Bears schedule: Seattle struggling on the road

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Bears schedule: Seattle struggling on the road

In less than a calendar week, the Bears lost control of the NFC North and took it back again. They lost at San Francisco on Monday after the Green Bay Packers had won a fifth straight game, then stepped out ahead of the division by dispatching the Minnesota Vikings and watched the Packers take a beating at the hands of the New York Giants.

The situation with five games remaining is that the Bears have their quarterback intact but an offensive line that is anything but, pending information on the severity of knee injuries to guards Lance Louis and Chris Spencer. For their part the Packers are in trouble in front of Aaron Rodgers as well, and the Bears now have a final run of five opponents who all have lost their last games.

Indianapolis Colts (7-4) W 41-21

Balanced identity established with 33-35 run pass ratio and O runs up 428 yards with Jay Cutler throwing for 333 yards and 2 TDs to go with rushing TDs by Michael Bush (2) and Matt Forte (1) as part of 122 rushing yards. Nice to have caught this team while Andrew Luck was still a puppy.

@ Green Bay Packers (7-4) L 23-10

Jay Cutler berates offensive linemen on national TV for seven sacks; linemen just have to accept Cutlers four INTs apparently. Embarrassing offensive performance all around as defense holds Aaron Rodgers and Pack to 3 FGs and one TD.

St. Louis Rams (4-6-1) W 23-6

Defense sacks Sam Bradford six times and holds Rams out of the end zone. Offense scores only one TD for the second week in a row and Jay Cutler continues to find a groove with receivers.

@ Dallas Cowboys (5-6) W 34-18

Five interceptions of Tony Romo, two returned for TDs (Briggs, Tillman) and a workmanlike 360 yards on offense produce a crucial road win on MNF against the most overrated (annually) team in the NFL.

@ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-9) W 41-3

Bears offense runs up 501 balanced yards (214 rush, 287 pass) and explodes after a sluggish first half. Briggs and Tillman make NFL history with TD interceptions for second straight week and Brandon Marshall puts up 144 yards on 12 catches.

Sun., Oct. 14 Off week

vs. Detroit Lions (4-7) W 13-7

Jay Cutler sacked five times and survives Ndamukong Suhs WWF takedown. Bears RBs net 132 yards as run game clicks. Offense cant put Lions away but Charles Tillman D on Calvin Johnson virtually locks Bears DB into a 2nd Pro Bowl.

vs. Carolina Panthers (2-8, MNF vs. Philadelphia) W 23-22

Robbie Gould 41-yard FG as time expires caps 16-point fourth quarter and rally from 19-7 deficit. Offense and defense struggle badly for three quarters but Kellen Davis catches TD pass and Tim Jennings TD return to turn back Cam Newton and reeling Ron Rivera team.

@ Tennessee Titans (4-7) W 51-20

Charles Tillmans bid for defensive player of the year got a boost from four forced fumbles, Brian Urlacher returned an INT for a touchdown and Corey Wootton scored on a blocked punt. Jay Cutler throws three TDs to Brandon Marshall in a game Bears led 28-2 after one quarter.

Houston Texans (10-1) L 13-6

Jay Cutler goes out with concussion and offense improves with Jason Campbell. But too many wasted chances with good field positions with 2 INTs and 2 lost fumbles. Arian Foster rushes for 102 but Bears adjust to control Texans offense in second half.

@ San Francisco 49ers (7-2-1) L 32-7

Jason Campbell cannot survive an abysmal performance by the offensive line, allowing 5.5 sacks to Aldon Smith, while the defense makes an instant star out of Colin Kaepernick in his first NFL start.

Vikings (6-5) W 28-10

Jay Cutler returns from his concussion, completes 15 of 17 in the first half as the Bears get up 25-3 and cruise. Adrian Peterson loses to fumbles, Chris Conte intercepts Christian Ponder, and the offense turns the takeaways into 14 points.

Seattle Seahawks (6-5) Sun., Dec. 2, noon

Hawks go into Miami and lose when Ryan Tannehill outplays Russell Wilson in a matchup between rookie QBs. Now Seattle, 1-5 on the road already, could see its starting cornerbacks suspended. Next: @ BEARS

@ Minnesota Vikings (6-5) Sun., Dec. 9, noon

Green Bay Packers (7-4) Sun., Dec. 16, noon

Giants start a repeat of last years rally by putting 31 first-half points on Packers D missing Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson, and run amok for five sacks of Aaron Rodgers behind a crumbling O-line. Next: Minnesota

@ Arizona Cardinals (4-7) Sun., Dec. 23, 3:15 p.m.

