What happens next is real key for 'fragile' Jeffery


What happens next is real key for 'fragile' Jeffery

A loss is only a total loss if nothing is learned or gained from the experience. For rookie wide receiver Alshon Jeffery, three pass-interference calls against him in the second half of the loss to Green Bay, one nullifying a touchdown, was a disaster.

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Now comes the important part.

The thing Im trying to make sure of is that it doesnt destroy him from a mental standpoint, said receivers coach Darryl Drake. Hes fragile right now but thats part of it.

You have to man-up. Are you going to sit back and sulk or are you going to do something about it? Youve still got to play the game physical so you cant give in on that. You have to turn it into something positive. You say, how can there be a positive there? Its in how you respond when youre in that situation again. You have to leave no questions, and he left a question by having his arm extended.

Jeffery already has put the harsh lessons to mental use.

I just have to play a lot smarter, Jeffery told CSNChicago.com.

Beyond the penalties lies a revealing fact about Jeffery: In a short time, made shorter by missed games due to injury, Jeffery has become a crucial figure in the eyes, literally and figuratively, of Jay Cutler and the Chicago offense.

It was to Jeffery that Cutler went three times on first-down plays, a vital need area for the Bears. And it was also to Jeffery that Cutler and the play calling went once on a third-and-10 and twice on fourth-down plays. One of the fourth downs was the ill-fated completion in the end zone that was nullified by then first pass-interference call.

Put another way, in one of the games most important plays, Cutler went to the rookie.

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Some of the reason lay in the forgotten fact that Jeffery had previously drawn Green Bay penalties on successive plays resulting in 58 penalty yards.

The Bears second-round draft choice last April has always been a physical wideout. That physicality helped him catch 183 passes in 39 games for South Carolina. But while his strength and ability to be physical was part of the attraction for the Bears, it only works if used intelligently.

Jeffery also has a mentor and fan a couple of locker stalls away.

There are things that we can do to keep that from happening so much, said Brandon Marshall, also a physical receiver but who has been tagged with four penalties in 872 snaps vs. Jefferys four in fewer than half (353) that number of plays.

Well work on those things, Marshall said. I feel bad for the kid because hes working his butt off just to get healthy, and also to get back to the form that he believes, and we all believe, that he can play at.

For that to happen to him, that kinds sucks and it sucks for our team, but Alshons going to be OK. Hes a competitor and he has a lot of ability. He has heart and thats a guy that you can take in your foxhole.

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Jeffery was ready to crawl into a hole last Sunday. But that was then, Arizona is now.

Im really not thinking about it, Jeffery said, just concentrating on the next game.

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks host Lightning tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Grab the first goal.

The Blackhawks have scored the game's first goal in seven of the last eight games, and of those seven, they've won six of them. Meanwhile, the Lightning have scored the first goal only 17 times in 48 games this season, and are 12-5-1 in those games. They're 9-17-4 when they allow the first goal, so getting out to a lead first will be important against a struggling Lightning team looking for signs of life.

2. Will the floodgates open for Jonathan Toews?

After a four-point game in a 4-2 win over Vancouver, the Blackhawks captain matched his point total over his previous nine games. He's up to 26 points on the season, which is now fifth among Chicago forwards. When Toews has offensive droughts, they usually last longer than they should. But when he gets hot, he gets extremely hot. Perhaps we'll see the floodgates open offensively.

3. A chance for the team lead in scoring.

With an empty-net goal on Sunday, Marian Hossa tied Artem Anisimov for the team-lead with 18 goals. Artemi Panarin is right behind with 17, and Patrick Kane isn't far either at 15. The Blackhawks had four 20-goal scorers last season, and haven't had more than that since the 2013-14 season. They're definitely on pace to hit four, but could they surprass that? Richard Panik, who scored another goal Sunday as well, is fifth with 11 goals while Ryan Hartman has 10. Toews is at eight, but a flurry after a drought could make things interesting.

4. The triplets reunited?

In an effort to jumpstart a struggling offense, Lightning coach Jon Cooper reunited the triplets line of Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat that was so successful during their 2015 playoff run in their latest game, a 5-3 loss to Arizona. It's unclear whether they will begin tonight's game on the same line, but if not, it's worth watching throughout the game whether they do. The Blackhawks have been coming at opponents in waves lately, so Cooper could look to separate the three to distribute the scoring.

5. Take advantage on special teams.

The Lightning have racked up the fifth-most penalty minutes in the league, and own a bottom-10 penalty kill unit at 80.1 percent. The Blackhawks are the second-least penalized team, and have converted on 17.9 percent of their power plays, which sits at 16th. But they haven't scored one on the man advantage in five straight games, going 0-for-9 during that span. Here's a chance to change that.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

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