DST grades: Peterson's 'soft hundred' leaves Bears unhappy


DST grades: Peterson's 'soft hundred' leaves Bears unhappy

Members of the Bears defense were mad. Theyd just held the Minnesota Vikings, with the NFLs leading rusher, to 10 points, the first time Minnesota has been held under 20 all season, and they were mad.

The miff was coming from allowing Adrian Peterson to net 108 yards. One lineman called it a soft hundred but put the blame squarely on the unit for not making tackles when they were there to be made. Petersons yards were indeed soft, coming largely after the Bears were up by three scores. Peterson had 25 rushing yards in the first half and 10 on the Vikings first possession of the third quarter so 73 yards over the final 19 minutes when the game was effectively over.

The overall was an effective shutdown of Minnesota, with the Vikings totaling just 181 yards through three quarters and mounting only one drive longer than 3-and-a-half minutes.

The Bears led the NFL with an opponent passer rating of 65.9 before the game and even improved on that, holding Christian Ponder to 58.2.


The sack total was modest, with one on the games first play by defensive tackle Henry Melton (sixth this season) and a second shared by Israel Idonije and Shea McClellin in the fourth quarter sack of Christian Ponder to end a possession. The Bears combined for seven hits on Ponder, with McClellin and Melton each getting two.

The line play was key, however, in getting to Adrian Peterson repeatedly on his side of the line and forcing early cuts in his runs to prevent him from reaching escape velocity. Julius Peppers took a lead role in calling stunts and specifics on various plays, giving the Vikings linemen changing assignments almost on the fly.


Nick Roach forced an Adrian Peterson fumble in the first quarter that led to the Bears first touchdown. Flow to the ball was excellent and contributed to holding Peterson to 65 yards through three quarters, with no run longer than 14 yards. Roach, playing heavy minutes with the Vikings' use of Peterson, tied for Bears high with seven tackles, six of them solo.

Lance Briggs also had seven stops, five solos, and broke up two passes. He and Brian Urlacher (four stops) combined with Roach to take Peterson away from dominating the game.


Kelvin Hayden, pressed into regular-down duty after an ankle injury to Charles Tillman, saved a TD with a fourth-quarter pass breakup and locked up WR Michael Jenkins on the next play as well to turn back a four-down effort with momentum at stake.

Tillman outfought Peterson for a fumble on the Vikings third possession to set up a touchdown and broke up a third-down slant pattern on Minnesotas second possession to force a field goal.

Run support from safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright was not flawless, but tackling Adrian Peterson rarely is. And Conte broke up two passes while coming up with an interception to set up a touchdown and nearly tipped a ball for another.

Tim Jennings was strong in open-field tackling and finished with five solo tackles.

Altogether, Bears defensive backs broke up nine passes as part of holding Christian Ponder to 22-of-43 passing for 159 yards, a TD, and INT and a passer rating of just 58.2.


After the debacle in San Francisco, coaches prepared for a rushing onslaught from Adrian Peterson by stressing basics and gaps, but also have wanted the defensive linemen in particular also to read the offense. Julius Peppers has stunt responsibilities as coaches have put the game in the players hands, with solid results again.

The mix of safeties on Cover-2 and Cover-1 alignments for run support may have benefited from the absence of injured receiver Percy Harvin. But the Bears committed to making the Vikings one-dimensional, and taking away Peterson and forcing Ponder to beat them was solid planning and execution.


The return game remains an issue with Devin Hester unable to regain his mojo of past seasons, and then being sidelined with a concussion. But other areas of special teams responded, with a two-point conversion and blocked field goal.


Robbie Gould was good from 47 and 46 yards to get points from stalled possessions. Adam Podlesh executed a perfect fake PAT and ran in a two-point conversion. He also was good for 43.3 yards per on four punts, none returned and two inside the 20.

Julius Peppers turned in the 12th kick block of his career. But the Vikings blocked a Gould field goal late in the second quarter.


