Odds and end zones: Bears-Vikings aftermath

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Odds and end zones: Bears-Vikings aftermath

Cleaning out the notebook on Monday morning.

The history of teams with 100-catch receivers achieving little else is dangerously close to adding another case study. Brandon Marshall set a franchise record with his 101st reception in the loss to Minnesota and the hollow ring to the accomplishment was deafening.

The last time a Jay Cutler team was 8-5 and needing a win for a chance at postseason, the Denver Broncos went 0-3, two of three on the road, and Cutler had no passer rating higher than 74.9. He posted a 57.0 on Sunday.

Losing formula

When the Bears throttled the Minnesota Vikings in Soldier Field two weeks ago, they ran the ball 39 times, 36 of those by running backs. They called 32 pass plays.

In the rematch, the offense ran the ball 18 times, 15 of those by Matt Forte (13), Michael Bush and Armando Allen (one each). Jay Cutler threw 44 passes and was sacked twice before leaving with an unspecified neck injury. Jason Campbell threw nine passes in relief.

A hard fact is that Cutler has never won a game as a Chicago Bear when he has thrown 40 passes (0-6). When hes thrown 44 passes in a game, he is 1-7 for his career.

Curiously perhaps, the Bears converted seven of 17 third downs (41 percent), the second straight game in which they have converted 40 percent, their seasons average, and lost.

We were able to take away the run game, explained defensive end Jared Allen, without specifying who the we referred to, whether the Vikings or Bears coaches. They were forced into third-and-long situations. When we played them last, they were in third-and-short the whole game. They were able to dink and dunk us the whole way.

We knew they were going to max protect the whole game and show us different looks and shifts. Our whole thing was just not to let Cutler run free. When he ran, we needed to force him into bad throws and we were able to do that.

High praise

Minnesota left tackle Matt Kalil acquitted himself well again against Julius Peppers, with help from the Bears offense.

The Jay Cutler interceptions that directly led to 14 Vikings points meant that the Bears never led in the game and meant that must-pass situations were held to a minimum. Add in the assault on the defense provided by the running of Adrian Peterson (31 carries, 154 yards, two touchdowns) and the result was a pass rush that was credited with only one sack and one quarterback hit, by defensive end Corey Wootton.

Usually when youre playing from behind, you have to pass the ball more, said Kalil, Minnesotas 2012 No. 1 pick and No. 4 overall. Peppers is probably the second-best athlete Ive ever played against. That guy is probably one of the greatest players Ive ever played. Sticking with that lead and building on it makes it a lot easier.

Fire take on banged up San Jose on Friday

Fire take on banged up San Jose on Friday

A quick look at the injury list for Friday’s match between the Chicago Fire and the San Jose Earthquakes tells two different stories.

The Fire (2-7-5, 11 points) have a few players who are coming back from injury and may be limited, but no players are listed as out, which has been rare this season. Matt Polster could make his return from a concussion suffered June 15 against Indy Eleven. Arturo Alvarez, Collin Fernandez and Khaly Thiam are also listed as questionable for Friday.

Visiting San Jose (5-4-7, 22 points) would love to trade injury lists and have just a few banged up bodies. The Earthquakes have seven players listed as out, including the typical starting centerback pair of Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez.

Goodson has been out with a back injury since starting the first two matches of the season and Bernardez went down in the Earthquakes’ 1-1 draw with the LA Galaxy on June 25. When Bernandez left in the ninth minute, Fatai Alashe, typically a midfielder, played at centerback next to Marvell Wynne, who has played centerback but usually plays as a right back.

“You’ve just got to deal with it,” San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear said after the LA game. “Looking down the bench, we don’t really have a center back, per se, so Fatai is the next one in line. It’s just the thought of, ‘What’s the best combination?’ and Fatai was the easy [choice].”

Andres Imperiale, another defender, is also out along with Jordan Stewart, Mark Sherrod, Marc Pelosi and Bryan Meredith.

The good news for San Jose is that Chris Wondolowski is expected to make his return after playing with the U.S. in the Copa America.

“We will have to have the possession, be smart,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said of Friday’s game. “I think they have a very narrow style of play.”

Paunovic spoke of how important Wondolowski is to San Jose. Wondolowski has seven goals in 12 games this season. Next to him up top has typically been former Fire striker Quincy Amarikwa, who has a goal and three assists.

The Earthquakes went winless in the five matches without Wondolowski, including a U.S. Open loss at Portland, and are 0-4-4 on the road this season.

While the Fire don’t have as many injuries, they are coming off shorter rest. The Fire played Tuesday against Columbus in the Open Cup while the Earthquakes were already out of the tournament so they had a few extra days rest.

