Not pretty, but Bears get the better of Lions


Not pretty, but Bears get the better of Lions

When a grizzly bear surprised the two campers around their fire, one yelled, Run!
The second yelled, You cant outrun a bear!
To which the first hollered over his shoulder, I dont have to outrun the bear. I only have to outrun you!
It really doesnt matter (yet) whether the Bears are a very good team, only that they are better than the ones they play. Right now they are, particularly the Detroit Lions, who are now officially not a good football team. Not well coached, not well much of anything.
But the more important point as far as the Bears were concerned Monday night was the Bears were better than they were, 13-7 better, the lowest point total for a Bears win since the 10-0 handling of the New York Jets in 2010.
The result Monday night was a win that may have lacked the flash or the flash points of recent Bears-Lions games. But the more important point as far as the Bears were concerned Monday night was they were better than the Lions were, 13-7 better -- the lowest point total for a Bears win since the 10-0 handling of the New York Jets in 2010.
Only the Atlanta Falcons (6-0) have fewer than the Bears one loss. Lovie Smith teams have now won six of the last seven times playing after week off, a testament to preparation and coaching.
Were 5-1, Smith said. Thats the position we wanted to be in.
For point of reference: The Lions also won last week after their week off. They committed 17 penalties in that game. So much for focus and tightening up. And against the Bears the coaches called 52 pass plays and 15 run plays despite backs averaging 5 yards per carry. Bears defenders talk about stopping the run and making a team one-dimensional. Lions coach Jim Schwartz did that for them.
The Bears took the ball away from the Lions four times, making for a total of 10 over the last two times the teams played in Soldier Field, where Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford remains winless for his career. And safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright had near-interceptions in their hands or the total would have been higher.
The offense wasnt particularly good, just good enough, with a first-quarter first-possession touchdown, only the second first-quarter TD of the season (Indianapolis).
Neither Stafford nor Jay Cutler posted a passer rating as high as 80. But Cutler did his with damaged ribs, five sacks and nine hits. Stafford was sacked three times. He may have thrown for 5,000 yards last year but thats a stat, not leadership, and the Bears have more of that, top to bottom, than the Lions.
That doesnt necessarily mean theyre as good as they need or are going to be. But they are 5-1 and thats enough right now to outrun the grizzly. And clearly the Lions.
Were not concerned with stats and whos the best, this or that, said defensive end Julius Peppers, who had a sack and two hits on Stafford. Were just trying to get better.
Box score

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

Kyle Hendricks outduels Clayton Kershaw and delivers legendary performance that puts Cubs in World Series

John Hendricks sent a text message to his son at 11:24 a.m. on Saturday: “Good luck tonight!! Remember, great mechanics and preparation will prevail. Just let it go!!” It ended with three emoji: a smiley face with sunglasses, the thumbs-up sign and a flexed biceps.

The Cubs have bonded fathers and sons for generations, and Hendricks immediately understood what it meant for his boy when the Cubs traded Ryan Dempster to the Texas Rangers minutes before the deadline on July 31, 2012, telling Kyle: “You win in this city, you will be a legend. There is no doubt about it. This is the greatest sports town in the United States.”

This is the intoxicating lure of the Cubs. It didn’t matter that Kyle had been an eighth-round pick out of Dartmouth College, and hadn’t yet finished his first full season in professional baseball, and would be joining an organization enduring a 101-loss season, the third of five straight fifth-place finishes.

Kyle’s low-key personality will never get him confused with an ’85 Bear, but he delivered a legendary performance in Game 6, outpitching Clayton Kershaw at the end of this National League Championship Series and leading the Cubs to the World Series for the first time in 71 years.

Five outs away from the pennant, a raucous crowd of 42,386 at Wrigley Field actually booed star manager Joe Maddon when he walked out to the mound to take the ball from Kyle and bring in closer Aroldis Chapman. Kyle, the silent assassin, did briefly raise his hand to acknowledge the standing ovation before descending the dugout steps. 

After a 5-0 win, Kyle stood in roughly the same spot with Nike goggles on his head and finally looked a little rattled, his body shivering and teeth chattering in the cold, his Cubs gear soaked from the champagne-and-beer celebration.

“It’s always been an uphill climb for me, honestly,” Kyle said. “But that really has nothing to do with getting guys out. My focus from Day 1 – even when I was young, high school, college, all the way up until now – all it’s been is trying to make good pitches. 

“And as we moved up, you just saw that good pitches get good hitters out.” 

At a time when the game is obsessed with velocity and showing off for the radar gun, Kyle knows how to pitch, putting the ball where he wants when he wants, avoiding the hot zones that lead to trouble, mixing his changeups, fastballs and curveball in an unpredictable way that takes advantage of the team’s intricate scouting system and keeps hitters completely off-balance.

“Kyle didn’t even give them any air or any hope,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.

Amid the celebration, scouting/player-development chief Jason McLeod spotted Kyle’s dad and yelled at John: “You f------ called it!” John – who once worked in the Angels ticket office and as a golf pro in Southern California – had moved to Chicago two years ago to work for his good friend’s limo company and watch his son pitch at Wrigley Field. John had told McLeod that Kyle would one day help the Cubs win a championship.

“That was one of the best pitching performances I’ve ever seen,” McLeod said. “Ever.”

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

The media framed Kyle as The Other Pitcher, even though he won the ERA title this season, with all the pregame buzz surrounding Kershaw, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and 2014 NL MVP. Except Kershaw gave up five runs and got knocked out after five innings, while Kyle only gave up two singles to the 23 batters he faced, finishing with six strikeouts against zero walks and looking like he had even more left in the tank at 88 pitches.

“It was incredible,” Ben Zobrist said. “That was the easiest postseason game we’ve had yet and it was the clincher to go to the World Series. 

“He’s just so good, so mature for his age. He just has a knack to put the ball where he needs to. He’s smart and he’s clutch. He deserves to win the Cy Young this year.”

Where Kershaw’s presence loomed over the entire playoffs, Kyle has always been underestimated, coming into this season as a fourth or fifth starter with something to prove, and even he didn’t see all this coming. But big-game pitchers can come in all shapes and sizes and don’t have to throw 97 mph. 

“He wants the ball,” John said. “Every big game – I don’t care if it was Little League or wherever – he wants the ball. Plain and simple, (he’ll) get the job done.”

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