The Vikings were not able to return any of Adam Podleshs four punts. Marcus Sherels returned one kickoff 38 yards but the other two KORs were for 14 and 15 yards. The Vikings had an average starting field position of their own 29 and started eight out of 10 possessions after kicks from inside their own 30.


Devin Hester did nothing with a first-quarter punt return when he appeared to have running room and was replaced on the next kickoff return by Eric Weems. Hester left the game with a concussion in the first quarter. Weems returned three kickoffs an average of 21.7 with a long of 27.


The scouting of Minnesotas kick-block unit was exploited for a two-point conversion. Bears coverage units were near flawless and prevented the Vikings from gaining any sort of advantage or momentum after either punts or kickoffs.

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The new Cubs are out to write their own history

The Cubs felt so nervous just before a 7:09 first pitch on Saturday night that Javier Baez found the camera looking into the home dugout, waved with a big smile and started pumping his fist, hamming it up for the video board as Aerosmith’s “Sweet Emotion” blasted through the Wrigley Field sound system.

The Cubs then ran out onto the field and systematically destroyed the Los Angeles Dodgers, ending this National League Championship Series in six games with a 5-0 win that featured almost no tension or suspense, obliterating for now the narrative around this franchise.

The old stadium still kept shaking, from Kris Bryant’s RBI single in the first inning to the clapping to Anthony Rizzo’s “Intoxicated” walk-up music to a standing ovation for Kyle Hendricks, who outpitched the supposed best pitcher on the planet in Clayton Kershaw.

“We don’t care about history,” Bryant said. “This is a completely different team, different people all around. It doesn’t matter. This is a new Chicago Cubs team. And we are certainly a very confident group.”

Sure, 1908 will hover over the entire World Series, which begins Tuesday night against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. But this is the new normal for Bryant, who within two years has won 200 games, four playoff rounds, a Rookie of the Year award and probably MVP hardware.

This team isn’t going away, either. With a chance to win the pennant for the first time since the Truman administration, the Cubs started two rookies who began this season at Triple-A Iowa – catcher Willson Contreras and outfielder Albert Almora Jr. – in a lineup that featured Bryant (24), Rizzo (27), Baez (23), Addison Russell (22) and Hendricks (26).

Contreras caught a shutout and posed for a moment at home plate watching his line-drive homer off Kershaw fly into the left-field bleachers in the fourth inning. Rizzo – who had looked overmatched earlier in the playoffs – became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Kershaw during this calendar year.

And when Rizzo tried to wave off Baez for the ball Josh Reddick popped up to the right side of the infield in the fifth inning, Baez cut right in front of Rizzo to catch it, continuing a long-running gag among the Cubs infielders.

“I don’t think they’re oblivious, because that’s sort of insulting in some ways,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “They know the history. I just don’t think they care. They think they’re a good team and they love to play. And we have some guys that definitely shine on the big stage.”

Baez – a September call-up last year who couldn’t get an everyday spot during the regular season – showed off his bat speed and unbelievable defensive instincts and emerged as the NLCS co-MVP along with big-game pitcher Jon Lester. Sold on the idea of all this young talent someday coming together, Lester joined a last-place team after the 2014 season, taking a leap of faith, even at $155 million.

“I don’t feel like there’s pressure at all in our clubhouse,” said Almora, the first player Theo Epstein’s front office drafted here in 2012. “There’s just hunger and excitement and desire to win.

“None of us were around in 1945…so we just got to write our own history.”

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This is what the Cubs have been talking about since the New York Mets swept them out of last year’s NLCS, since the Ricketts family invested almost $290 million more in free agents, since unconventional manager Joe Maddon made “Embrace The Target” the theme of spring training.

Whatever your preconceived notions of the old Cubs are, know that this group has an amazing sense of balance. They are youthful and experienced. They play as a team and with individual flair. They have style and get dirty. They are analytical and sort of oblivious. They are loose and intense. And the ending hasn’t been written yet.

“We still got a long ways to go,” Lester said. “We’ll enjoy tonight – don’t get me wrong – we’ll have a celebration. We’ll have a good time. We’ll smile, we’ll hug each other, probably get drunk a little bit…but we got some work to do.”

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.”