Bears-Texans preview: Houston's ball


Bears-Texans preview: Houston's ball

Dealing with a touchdown triad

The Bears defense in 2012 has faced no defense without an apparent weakness. Until now.

Houston Texans running back Arian Foster leads the AFC in rushing, fifth overall in the NFL. He has 10 rushing touchdowns; no one else has more than seven, and the Bears have seven as a team.

Wide receiver Andre Johnson devastated the Bears for 10 catches, 148 yards and two touchdowns the last time the two teams met. Two-thirds (42) of the balls thrown to him (63) have been caught. In his 10th season, he has caught at least one pass in 90 consecutive games.

Quarterback Matt Schaub was the MVP of the 2010 Pro Bowl and has a career passer rating of 92.7 to go with membership in the august 2004 quarterback class (Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger).

Schaub has been sacked a total of 10 times in eight games, compared to Jay Cutlers 28. Foster leads his conference in rushing. Someone is blocking very, very well for them.

It is a triad of offense reminiscent of the Dallas Cowboys template of Troy Aikman-Emmitt Smith-Michael Irvin. None of the Texans are at those Hall of Fame levels but the problems are obvious.

Schaub is smart, hes a heck of a quarterback, and it all works together with their run game, said offensive coordinator. They sell that run and that zone blocking, and they come out and boot and play-action, and he manages that stuff extremely well. Very smart. Extremely smart. Thats a heck of an offense.

Balance, balance, balance

The NFL may be a passing league but Houston is 7-1 with an offense that is top-10 in virtually every offensive category. The Texans are No. 2 in scoring with 29.6 points per game, one-tenth of a point per game ahead of the Bears but with 24 offensive touchdowns on the season vs. the Bears 19.

It has been happening with an offense that is near perfectly balanced, even slightly tilted toward the run: 280 running plays, 264 pass plays, a 51-49 run-pass ratio.

The Texans have had exactly one offensive lineman in their history center Chris Myers, installed as a team captain this week named to a Pro Bowl. Yet they considered their line good enough last offseason to cut starting right tackle Eric Winston. The sack total on Schaub and Fosters year speak to how that line has performed.

The task for the Bears is to win enough matchups along the line to disrupt Schaubs drops and timing, and the cadence of Foster and the run game.

They are all pretty athletic, said linebacker Lance Briggs. They move well. Their running style really complements their pass because they do a lot of play action off of it -- boots, play action. They find ways to get Schaub extra seconds. They have a lot of different routes. A lot of crossing routes; a lot of zig-zag routes.

If he has enough time, theyll find a way to pick us apart.

Stopping Schaub

The Bears rank No. 1 in opponents passer rating (62.9), ahead of San Francisco (72.9) and the Texans (75.4). But Schaub is not Blaine Gabbert nor Cam Newton nor Sam Bradford.

In the past two years only Aaron Rodgers (117.3) and Tom Brady (108.8) have higher passer ratings on the road than Schaub (107.2), who has thrown only three interceptions vs. 15 touchdown passes in alien environments.

The problem with Schaub and the Houston offense is that it just does not help out defenses. The Texans have exactly six giveaways for the season and three of those were interceptions of Schaub by the Green Bay Packers, the one team to beat the Texans.

The Bears have 28 takeaways for the season, No. 1 in the NFL. But if the Bears are counting on Briggs, Brian Urlacher, Charles Tillman or anyone else to put points on the board, they will be in trouble.

Tennessee Titans coaches and players all talked of the preoccupation during pre-Bears practices last week with avoiding giveaways, to the point where the suspicion was that it produced added tension and tentativeness, which may have added to the turnover avalanche.

The Texans, with their lone fumble through eight games, are far more matter-of-fact.

You cant drop the ball as a running back or any skill position, Foster said simply. You always got to be cognizant of it.

Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"


Fire's John Goossens says he "can do way better"

John Goossens endured a hectic March.

On top of signing a new contract with a new team in a new country and league, the Chicago Fire midfielder had to travel back to his home country, The Netherlands, to get his visa. The long transatlantic trip forced Goossens to miss the season opener.

In the next match in Orlando, Goossens started and earned an assist on a long clearance that David Accam ran onto and scored for the Fire's only goal in a 1-1 draw. He went 73 minutes in that match, still his longest appearance of the season.

In Goossens' first home match against Columbus, a hamstring injury forced him to leave the match at halftime. The injury didn't cause Goossens to miss any games, but it did hamper his fitness and limited his minutes. He was already catching up after joining the team in the middle of the preseason and then missed the opener.

