Defending Arian Foster: Dont believe everything you see


Defending Arian Foster: Dont believe everything you see

The Bears prime directive each game is rendering a team one-dimensional. That will be difficult to accomplish in the case of the Houston Texans. Very, very difficult.

Tailback Arian Foster. leads the NFL in rushing yards and yards from scrimmage over the past 2.5 years. He is a cutback runner behind a line that pulls and wants to get a speed-based front like Chicagos following keys and flowing to one side fast.

But the difficulty with Foster is not simply how much (yardage), but how.

The thing they do is they just get it downhill in a hurry, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. Were pretty good at pursuit. We dont try to over-pursue. Where the guy is at is where we run to.

We dont try to overshoot too many guys. But the Texans are fast, so youve got to take a pretty good angle to get them down. Everything they do is downhill for the most part.

The Denver Model

Texans coach Gary Kubiak was Denver Broncos offensive coordinator for two Super Bowl wins that may have had John Elway at quarterback. But Elways career threatened to be defined by lost Super Bowls (three) before the arrival of a superb run game built on the concept of zone blocking created by legendary line coach Alex Gibbs.

It wasis a clean, simple system that was built on smaller, quicker linemen Houstons still is. The Bears start three linemen 320 pounds or bigger (Lance Louis, Chilo Rachal, JMarcus Webb). The Texans dress one on Sundays: left tackle Duane Brown.

The Bears start three offensive linemen 6-5 or taller: Rachal, Webb, Gabe Carimi). The Broncos start one: right tackle Derek Newton.

And it seldom mattered who the Broncos primary back was, and it rarely was someone people heard of before he started running behind Gibbs and Kubiaks lines.

Over the five-year span from 1998-2002, Denvers leading rushers were Terrell Davis, Olandis Gary, Mike Anderson, Davis again, and Clinton Portis. Gary was a fourth-round pick, Anderson and Davis sixth-rounders.

Lanes open, one cut, then gone

A basic, then with the Broncos, now with the Texans, is linemen creating a strong flow to the front side of a play, with the defense naturally reacting that direction. The running back follows that flow and needs to make just one cut into a lane that opens.

They start with that outside zone and as your defense starts stretching and thats where the lanes start opening up, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Thats where that one cut is, they get downhill on you fast. They want to get you going that way and then come at you.

Misdirection comes out of the boots and play action. Thats where all the misdirection comes. That O-line sells the stuff so well. They come out and zone-zone-zone and it all looks the same, and then boom, the back is out of there. The lineman gets his head in front of you and cuts you off.

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

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The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”

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