Should fans continue booing the Bears at home?

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Should fans continue booing the Bears at home?

The Bears have dropped five of their last six games, culminating in a fall from grace as the No. 2 seed in the NFC to currently on the outside looking in at the conference's playoff race.

And Bears fans are none too happy about it, as evidenced by the loud boos cascading from all corners of Soldier Field during Sunday's loss to heated rival Packers.

Many in Chicago took to Twitter or Facebook or the nearest water cooler in calling for head coach Lovie Smith's head, demanding the mild-mannered field general be fired and replaced with the likes of Bill Cowher or Jon Gruden.

And while fans are certainly justified in their despair and frustration, is booing the team at home really something that should continue?

Brian Urlacher, who has spent his entire career in Chicago, was visibly miffed after the game at the fans' reaction.

"Two of the people I don't care about -- fans or media," Urlacher told Lou Canellis on WFLD after the game Sunday night before defending Smith for a while.

"Our crowd was pretty good today for the most part. They were loud for a minute there -- the boos were really loud -- which is always nice. The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. It's unbelievable to me."

Urlacher has a point. And this isn't the first time a member of the Bears has had an issue with the Soldier Field faithful this season. Just ask Jay Cutler.

But there's also the opposite side of the coin.

Chicago is a city divided in the summer, but united in the fall and winter. It's always Cubs-Sox in June and July, but when the Bears start getting into the thick of their season, it brings Chicagoans together.

This is a city that has grown weary with disappointment by the sports teams over the past year.

The Cubs may have a brand new front office, but they still approached the franchise record for losses in a season with 101 defeats in 2012.

The White Sox led the AL Central for most of the '12 season before collapsing down the stretch and giving way to the Detroit Tigers.

The Bulls held the best record in the NBA during the 2011-12 regular season, but saw superstar Derrick Rose go down to a torn ACL in the first playoff game at the United Center.

The Blackhawks are in the midst of a nasty NHL lockout that has extended more than 90 days and has hockey fans legitimately concerned that there may, in fact, not be a season at all.

And then there's the Bears. They rode a five-game win streak to a 7-3 record last season before an injury to Cutler knocked them all the way out of the playoff race. A similar occurrence is taking place this year, as the Bears have fallen to 8-6 after a 7-1 start.

But it still begs the question, should fans continue to boo the Bears at home, or should they be more like the home crowd at Lambeau Field for Packers games or at Mall of America Field for Vikings games? (I find it hard to believe the Lions are not booed at home given the struggles of that franchise over the past decade or so.)

Or are the fans in the right, especially considering the Bears have dropped six straight games to the Packers, their heated rivals?

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Report: Dexter Fowler closing in on deal with Cardinals

Dexter Fowler won't be making a surprise return to the Cubs next season.

Fowler is closing in on a deal to sign with the St. Louis Cardinals, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.

The Cubs signed outfielder Jon Jay last week to a one-year deal, pretty much sealing Fowler's future with the Cubs.

In two seasons in Chicago, Fowler batted .261/.367/.427 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI, and a World Series ring.

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Blackhawks improve faceoffs in Jonathan Toews’ absence

Yanic Perreault came onto the ice as the Blackhawks wrapped up practice on Thursday.

It’s been a relatively common sight the last few seasons. Most of the time, Perreault has helped out when a particular player is struggling from the faceoff dot. That was true with Artem Anisimov earlier this season. But with Jonathan Toews sidelined the Blackhawks have been even more focused on improving upon and winning faceoffs. Thanks to the extra diligence, they’ve done that.

The Blackhawks’ overall faceoff performance has steadily improved. They’ll see how it goes again on Friday night when they face the New York Rangers, their eighth consecutive game without Toews.

“We’re working almost every practice and trying to get better on faceoffs,” Anisimov said on Thursday. “If we win the faceoff, we start with the puck and it’s pretty good. You can go to the offensive zone or win in the offensive zone you start with the puck and you have the opportunity to shoot the puck all day and get chances. It’s a big part of the game.”

Enter Perreault, who was a great faceoff man during his NHL career. The Blackhawks players say Perreault offers a wealth of information in each session.

“It’s different every day. The whole science behind it, he’s been great since he was brought in,” Marcus Kruger said. “He always has something new he wants us to work on, whether it’s just timing or body-positioning or something like that. It’s a lot of different stuff and we work on new stuff every day.”

Rasmussen agreed.

“It’s a lot of things you can work on,” he said. “You try to work on being in a low position so you get stronger. [There are] a lot of small things on how you can go against other guys that do it certain way, and you have to find your own way, too.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Their first game without Toews, against the Anaheim Ducks, was dismal. Part of that is the Ducks having some tremendous face-off guys. But Toews is the Blackhawks’ best at the dot – he’s won 60.3 percent of the time this season – so that first game without him was rough.

Here’s how things have progressed for the Blackhawks, with faceoffs won and lost and percentage, in Toews’ absence.

Opponent Wins-Losses Percent
Ducks 18-49 27 percent
Kings 21-37 36 percent
Panthers 39-35 53 percent
Devils 22-27 45 percent
Flyers 22-31 42 percent
Jets 31-27 53 percent
Coyotes 30-28 52 percent

So yes, there’s been improvement.

“I think we hold our own,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Yan works well with our center men, they take pride in trying to be the best they can and now they’re taking some important faceoffs and some they probably haven’t taken in the past, whether they’re defensive or special-teams faceoffs. They’ve all won some important faceoffs for us at key times, too.”

The Blackhawks have done their best filling the void left by Toews, especially on faceoffs. There’s been a lot of work put into it, especially with Perreault following practices. But the results have been there.

“We know we’d like to start with the puck, and we had a couple of tough games when Jonny went down initially,” Quenneville said. “But it’s been much better since.”