Bears hurt by Rodgers, helped by special teams


Bears hurt by Rodgers, helped by special teams

A first quarter of allowing the Green Bay Packers 30 total yards should have been a sign of good things to come. It wasnt, although only so much of that again, as in Minnesota, can be put on the defense.
Green Bays 21 points could have been more but for Mason Crosbys continuing FG woes (misses from 42 and 43 yards) and fumbling the ball away at around midfield.
But the Bears played better than the 391 yards the Packers amassed, which were largely the result of poor play in the secondary on multiple occasions. The defense sacked Aaron Rodgers three times and had hits on him four other times in addition to four tackles for loss.
Put in perspective: three sacks, four hits, four tackles for loss, four passes defensed, one forced fumble, or 16 impact plays on 71 snaps by one of the NFLs best offenses. Not as many as the group would want and not as many as the Packers executed against the Bears, but the Packers only had to go 26 yards on one scoring drive.
Corey Wootton had a hand in two first-quarter sacks of Aaron Rodgers, joined by Julius Peppers on the second as the Chicago defense shut down the Packers on third downs. Wootton and Peppers each finished with credit for 1.5 sacks and each added five tackles, a tackle for loss and two quarterback hits.
A problem was that no other defensive delivered virtually any impact. Israel Idonije moved inside to tackle with Henry Melton down with a chest injury but had no recorded contact with Rodgers. Same for tackles Amobi Okoye and Stephen Paea. The overall performance was creditable but allowing Rodgers to escape the pocket on several key situations was catastrophic.
The position group was hit with more misfortune when Geno Hayes was inactive with a knee injury, forcing Blake Costanzo to start at SLB. Costanzo, starting the first game in his six-year NFL career had two tackles.
Lance Briggs forced a third-down stop with a blitz in the first quarter and had a game-high nine tackles in a strong leadership performance. Nick Roach batted down a pass in the second quarter and finished with six tackles in addition to recovering a fumble caused by Charles Tillman.
The Packers rushed for 113 total yards on 32 carries. DuJuan Harris had one run of 21 yards and Ryan Grant broke one for 14 yards but the Bears closed down most of the Green Bay runs before they did serious damage.
Aaron Rodgers was able to abuse the secondary in some part because of insufficient rush pressure but his 291 total yards (on 23-of-36 passing) marks the fourth time in 14 games that an opposing quarterback has thrown for more than 250 yards.
James Jones annihilated the secondary with TD catches of 29, eight and six yards and Randall Cobb led the Packers with six catches for a total of 115 yards. Four Green Bay receivers had at least one catch of 19 yards or longer and the Packers were repeatedly able to convert third-and-longs against shabby coverage.
A crucial drive to even the game at 7-7 was a defensive abomination. Multiple tackles were missed for one first down; D.J. Moore and the safeties lost Cobb on a broken play for a 31-yard conversion on a second-quarter third down to sustain the drive. Then Kelvin Hayden was completely beaten for 29-yard TD by James Jones.
Chris Conte was second with seven tackles and was hit with a questionable interference call. But the secondary came up with virtually no big plays to offset the spate of them allowed to the Packers.
The Bears uncharacteristically blitzed Aaron Rodgers more than their norm and did some damage early in the game. But the Packers appeared to adjust and exploit the defense which again failed to protect its edges against a dangerous mobile quarterback and paid for it.
Execution was the real problem; no scheming covers up for coverage breakdowns, missed tackles and lost containment.
The Packers tried to give the Bears a way back into the game with a bizarre call for a trick play on a punt return. The gaffe was recovered by the Bears and overall special teams play gave them points and chances.
The position group made what it could out of limited chances. Olindo Mare was perfect in his first two FG tries as a Bear, both from 34 yards, after the offense blew touchdown opportunities. He does not have Robbie Goulds leg for kickoffs, with two of four for touchbacks.
Adam Podlesh continued strong work with a 40.2 net on six punts and three of those inside the 20.
Green Bays first five possessions started at the two-, 14-, 26-, 11- and 26- yard lines after punts and a kickoff. None of the nine Packers possessions after kicks started better than the Green Bay 26.
The heads-up work on Green Bays fake punt resulted in a takeaway that the offense did nothing with.
Devin Hester was restored to kickoff returns over Eric Weems. Hester gave the Bears field position with a 24-yard punt return in the first quarter. Hester averaged 14 yards on three punt returns and 31.5 on his two kickoff returns.
The unit gave the offense field position consistently. Nine Bears possessions started at the Chicago 31 or better.
The Bears were prepared and disciplined throughout. Penalties remain a mild concern but the overall scheming contained the Packers while setting up the Chicago offense repeatedly.

