Bears-Titans preview: Titans ball

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Bears-Titans preview: Titans ball

Titans O has the Wright stuff
As the first round of the 2012 draft played out, the Bears turn on the clock arrived. They had made wide receiver a priority even after trading for Brandon Marshall in March and speed receiver Kendall Wright was still available after Jacksonville had taken Justin Blackmon sixth-overall and Arizona chose Michael Floyd 13th.
Wright, the Baylor partner of quarterback Robert Griffin III, was the next-highest rated receiver, according to Pro Football Weeklys Nolan Nawrocki.
But the Bears had Boise States Shea McClellin and South Carolinas Alshon Jeffery rated ahead of Wright. They selected McClellin at No. 19, passed on Wright whom the Tennessee Titans immediately grabbed at No. 20, and came back for Jeffery in the second round.
Wright now stands as the top rookie wide receiver with 40 catches, tied for fifth in the AFC, if for a surprisingly pedestrian 8.8 yards per catch. But his three touchdown receptions are tied for the team lead, which has not surprised the Bears at all.
We thought he was a heckuva football player, said coach Lovie Smith. Hes back from my home area in Texas. I knew quite a bit about him. Hes played well in the league, too. Same things we saw in his college video, hes doing that in the league. Good quickness. Has that great vertical. So he can catch the football. Well have to deal with him.
Titans turnaround?
He is not all the Bears defense will have to deal with.
Including running back Chris Johnson and tight end Jared Cook, the Titans have six players with at least 19 receptions. The Bears have one (Marshall).
The easy focal point of the Tennessee offense is Johnson. He has rushed for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons and last year ranked second on the team with 57 catches. His 19 this season are more than any Bear other than Marshall (Jeffery had 14 before missing the last two games).
If theres a hole there, hes going to find it and hit it fast, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. We just have get in our gaps. Thats our game plan every week: get in our gaps, run through our gaps and try to get into the backfield and make him change directions so we can get more guys to the football."
The Bears have done well getting into backfields against runners, ranking No. 1 against the run allowing 77.9 yards per game and eighth in average yards per carry (3.8). Johnson averages 4.5 this season.
Hasselbeck hassle
But Johnson has never faced the Bears. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck has and he beats them.
Hasselbeck signed with Tennessee in 2011 as a free agent and passed for 3,571 yards, fourth-highest in franchise history. He was supposed to turn the offense this year to Jake Locker, the 10th-overall pick of last years draft.
But Locker has been out the last four games with a shoulder injury and the Seahawks have won two of the last three behind Hasselbeck, who has never lost to the Bears outside of Soldier Field either with Green Bay or Seattle.
The problem for the Bears is that he is a classic West Coast quarterback, patient and inclined to use every piece of his offense. Against the Bears is 3-3 for his career, has an 81.4 passer rating, throwing zero interceptions in his last three games vs. the Bears.
You have to be extremely disciplined and know that hes going to utilize everybody on that field at any time, said linebacker Lance Briggs.

Dioner Navarro earns his day off, helps White Sox outlast Twins in 10 innings

Dioner Navarro earns his day off, helps White Sox outlast Twins in 10 innings

MINNEAPOLIS -- Dioner Navarro has big plans for his first day off since July 17.

“Sleep -- a lot,” he said.

The catcher ended a stretch of 13 games in 13 days with a one-out RBI double to send the White Sox to a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins in 10 innings in front of 27,914 at Target Field. Navarro, who has started 12 of 13 games and finished the July 22nd contest, doubled in Avisail Garcia with one out after the outfielder started the 10th inning with his second double in five trips. David Robertson pitched a perfect 10th to convert his 25th save and snap a three-game losing streak for the White Sox, who are 51-53.

“Dio has had a long run too of games in a row,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “It’s nice to see him get after it. He knew he wasn’t going to be in there (Sunday), so I don’t know if that’s motivation or not. He earned it.”

The White Sox had to overcome a number of mistakes to win for the first time since Tuesday. They committed three errors over two plays in the third inning, blew to a two-run lead when Eduardo Escobar hit a three-run homer off Matt Albers in the eighth inning and survived rookie pitcher Michael Ynoa’s bases-loaded jam with two outs in the ninth.

Pitching for the first time since July 17, Ynoa induced a pop out off Brian Dozier’s bat to end the threat. He earned his first major league victory after Cabrera doubled to left off Fernando Abad. The White Sox tied it at 5 in the top of the ninth on Melky Cabrera’s two-out RBI single off Brandon Kintzler. Tim Anderson, who went 3-for-5, scored the tying run after he doubled with one out.

Justin Morneau doubled, homered and drove in two while Cabrera went 3-for-5 with three RBIs. Todd Frazier missed a second straight game with flu-like symptoms and Adam Eaton was held out of the starting lineup to rest several bumps and bruises. Eaton entered the game as a defensive replacement in the 10th inning.

“It doesn’t matter how you do it, just do it,” Navarro said about Ynoa, although it could easily have been about the entire team. “He did a great job. He made pitches when he needed it. He got out of the inning, and he kept us in the game.”

[MORE: Chris Sale 'got it all squared' away with White Sox teammates]

Same as he has all month, starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez put the White Sox in prime position to win.

