Frankie O's Blog: The end is still part of the beginning

Frankie O's Blog: The end is still part of the beginning

Friday, April 29, 2011
Posted: 9:25 a.m.

By Frankie O
CSNChicago.com

The dream ended suddenly, disappointing those who were swept up in the emotion of the Blackhawks improbable rise from the mat, only to suffer the last, fatal, knockout blow. Alexandre Burrows overtime goal, after intercepting an ill-fated Chris Campoli clearing attempt, created as big of an emotional about-face as Ive ever witnessed at the bar. True to their nature, the Hawks never quit when they were down 3-0 in the series and their effort in Game 7 was worthy of a defending champion. Captain Jonathan Toews game-tying short-handed goal with just over two minutes left in regulation had everyone at the bar in a frenzy and wondering if we would be hearing Al Michaels famous phrase before the night was over. Alas, the Hawks ran out of miracles, but Im positive this wont be the last we hear of them.

This year has been one of ups and downs for the 2010 Stanley Cup Champions, starting with jettisoning 10 players that had their names engraved on Lord Stanley. You know that had to hurt, the players leaving I mean. The bond that it takes for a team to win the most difficult prize in team sports cant be under estimated. The roster turnover was at the heart of every conversation I had when the topic was: Whats wrong with the Hawks? I always said that it was part of the price of winning. Locking up the core for big-money for the next 5 years meant some guys were going to have to go. (I dont fault the Tallon contracts as much as some others do, the big-guns were going to use up the cap space anyway.) Detroit didnt win the Cup every year, but their core group has enabled them to win 4 of the last 13 and to be considered among the favorites every year, including this one. That core changed some over the years, except for the incomparable Nik Lidstrom, but they always seemed to have more elite skaters than everyone else. Its the Bowman way, and since Scotty is the Blackhawks Senior Adviser of Hockey Operations, that it would happen here should be of no surprise. Besides, can you argue with the results? The Hawks are going to be contenders for the foreseeable future, and thats good.

I cant help but look at the Hawks situation now, and the one that I have been living as a Philadelphia Flyers fan for most of my life, and envisioning where this is heading from a fan standpoint. Trust me, when cornered, I still like to tease Hawk fans that they still have the tag on their Patrick Kane jersey. But the point is, there are a ton of people wearing 88, especially young ones.

In my youth, there were no bigger heroes than those who wore the orange and black. They won back-to-back cups in 1974 and 1975 and ruled hockey with an iron fist. They also started an enduring love-affair with the Philadelphia region that is still burning bright to this day. I can still recite from memory, every player, his number and position, from those two teams. I know Im not the only 40-something (I heard that!) from that area that can do that. The Flyers have owned me since hello. That hello was the journey to those two championships. The voices of Gene Hart and Kate Smith still bring me goose-bumps. When my boys are in the playoffs, my blood-pressure doubles for each game and gets a little higher the further they progress. That they have progressed to the finals SIX times since that last title, and lost each time and Im still here is a marvel of modern medicine. But again, Im not the only one. Thats part of being a Flyers fan and we share a special bond, although Im sure my family here in Chicago would put the word special in quotation marks.

As I personally suffered here as the Blackhawks beat my Flyers last year in the finals, there was something that I knew would become true and its something that I think is very cool. I knew that this city, this Original Six city, would become a hockey hotbed again. Being a hockey fan, and Hawks fan when theyre not playing the Flyers, I know this is a good thing. The amount of hockey interest and conversations that I had at the bar this year might be equal to the amount that I had in all of the years before this combined. (16, if youre counting.) And thats just at the bar that I work in. Hawks pride is everywhere to see. (Although I havent seen hide nor hair of Bouncing Betty!) (Did I just go Dennis Miller on you?) What I love about that is that it reminds me of when I was young and the Flyers were the thing that brought us all together. Whether it was with your family or friends, we all gathered to watch the games. Sure, the winning started it, but the bond has endured. Here, the lost generation of Chicago hockey die-hards have been reborn, theyre the kids in the 88, 19 and 10 jerseys that you see everywhere in Chicago-land. Im envious of the hockey journey that they have begun to share with all of those around them. That, even as devastated as they feel about the end of the Blackhawks season, that they will have many great times ahead. For their sake though, I only hope that it doesnt take their team another 35 years (and counting!!) to win. Thats something that could make you just a little crazy! (And a slight health risk!

P.S. Its CPR night at the bar during Flyers games for the rest of their playoff run. Anyone performing CPR on a horizontal Frankie O, successfully of course, (I heard that, also!) gets a free round!

Bears formula for beating Lions is basic

Bears formula for beating Lions is basic

Talking about what the Bears can do to defeat the Detroit Lions suddenly has a vague feel of irrelevance, since the downward spiral of the 0-3 start raises far broader questions and doubts than one game. But in point of fact, it IS about one game. More on that later.

Earlier in this week your humble and faithful narrator laid out three foundation points upon which the Bears could begin building a way out of the abyss. Nothing has changed in the meantime other than a few injury designations, and there is zero reason to dwell on those because the solution is about as simple as things can get. And they extend beyond Sunday’s game against the Lions.