IHSA Football Playoffs First-Round Matchups


IHSA Football Playoffs First-Round Matchups

The IHSA Football Playoff Pairing show is going on live on CSN Chicago and streaming on as teams from all over Illinois are finding out where they'll play in the first round.

Here's a look at the first-round matchups for each class.

Be sure to follow @CSNPreps and @IHSA_IL for all of the latest IHSA playoff football information.


(1) Ottawa Marquette (9-0) vs. (16) Milledgeville (5-4)
(8) Dakota (6-3) vs (9) Polo (6-3)
(4) Aquin (8-1) vs (13) Oakwood-A.P. (5-4)
(5) Hiawatha (7-2) vs (12) LeRoy (6-3)
(2) Forreston (9-0) vs (15) Luther North (5-4)
(7) Stark County (6-3) vs (10) Westminster Christian (6-3)
(3) Stockton (9-0) vs (14) Salt Fork (5-4)
(6) Lena-Winslow (7-2) vs (11) Bureau Valley (6-3)
(1) Tuscola (9-0) vs (16) Oblong (5-4)
(8) Camp Pt. Central (7-2) vs (9) Carrollton (6-3)
(4) Decatur Lutheran (8-1) vs (13) Red Hill (5-4)
(5) Arcola (7-2) vs (12) Calhoun (6-3)
(2) St. Teresa (8-1) vs (15) Cumberland (5-4)
(7) Pawnee (7-2) vs (10) Athens (6-3)
(3) Argenta-Oreana (8-1) vs (14) Warrensburg-Latham (5-4)
(6) Brown County (7-2) vs (11) Greenfield-NW (6-3)


(1) Newman C.C. (9-0) vs (16) Clifton Central (5-4)
(8) St. Joesph (7-2) vs (9) Peru St. Bede (6-3)
(4) Deer Cr.-Mackinaw (8-1) vs (13) Orion (6-3)
(5) Hope Academy (8-1) vs (12) Knoxville (6-3) 
(2) Annawan-W'field (8-1) vs (15) West Prairie (5-4)
(7) Gibson City-MS (7-2) vs (10) El Paso-Gridley (6-3)
(3) Eastland-Pearl City (8-1) vs (14) Rockridge (5-4)
(6) Fulton (7-2) vs (11) Momence (6-3)
(1) Tri-Valley (9-0) vs (16) Rushville (5-4)
(8) DuQuoin (7-2) vs (9) Red Bud (7-2)
(4) Eldorado (8-1) vs (13) Flora (6-3)
(5) Maroa-Forsyth (8-1) vs (12) Johnston City (6-3)
(2) Unity-Payson (9-0) vs (15) Illini West (5-4)
(7) Carmi-White Co. (7-2) vs (10) Shelbyville (6-3)
(3) West Hancock (9-0) v. (14) St. Thomas More (6-3)
(6) Bismarck-Henning (7-2) vs (11) Sangamon Valley (6-3)