The Fire are coming off one of the team’s better performances of the year, a 2-1 win against Columbus. Confidence should be high against a wounded San Jose team.

“I think to be fair we’re playing some good football,” Fire forward David Accam said. “For us, even though we’re not getting results I have confidence in my teammates and confidence in this team and I know for sure we will start getting results. For now we just have to keep enjoying what we’re doing and the results will come.”

White Sox rookie Tim Anderson draws first walk of career

White Sox rookie Tim Anderson draws first walk of career

He has been on base routinely since his promotion, but until Thursday afternoon Tim Anderson hadn’t drawn a base on balls.

So when he finally did, in the 86th plate appearance of his career, the White Sox rookie’s teammates had fun with the occasion.

Anderson did, too. He reached base four times in five trips on Thursday as the White Sox clinched their third consecutive series win with a 6-5 victory over the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.

"(Todd) Frazier was like 'We got the bat, we got the pitcher, we got the umpire, we got everything,'" Anderson said of the reaction in the dugout. "It was pretty funny."

It’s hard to find fault in anything Anderson has done since the White Sox promoted him from Triple-A Charlotte earlier this month. Thursday marked the 10th multi-hit game in 19 career contests for Anderson, who was rated the No. 1 prospect in the system headed into the season by BaseballAmerica.com. He has impacted the team with his speed, his defense has been sound and he carried a .293 batting average into Thursday’s game. He also has provided more pop than expected as 10 of his first 24 hits went for extra bases.

But the fact that Anderson — who always has been an aggressive hitter — hadn’t yet walked begun to garner him attention. People tend to notice when a player’s batting average and on-base percentage are exactly the same, especially after 80-plus at-bats.

Anderson took it all in stride and earlier in the week promised his first walk was coming.

Two days later, he delivered and sauntered down to first base after he walked on five pitches against Twins starter Tommy Milone in the fourth inning. After he got to the base, Anderson nodded his head and double-pumped both fists at J.B. Shuck, who was standing on second.

"I was pretty pumped about," Anderson said. "A very exciting moment for me. It was kind of like when I got my first hit. It was fun."

He nearly matched the moment during an eighth-inning at-bat. Only two trips later, Anderson worked a full count against Fernando Abad before he took a 3-2 curveball for a called-third strike.

"I thought it was up a little bit," Anderson said with a smile before laughing. "I thought it was for sure going to be another walk. He kind of let me down.

"(The calls) will come as I get my time. Give me a little more respect."

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Those tremors you felt Wednesday was the hockey world shaking things up.

They were the most exciting 30 minutes of offseason we’ve seen in some time, with the Montreal Canadiens sending P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Oh, and coveted potential unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending teams like Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo to their Plan Bs.

For the Blackhawks, they weren’t players for any of the top-tier guys. But with the free-agent “frenzy” about to begin on Friday, the Blackhawks, who have a little shopping to do, can’t get caught in the ripple effect.

Most of the top UFAs are already off the board, from Stamkos to Keith Yandle to Alex Goligoski. Prices could go up on those remaining, and that could include some guys the Blackhawks were targeting.

As general manager Stan Bowman said last Saturday following the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks no longer have a salary-cap problem. Generalfanager.com shows the Blackhawks have a little more than $5 million in cap space. That’s after the Blackhawks made two cap friendly re-signings with forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival. According to Pierre LeBrun, Mashinter and Rozsival will earn $575,00 and $600,000, respectively, this season.

So the Blackhawks enter the weekend with some spending cash, and they may be spending some of it immediately on a familiar guy. Andy Strickland reported on Thursday that Brian Campbell, who was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, could return on a one-year deal. Nothing would be official until Friday, when free agency begins.

If Campbell does return it probably won’t be for much cash. But Campbell knows the Blackhawks are still built to win and he won’t be hurting for money. It could be another sensible move like Brad Richards from the summer of 2014. Richards, just bought out by the New York Rangers after the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final, just wanted to get back to the final. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million here. While Richards was up and down in the regular season he was great in the playoffs, capping the Blackhawks’ Cup run with that beautiful pass to Patrick Kane in Game 6. The Blackhawks aren’t what they were in 2014 but they’re not in bad shape, either. A good, affordable tweak or two could have them thinking about another lengthy postseason run.

Keep something else in mind: just about every July the Blackhawks pick up someone we didn’t anticipate. Richards was a good example of that, too.

The Blackhawks have a little cash to spend but they also have future considerations; please see Artemi Panarin, who the Blackhawks can start negotiating with on Friday. It’s not just about what they spend this season, it’s about what they save for that potential deal that would start next season.

The options are out there to improve this team but the Blackhawks have to be prudent. They can’t afford not to be.