Bears say they have to play better but can they?

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Bears say they have to play better but can they?

MINNEAPOLIS Sitting in front of his locker on Sunday afternoon, one member of the Bears offense took his time before answering. The hesitation, stretching on to a surprising 15 seconds or so, was an answer of its own.

The usual response to a question about a teams confidence is routinely upbeat. This one was not, and when the answer finally came it was about the level of confidence but rather about the Bears overall situation.

We have our window, the player said, quietly, but its getting pretty thin.

With their fourth loss in the last five games, the Bears (8-5) took one huge step closer to the abyss. They finished Sunday afternoons 21-14 loss to the Minnesota Vikings (7-6) as the No. 6 playoff team, down from No. 2 just a month ago.

They went into the Metrodome in acute need of a win against a team they had defeated six straight times. They left with quarterback Jay Cutler out with an unspecified neck injury after throwing two costly interceptions to hand the Vikings 14 points.

The Bears have gone from team that finds ways to win to one that finds ways to lose. The offense has scored 17 or fewer points in the four losses and perhaps there is no more telling indictment of the Lovie Smith offenses than that they are now 12-49 when they fail to score at least 18 points. Five of those 12 wins were in the 2005 season when the defense was the NFLs best in points allowed.

Notably perhaps, or not, defensive end Julius Peppers said afterwards that if the Vikings can beat the Bears after losing six straight, the Bears can do the same to the Packers, whove beaten the Bears five times.

It was not convincing logic.

The Bears dropped touchdown passes. Two, one by Devin Hester, one by Alshon Jeffery. And thats not even the bad news.

The really bad news is that those werent the only problems.

There were a lot of problems, said Cutler, one of those problems. Offensively I didnt play well (he didnt play well defensively, either). Interceptions, however they happened, they still happened. Weve just got to play better.

The overall is that you are what your record says you are. The Bears are 1-4 in games that have increasingly mattered. At this point. 13 games in, the biggest question is whether or not the Bears actually can play better.

Denzel Washington liked Bulls' Denzel Valentine's name, so the actor tracked him down

Denzel Washington liked Bulls' Denzel Valentine's name, so the actor tracked him down

What happens when you share the same name as Denzel Washington? You get tracked down by him.

After Denzel Valentine was selected by the Bulls in Thursday's NBA Draft, Washington made it a mission to find the Michigan State product.

"I actually talked to him," Washington told TMZ. "I talked to him. I tracked him down cause how many Denzels do you meet?"

We assume not a lot of them, but the actor is probably a reason that there are more Denzels in this world. At least that's the case with Valentine, who was named after his father's favorite actor.

Washington's three Golden Globes and two Academy Awards are a few of his honors throughout his acting career.

Maybe Valentine could follow his footsteps and help deliver some hardware for the Bulls in the future.

Tune in to CSN Chicago or catch a live stream on CSNChicago.com at 11 a.m. as GM Gar Forman and head coach Fred Hoiberg introduce Denzel Valentine to the Bulls.

Big Ten vs. SEC: Penn State adds future games against Auburn

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Big Ten vs. SEC: Penn State adds future games against Auburn

Penn State is upping its strength of schedule ... come 2021.

The Nittany Lions announced a home-and-home series with Auburn on Monday, with games slated for the 2021 and 2022 seasons. Penn State will play host to Auburn on Sept. 18, 2021, and then travel to take on the Tigers on Sept. 17, 2022.

Not only will these games be the first regular-season meetings between the two schools, they will be the first two regular-season games Auburn has ever played against a Big Ten opponent.

Penn State has played Auburn twice in bowl games, winning the 1996 Outback Bowl and losing the 2003 Capital One Bowl.

"We are thrilled to be adding Auburn to our future football schedules," Penn State athletics director Sandy Barbour said in the announcement. "This is a great intersectional matchup, and there will be significant interest from alumni, fans and students of both schools to be a part of the electric atmospheres on both campuses. I am very appreciative of (Auburn athletics director) Jay Jacobs’ interest and efforts in making this home-and-home series a reality."

The Lions also announced Monday future non-conference games with Ball State and Buffalo for the 2019 and 2021 seasons, respectively.

Penn State's non-conference schedule could use a shot in the arm following the conclusion of the current decade. The highlight of the next four seasons' slates is an annual meeting with in-state rival Pittsburgh, not a bad team by any stretch but not a team such as the attention-grabbing Auburn, which is just two seasons removed from an appearance in the national championship game. The Lions also have future non-conference series scheduled with Virginia Tech and West Virginia.

The future games also provide a Big Ten-SEC matchup fans and observers always seem to crave, particularly when played between two higher-caliber programs. There are only 10 other regular-season meetings between Big Ten and SEC teams currently scheduled: this season's opener between Wisconsin and LSU, a Michigan-Florida tilt in 2017, a 2017-2018 series between Purdue and Missouri, a 2018-2019 series between Michigan and Arkansas, a 2019 game between Purdue and Vanderbilt, a home-and-home between Nebraska and Tennessee in 2026 and 2027 and another Purdue-Vanderbilt showdown all the way in 2029.

Bulls' Jimmy Butler named to Team USA for Rio 2016 Olympics

Bulls' Jimmy Butler named to Team USA for Rio 2016 Olympics

Jimmy Butler officially has been named to the Team USA basketball roster and will compete in the Rio 2016 Olympics, the Bulls announced Monday.

Butler reportedly accepted the invitation to compete last week and will mark the first member of the Bulls to compete in the Olympics since Scottie Pippen in 1996.

Butler is one of 10 players on the roster who will compete for Team USA in the Olympics for the first time. The only returning members from the 2012 Gold-medal team are Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony; Anthony also won Gold in 2008, and could become the first player ever to win three gold medals in basketball.

Joining Butler, Durant and Anthony in Rio will be Kyrie Irving, Harrison Barnes, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, Paul George, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and DeAndre Jordan.

Though Team USA is still the prohibitive favorites to win gold for the third straight Summer Olympics, the team is void of some of the NBA's best current players including LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kawhi Leonard, James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Jordan is the only member of this year's All-NBA First Team on the Olympic roster.

Butler will compete with Team USA for the first time, but he's no stranger to USA Basketball. A groin injury prevented him from participating on the Team USA Select Team in 2014, but he was named to the USA Basketball roster the following summer. He was named one of 30 finalists for a spot on the Olympic roster in January.

Butler's inclusion on the team was no surprise after he averaged 20.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Bulls a year ago. He also added 1.6 steals per game and was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team for the third consecutive season. Butler's passing improved as much as any aspect of his game this past season, and he averaged 6.1 assists per game after the All-Star break. That will come in handy in Rio, as Irving and Lowry are the only two true point guards on the roster.

Butler will be one of two Bulls competing in this summer's Olympics. Their second round pick, small forward Paul Zipser, is a member of the German national team and will compete for his country. Pau Gasol, who spent two years with the Bulls and will opt out of his contract this summer, will compete for the Spain national team, which won silver medals in 2008 and 2012.