Miller: No pity party for banged-up Bears defense

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Miller: No pity party for banged-up Bears defense

Everyone knew this was coming. Its been stated repeatedly the last three years that the Bears' defense is getting old. All their great players defensively are over 30 and are currently hurt, so this general statement must undoubtedly be true.

Unfortunately, for anyone trying to fit that narrative would have to erase 10 other stellar defensive performances besides San Francisco and Seattle this past weekend. One would also have to erase the fact that all four of the Bears' best defensive players made the Pro Bowl in 2011. Furthermore, all four performed legitimately at a Pro Bowl caliber level to be worthy selections a year ago.

Durability is an issue for every player in the NFL, whether you are young or old. No one can ever predict when a significant injury will occur, but in this line of work, its almost a guarantee it will. The NFL does not discriminate against anyone when it comes to injuries. It's just a matter of time.

Just look around the NFL. There are plenty of teams dealing with injuries to key players. Timing is everything when it comes to injuries. It just depends when they happen, to whom they happen, and if the roster is strong enough to sustain them.

The timing of injuries can be problematic, but they can be overcome. General manager Phil Emery has done just that from a roster standpoint. It is now up to the players to perform and show their worth.

Here are the Bears key injuries defensively:

Charles Tillman: Playing with a chipped bone in his ankle. Its just what prideful, tough football players do.

Lance Briggs: fighting through his own ankle injury (playing through it, same as above).

Julius Peppers: has played with a foot problem since camp (same as above).

Brian Urlacher: played with a balky knee and now dealing with a hamstring which may cost him the rest of the regular season.

Tim Jennings: has a shoulder injury which may sideline him also.

All were addressed this offseason through scheme or signings. One of those signings already replaced a former starter, as Kelvin Hayden was already logging significant playing time as D.J. Moores replacement. Hayden comes with significant starts and experience while playing for Indianapolis in the same exact defensive system. If Hayden has to start for Jennings, it also allows a hungry Moore to state his case why he deserves to be the starting nickel back again.

The Urlacher injury was already well thought out by coaches and tested during pre-season games with Nick Roach moving to MLB and Geno Hayes to SLB. If the Bears feel Hayes is the better fit at MLB, so be it. Only one position is affected rather than two if that is the case. Hayes understands the MLB position if he has to start and what is being asked of him.

It was discussed, tested and all players involved have played, performed and won in this defensive system before. Does it hurt the Bears not having their defensive leader out there on the field? Of course it does, but havent the Packers won a Super Bowl and ripped off victories this season without their defensive leader, Charles Woodson, on the field?

The Peppers injury was also already addressed. Corey Wooten and Shea McClellin were already playing to spell Peppers. Unfortunately for McClellan, a concussion slowed his opportunities for more experience. The defensive line rotation as a whole has been much better in 2012 than seasons prior.

So, there really is no time for pity parties concerning the Bears. The only pity is the Bears defense has logged an entire game more in terms of snaps when compared to their offense. The defense has 759 snaps compared to the offense which has accumulated only 700. Typically, each side logs 60 to 70 snaps during a game.

Tired would be an understatement if you play defense for the Bears. They have played basically one more regular season game than their offense.

Football is a team game. It might be time for the Bears offense to aid an ailing defense that has consistently protected them and bailed them out for the past three seasons. They should be well rested and up for the job. It should also be compartmentalized as a pride thing.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

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John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”