A 'bad' offense finds ways to lose

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A 'bad' offense finds ways to lose

The offense started in a huge hole, partly its own making, and finished with perhaps the most meaningless 438 yards in recent memory. The output was the second-highest of the season; the 41 percent third-down conversions was strong; but the 14 points were the ultimate point and the Bears found ways to undo almost every bit of good they did.

It is now officially a bad offense, which is one where players take turns failing to execute. The shuffle on the offensive line may be a problem, for example, but the reason for most of the shuffling is because of poor performance, which is far from restricted to those five positions, either.

QUARTERBACK D

Jay Cutler had devastating accuracy issues that led to lost opportunities and Minnesota points. He finished with 22 of 44 for 260 yards and a touchdown, but in a game that needed the quarterback to make plays, he failed to in too many situations while the Vikings were being credited with just four quarterback hits for the game.

Two interceptions of Cutler were the difference in the game, both contributing to touchdowns for the Vikings. The first, on the Bears first possession, was not all his fault after Alshon Jeffery went down. But his overthrow of Marshall in the third quarter was a turning point when it was intercepted and returned 56 yards for a touchdown by rookie safety Harrison Smith.

Cutler forced too many throws to Marshall in coverage but the other options werent inspiring trust and he occasionally held the football too long, although receivers were at some fault for that. Cutler skipped a ball to a wide-open Devin Hester in the second quarter for a missed big gainer.

Jason Campbell was in at mop-up time after Cutler appeared dazed from a blow to the head and other hits.

RUNNING BACK B

Matt Forte was against a stout front but provided a solid all-around game. He finished with 85 rushing yards on 13 carries, including a run for 36 yards in the third quarter and had a 15-yard run for a second-quarter first down for a contribution on the scoring drive.

Forte also caught six of seven passes thrown to him for an additional 34 yards. Michael Bush and Armando Allen were used on just one carry each, Bush for six yards and Allen for three.

Forte also was active in pass protection, delivering frequent chips on his way out of the backfield and into his routes.

RECEIVERS AF

Brandon Marshall (the "A") was virtually the only offense in the first half when the game was getting away from the Bears. Marshall, who finished with 10 catches, 160 yards and a touchdown, got the Bears out of a huge hole in the second quarter with a 39-yard back-shoulder grab against double coverage.

Marshalls touchdown catch in the waning minutes of the fourth quarter brought the Bears back to near-life with a chance to recover an onsides kick and go for a tie.

After Marshall, however

Alshon Jeffery signaled his return from a second injury stint with a 22-yard TD catch with 1:52 in the first half, which was a major play at the moment.

But his slipping down contributed to a crushing interception on the Bears first series that set up Minnesotas second touchdown. Jeffery had a chance for a third-quarter TD on a broken play but failed to make the catch in the end zone.

Devin Hester dropped a touchdown pass at the Minnesota 13 with under five minutes to play and a chance to pull the Bears to within one score. The Bears still scored but needed several more plays to do that at a time when they didnt have time.

Tight end Kellen Davis was overthrown on several occasions but also failed to make catches in some crucial situations.

OFFENSIVE LINE D

The protection of Jay Cutler was spotty, not all the OLs fault. But the Bears were never able to gain consistent control at the point of attack on the running game. That part of the offense may have averaged 6.6 yards per carry (including quarterback scrambles) but never had any control of the game the way it did in the Vikings game two weeks ago.

The line had penalties assessed on four of the five positions JMarcus Webb cost the Bears with a holding penalty in the second quarter that was a net minus-20 yards by wiping out a big completion to Marshall. Roberto Garza was beaten for a sack on the next play and a promising drive was stopped. Gabe Carimi was flagged for a false start on a first-down play and Brown had a holding penalty of his own.

Left guard Edwin Williams was benched in favor of rookie undrafted free agent James Brown in the first half.

The Vikings swarmed around Cutler at times but the quarterback and receivers were frequently the reason as plays went on too long with the football still in Cutlers hands.

COACHING D-

The run game was marginally effective and coaches managed to use the run enough even with a 14-point deficit through most of the first quarter. But the final tally of 55 passing plays vs. 18 running plays (three by quarterbacks) was a recipe for disaster and with Cutlers accuracy problems, disaster happened.

The lack of discipline on the offensive line (four penalties) was a concern and is inexcusable in the 14th week of a season.

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

Blackhawks ink Anton Forsberg, Tomas Jurco

When the Blackhawks traded to get Brandon Saad back, they also acquired Anton Forsberg, who they believe is ready to be their latest backup goaltender. On Monday they signed him to a two-year deal.

The Blackhawks inked two players on Monday, Forsberg, whose contract runs through the 2018-19 season, and Tomas Jurco, who agreed to a one-year contract extension.

Forsberg joins the Blackhawks having very little NHL experience – he’s played 10 career games at this level, going 1-8-0. But the Blackhawks’ previous two backup goaltenders, Antti Raanta and Scott Darling, hadn’t made an NHL appearance before joining the Blackhawks. Forsberg led the Cleveland Monsters, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ AHL-affiliate team, to a Calder Cup title in 2016; during that run he went 9-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average and .949 save percentage.

On Friday, when the Blackhawks acquired Saad and Forsberg from Columbus for Artemi Panarin and Tyler Motte, general manager Stan Bowman said the team is, “optimistic about Anton’s potential.”

“We like his profile as a goalie,” he said. “He’s a big guy, takes up a lot of net, has that mobility and makes good positional saves as well as athletic saves. A year ago, led his team to the [Calder] Cup championships, so he knows what it’s like to put a team on his back. It was the AHL but he’s had a lot of success there. He’s earned the right to be an NHL goalie.”

Jurco, acquired by the Blackhawks from Detroit in February, played 13 games with them down the regular-season stretch. Bowman said shortly after the trade that Jurco would get a chance here.

“We’ll be patient with him but we really think there’s a good fit there, looking at his skills and the style of hockey we play,” he said. “I think a lot of ways, sometimes guys need different opportunities. It doesn’t work out in every place. A fresh start will be great for Tomas.”

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

Cubs down to only one All-Star starter in voting update

The Cubs are down to only one starter in next month's All-Star Game in Miami: reigning MVP Kris Bryant.

Jason Heyward lost his grip on the final starting outfielder spot to Marlins star Marcell Ozuna in the latest All-Star balloting update released by the MLB:

That may be for the best, as the Cubs are currently banged up (Heyward. Ben Zobrist and Kyle Hendricks are on the disabled list) and slogging through a season where they've hovered around .500. So maybe four days off in a row would be beneficial for the defending champs.

Heyward is 29,270 votes behind Ozuna and Zobrist is 118,248 votes behind Heyward. It appears as if Washington's Bryce Harper and Colorado's Charlie Blackmon are sure things for the top two outfielder spots in the NL.

Bryant is only 58,082 votes ahead of Nolan Arenado at third base. Anthony Rizzo trails Ryan Zimmerman at first base, Javy Baez comes in well behind Daniel Murphy at second base and Buster Posey has more than twice as many votes as runner-up Willson Contreras at catcher.

Addison Russell is third among shortstops. Kyle Schwarber — despite being demoted to the minors last week — is eighth among NL outfielders.

It's a far cry from 2016, when the Cubs made up all four infield spots in the NL starting lineup.

Voting ends in four days. Fans can head to MLB.com to vote.