Gonzalez finished an outstanding July by limiting Minnesota to two runs (one earned) and six hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He had a 2.50 ERA in six July starts.

With the bullpen still in need of rest, Gonzalez pitched into the seventh inning. Byron Buxton’s RBI groundout made it a 4-2 game. But Gonzalez, who threw 114 pitches, struck out Robbie Grossman with a man on second to end the seventh.

White Sox starting pitchers have a 1.71 ER in the team’s last seven games.

The bullpen hasn’t had as much success.

A day after he took the loss, Dan Jennings, issued a leadoff walk to Joe Mauer in the eighth and recorded an out before he gave way to Albers. Albers walked Dozier before Kurt Suzuki lined out to center.

Escobar ripped the first pitch he saw from Albers, a 93-mph sinker, out to deep right to put the Twins ahead 5-4.

“We have a good squad, things haven’t been going our way but we have to keep grinding,” Gonzalez said. “Some things we can’t control. Our bullpen has been struggling, but it’s part of the game. Alberts made a really good pitch down and sometimes it doesn’t go our way and it’s tough to understand. But that is the way baseball is.”

Adam Eaton: Players at fault if White Sox become sellers at trade deadline

Adam Eaton: Players at fault if White Sox become sellers at trade deadline

MINNEAPOLIS — If the White Sox trade away assets over the next two days, Adam Eaton said the blame is all on the players.

The right fielder, who was held out of Saturday’s game to rest bumps and bruises, said the White Sox have enough talent to be successful in spite of their injuries. Even with an improved roster, the White Sox entered Saturday with 50-53 mark as they’ve been inconsistent all season. While Eaton doesn’t want to see any of his teammates dealt before Monday’s 3 p.m. CST nonwaiver trade deadline, he could understand if they are.

“Oh yeah, and it’s our own fault,” Eaton said. “It’s the players’ fault. We play up to what we’re capable of playing, and it’s not even a discussion. Rick has gotta do what he’s gotta do to put us in the best position to be good now and later. Whatever he has to do, we’ve got to accept it as players because we put ourselves in this position.”

Eaton admitted he wasn’t in a very good mood before Saturday’s contest. He said the team’s losing ways haven’t been enjoyable — “losing sucks, man.” Disappointed with the team’s play since their 23-10 start, Eaton pointed at consistency as the club’s biggest issue. He didn’t cite injuries to a number of key players, including center fielder Austin Jackson and relievers Jake Petricka and Zach Putnam.

“(Injuries are) part of the game,” Eaton said. “It’s no excuse on our end. When one guy goes down the next guy’s gotta pick it up, gotta fall in the line and find a way to get it done in some way, shape or form. I don’t think we lean on that at all as a crutch. We’ve got the talent here in to win, and at the end of the day it’s being consistent and finding a way to get it done day in and day out. Anybody can do it for a month. You’ve got to be consistent. You can’t be too high or be too low or the game will find you and show those inconsistencies.”

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

Sunday on CSN: Fire look to extend home unbeaten streak against Red Bulls

The Kennedy Igboananike trade shifted focus a bit towards next year for the Chicago Fire, but on Sunday the focus returns to the field.

The Fire host the New York Red Bulls and the game will be televised live on CSN. Coverage starts at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live. The game willl also be simulcast with a Spanish language broadcast on CSN+.

Since going 1-5 to start the season, the Red Bulls (9-9-4, 31 points) have looked like one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference and sit second in the standings. The team’s recent run has caught the attention Fire coach Veljko Paunovic.

“We are looking at the next game against one of the best teams in the league, in my opinion,” Paunovic said. “I would say performance wise the best team because in the style they play, it’s fantastic. I think they have very, very good players.”

[SHOP: Get a hold of your own Fire home jersey here]

The Red Bulls are playing better of late, but have not succeeded much on the road. New York is 1-7-3 on the road and 8-2-1 at home.

The Fire (4-10-5, 17 points) remain in last in the conference, but have an eight-match unbeaten streak at Toyota Park.

“It’s important to stay strong at home and it’s important for our fans to see that we can compete against one of the best teams in the league here at our field with all our field,” Paunovic said.

Fire midfielder Razvan Cocis will miss his second straight match due to injury and Joey Calistri was still listed as questionable. With Igboananike gone, forward depth for the Fire is very thin, especially if Calistri is unavailable.

Brandon Vincent’s availability is also in question after playing in the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday. He only logged 33 minutes, but factoring in cross-country travel and just two days rest, Vincent may not play.

The Red Bulls have the same situation with Sacha Kljestan, who played 41 minutes in the All-Star Game. Kljestan leads the league with 12 assists and also has five goals. Bradley Wright-Phillips has also been hot of late. The English forward has 11 goals after not scoring in the first seven matches of the season.

“Sacha Kljestan is playing at an MVP-caliber level and Wright-Phillips has seemed to find the scoring touch again,” Fire defender Eric Gehrig said. “They had a great year last and they’re starting to turn it on now, but we’re at home. We know that if we bring our best game that we can compete with anyone at home. It’s an important three points, especially with our road form we know that we have to snatch these points up and we’re looking forward to it.”

Chicago Fire vs. New York Red Bulls

When: 6 p.m. Sunday (coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: Comcast SportsNet (simulcast in Spanish on CSN+)

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.