(1) IC Catholic (9-0) vs (16) St Joseph-Ogden (5-4)
(8) Paxton-Buckley-Loda (8-1) vs (9) Mercer County (7-2)
(4) Wilmington (9-0) vs (13) Corliss (6-3)
(5) Byron (9-0) vs (12) Eureka (6-3)
(2) Farmington (9-0) vs (15) Winnebago (5-4)
(7) Elmwood-Brimfield (8-1) vs (10) Bloomington CC (7-2)
(3) Westville (9-0) vs (14) Marine Military (6-3)
(6) Monticello (9-0) vs (11) Clark (7-2)
(1) Newton (9-0) vs (16) Auburn (IL) (8-1)
(8) Pana (8-1) vs (9) Marshall (IL) 8-1)
(4) Carlinville (8-1) vs (13) East Alton-Wood River (6-3)
(5) Williamsville (8-1) vs (12) Hillsboro (6-3)
(2) Mt Carmel (IL) (9-0) vs (15) Sesser-Valier (5-4)
(7) Vandalia (8-1) vs (10) Tolono Unity (7-2)
(3) North Mac (8-1) vs (14) Beardstown (5-4)
(6) Fairfield (8-1) vs (11) Anna-Jonesboro (7-2) 


(1) Herscher (9-0) vs (16) Illinois Valley Central (5-4) 
(8) South Shore (7-2) vs (9) Dixon (7-2)
(4) Phillips (8-1) vs (13) Kewanee (6-3)
(5) Aurora Central Catholic (8-1) vs (12) Wheaton Academy (6-3)
(2) Johnsburg (9-0) vs (15) Marengo (5-4) 
(7) Plano (7-2) vs (10) Manteno (6-3)
(3) Genoa-Kingston (9-0) vs (14) Coal City (5-4)
(6) Rockford Lutheran (7-2) vs (11) Richmond-Burton (6-3)
(1) Althoff (9-0) vs (16) Carterville (5-4)
(8) Alton Marquette (7-2) vs (9) Taylorville (7-2)
(4) Mt Zion (8-1) vs (13) Richland County (5-4)
(5) Rochester (8-1) vs (12) Civic Memorial (5-4)
(2) Columbia (9-0) vs (15) Greenville (5-4)
(7) Canton (7-2) vs (10) West Frankfort (6-3)
(3) Herrin (8-1) vs (14) Watseka (5-4) 
(6) Breese Central (7-2) vs (11) Breese Mater Dei (5-4)

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

Why Joe Maddon chose Albert Almora Jr. over Jason Heyward in huge Game 6 for Cubs

With the chance to book their first trip to the World Series since 1945, the Cubs benched the player with the biggest contract in franchise history and started a 22-year-old rookie who began this season at Triple-A Iowa.

Now that says something about Clayton Kershaw’s overall brilliance and Albert Almora Jr.’s precocious nature, but it also again spotlights Jason Heyward’s offensive spiral during the first year of that $184 million megadeal.  

Heyward’s Gold Glove defense in right field, well-rounded skills and clubhouse intangibles certainly helped the Cubs get to this point – up 3-2 on the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series – but manager Joe Maddon wanted to go in a different direction for Saturday’s Game 6 at Wrigley Field.   

“Kershaw’s pretty good,” Maddon said. “You look at his numbers, he’s been absurd versus lefties, (so you) get another right-handed bat out there and the way Albert can play defense really makes it a little bit easier.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

“If we didn’t have the opportunity to do something differently tonight I wouldn’t have. But we do. Albert just presents well at the plate – and well on defense – to the point where I thought we needed to give it a go.”

Almora – the first player the Theo Epstein regime drafted here with the sixth overall pick in 2012 – could be the 2017 Opening Day starter in center field if Dexter Fowler cashes in elsewhere as a free agent.

After posting career lows in homers (seven) and OPS (.631) during the regular season, Heyward has gone 2-for-28 (.071 average) in the playoffs and will probably need to reboot during the winter.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of internal work done in the offseason with him, no question,” Maddon said. “You know he’s not satisfied with the year. (But) he was a big part of our 100-plus wins this year.

“It is something that he has to work on – and he will work on it – but by no means is anybody giving up on him. He just needs to probably clear his mind a little bit when this is all said and done and get back to the drawing board.”