Rizzo] or something like that. Again, yay me!"