Rookie QB Ryan Lindley throws 4 INTs in his first start, two returned for TDs, as Cards are outscored 17-0 in the second half to lose their seventh straight. Next: @ N.Y. Jets

@ Detroit Lions (4-7) Sun., Dec. 30, noon

Jim Schwartz fouls up challenge flag toss, Jason Hanson hits the upright on potential winning FG, Ndamukong Suh kicks Houston QB Matt Schaub and could be disciplined, all in an OT loss to 10-1 AFC leaders Houston Texans. Next: Indianapolis

No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

No guarantees, but Ben Zobrist believes Cubs can live up to ‘super-team’ hype

CINCINNATI – Flooded with offers, Ben Zobrist turned down the New York Mets, San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals – three teams the Cubs could potentially face in the playoffs – because he believed in The Plan, closing a four-year, $56 million deal by the winter meetings for the chance to make history in Chicago.    

Zobrist has been exactly what the Cubs wanted, a patient switch-hitter to set an example for a young lineup, a versatile defender who can play all over the field and an insightful clubhouse presence. But that contract should really pay off in October, the way the Kansas City Royals added dimensions to last year’s World Series winner with a trade-deadline deal for Zobrist.

“Talent really doesn’t mean a whole lot,” Zobrist said. “Every team that’s going to be there is talented. But that talent makes less of a difference when you’re playing against those caliber teams. It really comes down to execution.

“The teams that execute – the teams that make the pitch, make the play, have the good at-bat when they need it – are the teams that win. Regular season is what it is. We’ve had a great season. We know that we’re probably the best team that’s out there regular season. But that doesn’t guarantee us anything for the postseason.”

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One week out from the roar at Wrigley Field and the playoffs Cubs fans have been waiting for since the Mets swept last year’s National League Championship Series, Camp Joe Maddon crossed another day off the bizarro spring-training calendar with Friday night’s 7-3 win over the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park   

There aren’t many conclusions to be drawn from a 102-win machine rolling over a last-place team, but Zobrist did end Josh Smith’s perfect game by leading off the fifth inning and drilling a ball into the right-field seats. The crowd chanted “Let’s go, Cubbies!” in the eighth inning after Zobrist blasted his 17th home run out toward the same general area.

It’s one thing to have a strong relationship with Maddon and believe the recruiting pitch from team president Theo Epstein. It’s another to see the vision come to life across 160 games, in an industry where the teams that win the offseason typically buckle under the pressure.

Zobrist – who played in six postseason series with Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays and put up an .880 OPS in 16 games during Kansas City’s World Series run – believes the Cubs have what it takes to become that special team.  

“For sure,” Zobrist said. “Just based on the mix of personalities and character and players that we have in this room individually.

“You know that when you put them together, it’s a ‘super-team’ of sorts. We really have to prove our record right, prove people right that we can do it when it counts. And that’s going to be the most important thing going into the postseason.”

Carlos Rodon sets White Sox, AL record with seven straight strikeouts to open game

Carlos Rodon sets White Sox, AL record with seven straight strikeouts to open game

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon tied an American League and a team record when he started Friday night’s contest with seven consecutive strikeouts against the Minnesota Twins.

Rodon, who struck out 11 in his previous turn on Sunday, matched the mark set by White Sox hurler Joe Cowley on May 28, 1986 in a loss at the Texas Rangers.

Of Rodon’s seven strikeouts, two were on called third strikes by plate umpire Tripp Gibson. Twins outfielder Logan Schafer snapped the streak with a one-out double in the top of the third inning.

Houston’s Jim Deshaies (1986) and the New York Mets’ Jacob de Grom (2014) hold the major league record with eight straight strikeouts to start a game.

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Doug Fister set the AL record with nine consecutive strikeouts in 2012 and Tom Seaver holds the MLB record with 10 straight in 1970.

Combined with Sunday’s start, when he struck out the side in the eighth at the Cleveland Indians, Rodon whiffed 10 straight batters. Rodon’s run is the longest consecutive strikeout streak in the majors since Los Angeles Dodgers reliever Eric Gagne struck out 10 in a row in May 2003.