Grades: A woeful offensive performance


Grades: A woeful offensive performance

The concussion suffered by Jay Cutler overshadowed some elements of the game played by the offense.
But not all.
The offense was presented with the ball at the Chicago 45, its 37 and the Houston 45. The result: zero points, three turnovers and 10 plays in arguably the worst single quarter of the 2012 season. Of the Bears 14 possessions, nine started at no worse than the Chicago 35, yet the offense managed just six points for the game.
It is not automatically a positive that the Bears offense got better when Cutler was out.
The defense, as it has so frequently through this half-season, gave the Bears opportunities on Tim Jennings interceptions twice in the first 16 minutes. Devin Hester returned Houstons punt after the first possession to the Chicago 45. None of hose mattered.
The problem is that the offense turned those into just three points. The offense gave away the ball on its first two first-quarter possessions on fumbles, by Kellen Davis and Michael Bush, when players simply failed to secure the ball on basic tackles, no overt strip. Add to that Cutlers puzzling mis-throw toward Davis and the Bears were very lucky to end the first quarter down just 3-0.
In the end, luck had nothing to do with it.
Jay Cutler threw 14 passes. Seven were caught by his receivers, two were caught by Texans and five were caught by no one. His 16.7 passer rating was the second-lowest of his career behind only his 7.9 in 2009 at Baltimore.
Cutlers first interception thrown into double coverage to Kellen Davis was a poor decision and wasted a first-quarter scoring opportunity after a Jennings interception. He squandered a drive in the Houston end with another throw into coverage, forced toward Brandon Marshall.
Jason Campbell was an upgrade, at least for the moment. Campbell completed 11 of 19 for 94 yards, 45 of those coming on a toss to Marshall. The Texans committed to taking away anything deep but Campbell, the receivers and backs were not able to exploit anything underneath.
Matt Forte was controlled with 39 yards on 16 carries (2.4 ypc.), the first time this season he was held below four yards per carry. Forte had no run longer than eight yards and was less than ineffective in the passing game, with five receptions for a net two yards (minus-1.5 yd. average).
Michael Bush had a 20-yard carry but squandered a scoring drive with a fumble after a good fourth-down conversion run in Houstons end in the first quarter. Backs provided support in pass protection with fullback Evan Rodriguez delivering solid blocks that helped keep Bears quarterbacks from being sacked.
Brandon Marshall recorded his standard 100-yard game (107) with eight catches. But the rest of the receiving group was close to useless, particularly the tight end group.
Kellen Davis position in the starting lineup has to be evaluated. His fumble on the Bears first play after a big Devin Hester punt return was a disastrous start in a game where the Bears desperately needed a fast start. Davis also committed a decisive drop late in the fourth quarter on what would have been a big third-down conversion. Davis finished with one reception from the five passes on which he was targeted.
Matt Spaeth caught all three of the passes thrown to him but for a total of four yards. He got no depth on routes and netted five yards on one catch, meaning his net was minus-1 on two other catches. Kyle Adams had one reception for seven yards.
Devin Hester produced little from his two receptions, a total of four yards. Earl Bennett caught one ball for nine yards.
A difficult group to assess. The run game was effectively stuffed virtually the entire game but Bears quarterbacks were unsacked for the first time this season against one of the leagues best attacking fronts.
The Texans moved rush terror J.J. Watt to multiple spots for matchups, including most of the first quarter against JMarcus Webb. Webb and Gabe Carimi got some help from their guards but both held up well against one of the NFLs elite pass rushers. Watt had no sacks, two tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. No passes defensed by someone with 10 on the year.
The Bears were without penalty in the first half but saved the worst til last. Chilo Rachal drew a false-start flag in the third quarter and holding in the fourth. Carimi had his holding penalty on the Bears final possession.
Deciding what is poor execution and what was poor design is never easy. Play calling was surprising. The offense had 19 running plays and 37 pass plays (including quarterback runs off pass calls). The Houston defense schemed to take away the deep balls in the second half but too many plays were designed for less than yardage for first downs and little effort was made to loosen a defense that was giving up very little underneath.
The 150 yards in the second half after 99 in the first were a step in the right direction but not enough to overcome shortcomings in all areas.

Class 8A-4A Under the radar games to watch

Class 8A-4A Under the radar games to watch

The opening round of the IHSA football playoffs is loaded with great opening week games. Here are some Chicagoland matchups, from 8A through 4A, that have the potential to be very good “under-the-radar” type of games to watch this weekend. 

Class 8A

No. 26 seed Maine South (6-3) at No. 7 seed West Aurora (9-0), Friday 7:00 p.m.

