Mercurial Cutler winning at an impressive rate

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Mercurial Cutler winning at an impressive rate

At some point a championship team usually needs its quarterback to win a game. Not not-lose one. Win one.

The Bears got one of those from Jay Cutler on Sunday.

The final points of the Bears 23-22 win over the Carolina Panthers were scored by the defense and special teams. But the pivotal figure for the Bears on Sunday was Cutler.

His play was a major factor in the Bears falling behind 19-7. But where he once could be counted on for the poor decision -- and worse, throw -- under the pressure of deciding moments (fourth quarter, Green Bay this season) he completed 12 of 14 passes in the fourth quarter Sunday, one for a touchdown, none to Panthers.

The Bears are 25-8 in Cutler starts since the close of the 2009 season.

Sybil Jay

He was by turns visibly miffed at booing by Soldier Field fans; calm and amusing with the game in its deciding moments; arguing with officials after failing to get calls; and then a franchise quarterback.

He was horrendous for three quarters (37.6 passer rating). He fumbled twice; he was intercepted on the first possession when he underthrew an open Brandon Marshall; he was sacked six times in the first half, assuming the persona of a training-camp tackling dummy for the Carolina pass rush. If they needed extra time to get there, Cutler waited for them.

Didnt move as well as I wanted to, Cutler said. Hed even gotten second and third opinions on that. I kept asking JB QB coach Jeremy Bates and J-Cam backup quarterback Jason Campbell if I was staying in there too long or what the deal is.

Fan favoritenot

Cutler appeared to wonder what the deal was with fans as he ran into the tunnel at halftime hearing boos. Looking up into the stands he muttered. Well, CSNChicago.com will leave his exact words to lip readers than ours.

Booing a 5-1 team playing at halftime is the prerogative of a free-speech society and Cutler said right things given time (advice?) to self-assess.

I mean, Id boo us, too, Cutler said. I told those guys it was a boo-worthy performance, if you will.

All that was periphery. What mattered was not only Cutlers play when the game was on the line, but also what he inspired in others.

Calm amid crisis

A famous anecdote was Joe Montana coming out for a final score-or-lose possession in a Super Bowl, and teammates recalling Montana arriving in the nervous, jittery huddle and marveling, Hey, thats John Candy over there in the stands!

Cutler didnt invoke fan sightings but he did react the right way for his own jittery teammates when he got ready for a final possession needing a score to avoid a loss.

Im sitting here shaking, a little bit of the cold weather, a little bit nervous and he just starts smiling like, Well, here we go, and just put me at ease right away, said Marshall, who caught four of the seven passes on the drive that set up Robbie Goulds winning field goal.

And the guys feel that vibe and they play off of it. So Jay definitely led that whole drive and made us pick up our game.

Pau Gasol considering skipping Olympics amid Zika fears

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Pau Gasol considering skipping Olympics amid Zika fears

The uncertainty in Brazil over the spread of the Zika virus has Pau Gasol considering not playing in the upcoming Olympics.

The Bulls center, who is set to become a free agent on July 1, spoke with the Associated Press about his reluctancy to travel to Brazil, a country that's been hit by the mosquito-borne virus the last year.

"It wouldn't surprise me to see some athletes deciding not to participate in the games to avoid putting their health and the health of their families at risk," Gasol told the AP.

"I'm thinking about (whether or not to go)," he said. "Just like every athlete, or any other person considering going to Rio, should be thinking about it."

Gasol's absence would be a considerable one for the Spain national team, which earned silver medals in 2008 and 2012.

The virus, which first appeared in Brazil in 2015 and has spread to anywhere between 500,000 and 1.5 million people, has been a large topic of conversation on the horizon of the Olympic Games, which begin Aug. 5.

The report said Gasol has contacted experts to learn more about the virus before making a final decision.

"We need to understand the seriousness of the situation," he said. "Even though there are some soothing words being said, we know that there are different opinions about the subject."

Stanley Cup Final preview: Commonalities between Penguins, Sharks

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Stanley Cup Final preview: Commonalities between Penguins, Sharks

The San Jose Sharks and Pittsburgh Penguins don’t see each other much during the regular season but that doesn’t mean there can’t be a common bond. For each, the chance to end years of frustration – certainly more for the Sharks than the Penguins – is here.

It’s the Stanley Cup Final, and for just the second time since 2010 the Western Conference is represented by someone other than the Blackhawks or Los Angeles Kings. Instead, the Sharks are making their first Cup appearance in franchise history. They’re facing a Penguins team that’s back in the final for the first time since 2009, when they beat the Detroit Red Wings for the Cup.

A show of hands: Who had these two in the final when they did their preseason predictions? Not many, if any. Two years ago the Sharks had a 3-0 series lead against the Kings, who came back to beat San Jose in four straight. From the summer of 2014 to the spring of 2015, the Sharks took letters off sweaters, missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 years and dismissed coach Todd McLellan. From an outside perspective, it looked like things would get worse before they got better.

As for Pittsburgh, the Penguins have been in the postseason every year since 2009 but failed to return to this stage each time.

So what changed this year for each? Let’s start with the Sharks. As my Bay Area colleague Kevin Kurz pointed out, the Sharks are here for several reasons: A change in attitude and goaltending and finding the right pieces to complement a longstanding core are among them. Removing/renaming captains could have torn the Sharks apart. And while there was plenty of friction and a few verbal jabs at the time, the Sharks stuck together. General manager Doug Wilson made a few key moves, including acquiring Martin Jones from Boston on June 30, 2015 (the Bruins had traded for Jones just four days prior). The backup-turned-starter was excellent.

The Penguins are here due to a lot of the same reasons: They changed coaches and tweaked their lineup around their core. Acquiring defenseman Trevor Daley from the Blackhawks in December proved pivotal. Daley, who didn’t log many minutes with the Blackhawks, fit in immediately with the Penguins. Blackhawks fans who took to Twitter asking, “Why did they trade for Daley?” in July 2015, asked, “Why did they trade Daley away?” in April.

Pittsburgh went with a new goalie, too, albeit for different reasons. When Marc-Andre Fleury was sidelined with a concussion in March, Matt Murray got his chance. And outside of Game 5 against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Murray is still in there. It’s one more feel-good story from a final that is teeming with them.

The path to the Stanley Cup Final is rarely an easy one. Some teams have had to go through massive changes to get there (please see the Blackhawks just prior to 2010). The Sharks and Penguins had to make their changes as well, from personality to personnel. Both have gone through their turmoil to get here. Now to see who ultimately triumphs.

Road Ahead: Can the White Sox turn things around?

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Road Ahead: Can the White Sox turn things around?

CSN's Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton talk about what's next for the White Sox, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

The White Sox are struggling lately as the team has lost six consecutive games and 14 of their last 18.

It doesn't get much easier for the South Siders as they stay on the road to face the New York Mets and Detroit Tigers this week.

After once leading the American League Central and looking like a complete team, the bullpen is struggling and the team is in a freefall.

Can the team fix things to stay in the division race?

Find out what Garfien and Melton had to say in the video above.