Grades: 4 TDs propel a near-perfect afternoon


Grades: 4 TDs propel a near-perfect afternoon

The offense scored four touchdowns and amassed 358 total yards, a workmanlike effort punctuated by three scoring throws to Brandon Marshall. The Bears did have three possessions stall inside the Tennessee 25 for Robbie Gould field goals.

With an average starting position of their own 47 because of the turnovers, the offense might have scored more. But the key to success is not turning the ball over and the Bears did that just once on a lost fumble.


Jay Cutler overcame some early inconsistencies and inaccuracy to settle in for a game with 19-of-26 passing through his three-plus quarters for 229 yards and three touchdowns, all to Brandon Marshall, and a passer rating of 138.1. He had three incompletions in the first quarter, two in the second and one in the third a fourth as the defense loosened in apparent expectation that the Bears would run with their huge lead.

The biggest key was no interceptions, although the Titans missed a couple of excellent pick opportunities. Cutler also managed to maintain calm under surprising pressure from a Tennessee front that clearly did not quit despite the huge deficit.


Backs accounted for 32 rushes, three caught passes and 213 total yards from scrimmage. Matt Forte was utilized in both run and pass games, finishing with 103 rushing yards and 45 net yards on two pass receptions. He turned a screen pass into a 47-yard gain in addition to 48 yards on seven carries in the first half, and his eight-yard TD run for a first-quarter TD with his offensive line push.

Michael Bush was stymied on 10 carries for 16 yards but added 17 yards on his one catch. Armando Allen got some work in the fourth quarter and managed to break a 10-yard run among his 10 carries for 32 yards.


Brandon Marshall continues to raise his bar, with nine catches for 122 yards and three touchdowns. It was his fourth 100-yard game of the year and fourth with at least nine receptions and, more important, he has scored in five of the Bears eight games. Marshall helped seal the Titans fate in the first half with four catches, one for 13 yards and a TD.

Other receivers played only minor roles. Earl Bennett caught four passes but for just 22 total yards and Devin Hester had 19 for his two. No tight end caught a pass.


The overall was very solid with 160 rushing yards and 4.9 per carries other than Jason Campbells three kneel-downs at the end. Blockers repeatedly sealed off and created seams on the edges, with guards Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal effective pulling to clean up plays for Forte in particular.

JMarcus Webb caused a safety with hand-to-the-face in the end zone and added a holding penalty in the first half. But Webb and Gabe Carimi recovered after bad plays to deal with good edge rushers in Derek Morgan (zero sacks, two QB hits) and Kamerion Wimbley (one sack, one QB hit).


Play calling that had empty backfields and Cutler getting sacked late in a first half with Bears leading 31-2 was befuddling. The Bears led by 22 with 22 minutes to play and Cutler was still dropping and getting pressure. The balance of run-pass was present in the first half with 12 called runs and 16 pass plays against a defense that clearly was stacking to deal with a Bears game plan to run.

World Series drought will soon end for Cubs or Indians

World Series drought will soon end for Cubs or Indians

In no more than 10 days, one of baseball’s longest-suffering fan bases will feel anguish no more.

Decades of torment, missed opportunities and bitter disappointment will be erased when either the Cubs or the Cleveland Indians clinch a championship in the 112th World Series, which begins on Tuesday night at 7:08 p.m. CST.

Neither franchise has emerged victorious from the Fall Classic for a combined 174 years, the largest drought in World Series history, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Cubs last won the World Series in 1908 while the Indians haven’t been crowned champion since 1948. The previous record of 130 combined years was set in 2005 by the White Sox (87 years between titles) and Houston Astros (43).

“Cleveland is deserving of the World Series, too, so this is going to be a classic, two cities that have been in a long drought,” first baseman Anthony Rizzo said late Saturday. “This is really good for baseball.

“It’s going to be amazing.”

The Cubs already have ended one longstanding drought with their victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Championship Series. By reaching the World Series, the Cubs ended the longest stretch without a championship round appearance among franchises in the four major North American sports. Despite making the postseason seven times in the previous 31 years, the Cubs haven’t been to the World Series since 1945.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Courtesy of last week’s American League Championship Series victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, the Indians are making the seventh trip to the World Series in franchise history. The Indians haven’t won the World Series in 67 years despite three previous appearances: they were swept by the New York Giants in 1954, lost to the Atlanta Braves in six games in 1995 and suffered a heart-breaking defeat in seven games against the then-Florida Marlins in 1997.

“What could be better for baseball?” Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said. “We’re real excited. I have a lot of friends from Cleveland. I have a lot of respect for the Cleveland Indians organization. I’m anxious to get there.”

Though they’re ecstatic to be where they are, Cubs players continue to echo the sentiment that their mission isn’t yet complete. They’re not oblivious to what their fans have endured, the decades of suffering and generations who have come and gone without ever seeing a trophy. But rather than worry about the franchise’s agonizing past, veteran utility man Ben Zobrist said players must remain focused on the present.

“There’s a lot of pent up angst and emotion in this city, really all over the nation, Cubs fans that have been loyal through the years,” Zobrist said. “We know that. But the bottom line is you have to execute at the right time and stay here in 2016. These guys have done it all year long with all the expectations on our backs and we only have four more. We’re in the exact spot we wanted to be in and we have a chance to do something that hasn’t been done in 108 years.”

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Cubs ‘really have no weaknesses’

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts: Cubs ‘really have no weaknesses’

As Wrigley Field was still shaking in the aftermath of the Cubs’ first National League pennant in 1945 years, a clear-eyed Dave Roberts saw the blunders the Los Angeles Dodgers made in the National League Championship Series, but also acknowledged that his team ended the regular season with a record 12 1/2 games worse than the Cubs. 

“They beat us,” Roberts said. “We made mistakes. And you hate to have sour grapes, but the better team won the series. That's why you play seven-game series, and they showed it.”

The Dodgers took control of the NLCS with back-to-back shutouts in Games 2 and 3, with lefties Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill shutting down a lineup that scored the second most runs in the NL (808) and led the league in on-base percentage (.343) in the regular season. But sparked by Ben Zobrist’s bunt in Game 4, the Cubs offense quickly returned to normal, scoring 10, eight and five runs in the final three games of the series.

What the Cubs did against Kershaw in Game 6 was described by president of baseball operations Theo Epstein as a “masterpiece performance.” The guy who Cubs left-hander Jon Lester said “might go down as the best pitcher of our generation” couldn’t put hitters away and was punished for the mistakes he made, with Willson Contreras and Anthony Rizzo blasting home runs and Kris Bryant, Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist driving in early runs. 

Just having the the best record in baseball has hardly been a guarantee of playoff success, though. In the Wild Card era (1995-present), only nine of the 26 teams with the best record (either alone or tied for it) in baseball have reached the World Series. The Cubs are that ninth team.

“Up to this point, to the World Series, they have gone wire to wire,” Roberts said. “They win a hundred-plus games, they have really no weaknesses, and youth, veterans, starting pitching, they got the guy at the back end, so they catch the baseball, they can slug, they get on base, and they're relentless.”