Many will look at this matchup and assume that perennial 8A power Maine South will just overpower West Aurora. But not so fast, my friends. The Blackhawks and head coach Nate Eimers feature a team loaded with talent and speed, including the Cross twins: senior RB/DB DaQuan Cross and senior RB/DB DaVion Cross. This game has the potential to be a high-scoring affair.

Class 7A

No. 25 St. Rita (5-4) at No. 8 Rockford Auburn (8-1) Friday 7:30 p.m.

This is easily one of the most intriguing matchups in the opening round of 7A. Why? Auburn and head coach Dan Appino’s Knights feature a huge offensive line and a strong running game. Also, the Knights never play outside of the NIC-10 conference until state playoff time. St. Rita had an up-and-down season, yet no one will ever accuse the Mustangs of not being battle-tested. They have Chicago Catholic Blue credentials and have non-conference wins over Rich Central and Marmion — two playoff teams.

[MORE PREPS: IHSA Football Playoffs First-Round Matchups]

Class 6A

No. 11 Lakes (6-3) at No. 6 Grayslake North (7-2) Friday 7:00 p.m.

Both hail from the Northern Lake County conference and despite Lakes’ 31-14 win over Grayslake North on Sept. 9, the Eagles are the lower seed/road team this week. Look for another terrific game here. It's always very difficult to beat the same team twice in the same season. 

Class 5A

No. 9 Rich Central (6-3) at No. 8 Woodstock North (6-3), Friday 7:00 p.m.

Rich Central might have one of the state's biggest offensive lines, which includes senior OL/DL Caylon May (6-foot-3, 290 pounds). Woodstock North looks to run the football behind senior RB Casey Dycus. Everybody in the Thunder program continues to be excited, stemming from last week's 23-22 win over Rock Falls. Woodstock North blocked a potential game-winning field goal attempt in overtime to secure the win and a state playoff bid.

Class 4A

No. 12 Wheaton Academy (6-3) at No. 5 Aurora Central Catholic (8-1), Friday 7:00 p.m.

Wheaton Academy hit a rough patch in its Metro Suburban Blue slate and lost three straight games to playoff teams (IC Catholic Prep, Riverside-Brookfield and Glenbard South). The Warriors are undoubtedly battle tested. However, Aurora Central Catholic's only loss came to Ridgewood (7-2) who won the Metro Suburban Red. Expect a packed house in Aurora on Friday night for, likely, a back-and-forth game. 

He’s back: Kyle Schwarber takes center stage at World Series

He’s back: Kyle Schwarber takes center stage at World Series

CLEVELAND – Kyle Schwarber walked into the Progressive Field interview room at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, becoming the biggest Game 1 story at the World Series. He didn’t have a hit all season – and hadn’t played for the Cubs in almost seven months – but there was his name in the No. 5 spot in the lineup against Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians.

“Once I hit that line, a lot of emotions will come pouring out,” Schwarber said. “I’ll probably cry at some point today. It was a long road, but once we step in between those lines, it’s game time. I’m going to be locked in. I’m going to be ready to go (and) try to win this.”

It’s hard to overstate how much the Cubs love Schwarber’s energy, presence and powerful left-handed swing, from the time they saw his hard-charging style and football mentality at Indiana University. Theo Epstein’s front office drafted him fourth overall in 2014 – at a time when that almost looked like a reach for a designated hitter with an unclear defensive future behind the plate or in the outfield.

Instead of sending him to Arizona, the Cubs also allowed Schwarber to rehab in Chicago and remain a part of the team after undergoing major surgery on his left knee in the middle of April, making him untouchable in any trade talks, even as the New York Yankees dangled game-changing reliever Andrew Miller, who now looms as another World Series X-factor in the Cleveland bullpen.

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

After getting a better-than-expected progress report last week from Dr. Daniel Cooper – the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL – Schwarber went full speed ahead.

“I called Theo right away and I was like: ‘Hey, I’d love the opportunity to try,’” Schwarber said. “Knowing that I had the opportunity to try and get back, it would kill me deep down inside if I didn’t. And I knew going into it there were no guarantees.

“I didn’t want the media attention. I didn’t want any of that. I did it for my teammates. I did it for me, too. That’s the competitor in me.” 

After playing in the Arizona Fall League in front of about 100 fans on Monday, Schwarber flew on a private plane from Mesa to Cleveland, where he could change franchise history with one big swing, the way he drilled five homers during last year’s playoffs and became a Wrigleyville folk hero.

“It’s going to be a complete 180,” Schwarber said. “You know you’re going in front of a packed stadium here. It’s going to be awesome. That’s what we live for as baseball players. We live to feed off that, especially since we’re in such a hostile environment here in Cleveland.

“I love that. It’s going to be great for our team. We’re in for a really hard-fought battle.”