“It was a tough month for me," Goossens said. "I had some traveling back home for my visa and it was hard. I had some problems. I was in Orlando, I start feeling the hamstring and then in the game against Columbus at home after 45 minutes it was better to stop because I had too much problems with it."

After the Columbus match on March 19, an off weekend due to an international window gave Goossens time to recover, but he came off the bench the next two matches. He started the match against Montreal on April 16, his first start since the injury, and played 58 minutes. Despite coming off early, Goossens said he felt fully fit.

The midfielder drew some attention after a spectacular long-distance volley goal in a preseason scrimmage against the University of Portland. He finished with two goals and an assist in five preseason matches and appeared to be a solid candidate to replace Harry Shipp as an attacking midfielder for the Fire.

However, he hasn't had the influence on matches that he would like to so far.

“I can do way better,” Goossens said. “I think it’s for the whole team. We are not happy with the results. We are working really hard for it. You just need wins to be satisfied. For me personally I have to do better and I’m working on it everyday. In my opinion if you work hard everyday the good moments will come to you so we will see.”

Goossens said he has had little trouble settling in with the team and to the league, but admitted the long travel is something that takes getting used to. In the Dutch Eredivisie, where Goossens started his career, the only long flights would be for European competition, which Goossens has never played in. In May the Fire will have road trips to Vancouver, New York Red Bulls and New England in a span of eight days and the team will stay on the road for the duration of the trip.

“I have to get used to it, the flights and things like that," Goossens said. "It’s hard, but since the day I came here you know about it and you have to prepare yourself for it. Until now I feel fine. It’s going to be a really long season. Somewhere in the summer, August or September, there will be a point that you start to get tired, but it’s mentally. It’s our job, we have to take care of it. You have to take care of yourself and your body.

"For me it feels like a big adventure. It’s going to be hard, but it’s going to be fine. I really enjoy and I’m having fun, that’s the most important thing.”

Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie


Clark the Cub hops on the Arrieta bandwagon with fake beard, onesie

Hey, Clark the Cub is wearing pants!

That was my first reaction when I saw the get-up for the Cubs mascot Thursday. OK, technically a onesie isn't "pants," but it's close enough.

As Arrieta took the mound for the Cubs in his first start since his second career no-hitter, Clark showed his support with the same onesie:

BEARrieta - Get it?

For reference, here's Jake's onesie from Los Angeles last August:

We're not even going to get into the beard or why a bear with fur covering its face would need - or even have - a beard.

This has been your pointless Chicago sports news of the day. Back to regularly scheduled programming.

Score one for Jim Harbaugh: NCAA rescinds ban on satellite camps


Score one for Jim Harbaugh: NCAA rescinds ban on satellite camps

Jim Harbaugh vs. the NCAA rolls on, and the khaki'd one just scored a big victory.

There hasn't been a more-uttered phrase than "satellite camp" this offseason, thanks mostly to Harbaugh, who made national headlines when he took his Michigan football team down to Florida for a practice at a high school known for cranking out top talent.

Harbaugh was obviously using it as a recruiting tool, to show off his Wolverines in the fertile recruiting ground down South.

Head coaches from the SEC were not happy, calling it an infringement on their recruiting territory and lamenting what they saw as an unfair recruiting advantage.

So the NCAA sided with the SEC and banned satellite camps, a move that disappointed many coaches across college football, who argued that these camps give kids who wouldn't otherwise be able to show their abilities off to coaches from outside their immediate area. For example, a player from Texas not catching the eyes of schools from the Lone Star State and unable to drive across the country to visit schools in the Midwest and elsewhere could land a scholarship thanks to a Midwestern school coming to his area and running a satellite camp.

Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald was one of many to voice displeasure with the NCAA's decision.

The NCAA took those arguments to heart, apparently. Thursday, the NCAA Division-I Board of Directors rescinded the ban put in place by the NCAA Division-I Council, a major win for Harbaugh and other proponents of the satellite camps.

The Board of Directors also vowed to conduct a "broad assessment" of the recruiting process.

"The Board of Directors is interested in a holistic review of the football recruiting environment, and camps are a piece of that puzzle," said Board of Directors chair Harris Pastides, president of the University of South Carolina. "We share the Council’s interest in improving the camp environment, and we support the Council’s efforts to create a model that emphasizes the scholastic environment as an appropriate place for recruiting future student-athletes."

Northwestern athletics director Jim Phillips is the chair of the Council.

"It’s clear that the membership has differing views on this subject, and the Council appreciates the Board’s insights into this important issue," Phillips said. "This review will provide an opportunity to identify the most effective ways prospective student-athletes can have their academic and athletic credentials evaluated by schools across the country."

Michigan was obviously feeling good about the news.