“You’ve just got to keep improving,” said Brian Hoyer, the presumptive starting quarterback Sunday against Detroit and until Jay Cutler’s injured right thumb is sufficiently healed. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. Everybody has injuries. It’s unfortunately part of the business so everybody just has to step up.

“And not only the guy himself has to step up, the guys around him have to step up. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Which gets back to those three “turnaround” elements, because those comprise the basic formula for the Bears to overcome the Lions and themselves. Consider these the proverbial “three keys,” tailored to the immediate game at hand.

Unleash a defensive “village”

The Bears have not proved themselves capable of winning enough one-on-one matchups pretty much anywhere on the field, any side of the football. An alternative exists on defense, however: Swarm to the football, something that was axiomatic with Lovie Smith defenses but evaporated under Marc Trestman/Mel Tucker and has not developed under John Fox and Vic Fangio. It is also the only realistic way the Bears can have a dominant defensive game, which is the only realistic way the Bears can win a football game.

The Lions were never a particularly fun matchup for Chicago defenses when they had Calvin Johnson. In beating the Bears the last six times the teams met, Detroit averaged 29.3 points per game. Without Megatron the Lions are averaging 27 per game this season. Meaning: Things haven’t necessarily gotten any better since the Big Fella called it a career.

In place of Johnson, the focal point of the Detroit offense has become wideout Marvin Jones, No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards and averaging 22.7 yards on his 18 receptions. Equally concerning: Jones has picked up first downs on 13 of those 18 catches.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“He's made some big plays,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He's had some big ‘chunk’ plays, a 73-yarder last week, I think he had a 50-some yarder in another game. He leads the [NFC] in receiving yards and [is No. 2 in] average per catch. They've got a lot of weapons.”

The problem with that is that the Lions are predominantly a three-receiver offense, another team that will schematically force the Bears out of their base 3-4 and into nickel. The Bears intercepted a Houston Texans pass on the first possession of the season. They have not intercepted one in the 34 opponent possessions since then.

Detroit doesn’t run the football overly well (101 yards per game), but if the Bears cannot force quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw toward Jones or Golden Tate before he wants to, an undermanned secondary has no chance.

The defense no longer has a shutdown corner, even one must-account-for pass rusher or an established all-around game-changer. Jerrell Freeman is the best player on a struggling defense. The solution is a form of flash-mob flying to the football, second and third men in stripping the ball. One tackler or pass rusher has proved insufficient.

Take it on the run

It is far from any sort of exact correlation, but all six of the Bears’ wins last season came in games where they rushed more times than their opponent. A seventh win escaped them when Robbie Gould missed a kick against San Francisco. Only the Lions in Week 17 rushed fewer times than the Bears and won.

The Bears are not only among the NFL’s worst rushing teams (70 yards per game, 30th), but also its least busy, with 53 total attempts through three games. The total is mystifying because the Bears led the Texans through three quarters and the Eagles for most of two, making the reasoning that the Bears were trailing and forced to throw very difficult to understand.

The Lions allow 5.1 yards per rush, worst in the NFL. They are without top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah. If the Bears cannot run on this defense (allowing 28.3 ppg.), the issues are far deeper than feared and the philosophies and play calling of coordinator Dowell Loggains will come under even more scrutiny than they already have.

“I was pretty disappointed as well [after 15 rush attempts at Dallas],” guard Kyle Long said. “Just execution, and sometimes it’s not execution. It’s just you’ve got to beat the guy across from you and we haven’t done that enough.”

Win one play…then one drive…one quarter…one game

The Bears cannot get back to .500 Sunday afternoon. Barring a 28-point outburst, they cannot win the Detroit game in the first quarter. They led Houston and Philadelphia in first halves and lost.

To his credit, Fox has kept the target small, and simple. Because it is.

“It’s execution and it’s execution in all three phases,” Fox said. “Whether it’s the first half or the second half, they’re two equal times. And you have to put a complete game together and we have not done that through the first three games.” 

And the winner is...

“View from the Moon” erred in Dallas by going against its first impression and pick back early in the offseason, that the Bears would lose to the Cowboys, which they did. The Bears have done little to suggest that they are poised to go on any sort of upswing, but the Lions inspire not a lot to suggest that they are an NFC North power. The preseason pick stays:

Bears 17,  Lions 14

View from the Moon 2016 record: 1-2

Check out Michigan's new Jordan basketball uniforms

john-beilein-1001.png

Check out Michigan's new Jordan basketball uniforms

Michigan's football team grabbed all the headlines in recent months for — well, for just about everything, but specifically for becoming the first football team ever decked out in Jordan Brand uniforms. His Airness himself even showed up as an honorary captain at the Big House.

Well, don't forget that in the school's apparel deal with Nike, Michigan's basketball team also gets Jordan uniforms.

The Wolverines unveiled their new hoops unis Friday, and as one might expect, they look pretty cool.

Check them out:

In true Michigan fashion, the uniforms were unveiled at some giant party event with celebrities and whatnot.

John Beilein's team will be taking the court in these sweet duds this season.