Chicago Fire

Bears bobble ball, game vs. Texans

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Bears bobble ball, game vs. Texans

CHICAGO -- The Houston Texans kept taking the ball away from the Chicago Bears. Then, they took their quarterback out of the game.
Arian Foster finished with 102 yards rushing and a touchdown catch, and the Houston Texans intercepted Jay Cutler twice before knocking him out of the game with a concussion on their way to a 13-6 victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday night.
In a showdown between two of the NFL's best teams, the Texans (8-1) beat the Bears (7-2) at their own game. They came away with four takeaways and Tim Dobbins delivered the biggest blow when he drove his helmet into Cutler late in the second quarter.Foster was the only reliable offensive weapon on either side, particularly in the first half when he ran for 85 yards and made a sprawling catch for a 2-yard touchdown to put Houston ahead 10-3.
Otherwise, neither team got much going on a soggy night. The Texans did just enough, and now, they're tied with Atlanta for the league's best record after the Falcons were upset by New Orleans.
Matt Schaub threw for just 95 yards and a touchdown while getting picked off twice by Tim Jennings. Andre Johnson had just four catches for 35 yards with Charles Tillman on him. Former Bear Danieal Manning helped set the tone early in the game, forcing a fumble by Kellen Davis on Chicago's first play from scrimmage and picking off Cutler later in the first quarter.
Cutler completed just 7 of 14 passes for 40 yards with two interceptions in the first half, while Jason Campbell threw for 94 yards in the second half.
Brandon Marshall managed 107 yards receiving but also dropped a pass in the end zone. Matt Forte never got going, running for 39 yards.
But the biggest sequence came when Cutler got hurt.
The Texans had just gone up 10-3 on a lunging 2-yard touchdown catch by Foster. A scrambling Cutler took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Dobbins after unleashing a pass on third down at midfield late in the first half.
There were offsetting penalties on the play. Cutler got called for an illegal forward pass because he was beyond the line of scrimmage and then got drilled by Dobbins, who was called for unnecessary roughness.
Cutler stayed in and the drive ended with his second interception. Kareem Jackson picked off a pass intended for Marshall in double coverage at the Houston 27. The Bears quarterback was in for the final drive of the half, but Campbell started the third quarter.Robbie Gould kicked a 24-yard field goal late in the third period, but missed a 48-yarder early in the fourth that would have made it a one-point game. Shayne Graham kicked a 42-yarder for Houston to make it 13-6 with 4:49 left.

With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

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With push for playoff seeding in full force, Fire head to Philadelphia with key absences

There aren’t many easy games left on the Fire’s schedule, but Saturday’s game in Philadelphia appears to be one of the more winnable games remaining even if it is on the road.

The Union have a respectable 7-4-3 home record, but are out of the playoff race and are winless in six straight. The Fire hope to pick up a second straight road win, keep pace with New York City FC and stay ahead of red-hot Atlanta in the race for the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The game will be televised on CSN+ (channel finder) with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

While on paper the game is winnable, the Fire will once again be significantly shorthanded in midfield. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Juninho are both out with injuries. Schweinsteiger will miss his third straight game while Juninho will be out for two in a row. The Fire beat D.C. United 3-0 with Dax McCarty pairing with Drew Conner in central midfield last weekend.

With Joao Meira returning from injury as a sub in that win against D.C., coach Veljko Paunovic could run a similar lineup to the one from last week or elect to go with three centerbacks in an altered formation. Either way, the Fire remain without key pieces during a time of year when the team wants to be hitting its peak with the playoffs just over a month away.

“You want to get your top 11 group on the field together so they can get games, but if that’s not the case then you can also get guys experience and you can get younger guys in games that mean something and that matter because there’s no substitute for experience,” McCarty said. “You can’t replicate that in training. Guys like Drew Conner, guys like Djordje (Mihailovic). Those guys that are going to be very important for us in our playoff push and our depth heading into the playoffs.

“That’s the reason why depth is so important in MLS because while you would love to be able to count on your first 11 every single time you step on the field, (but) that’s not the case. I think we’ve seen that throughout the whole season. I don’t think we’ve had our first 11 group on the field together for months so you want depth and obviously it’s important to get guys healthy."

The extent of Schweinsteiger’s injuries hasn’t been clear. He had a bruise on his calf from a collision during the match in Montreal on Sept. 2, but also has a thigh injury. Schweinsteiger appeared to be nearing a return last week when he was running and working out in training separate from the group, but he was not at training on Tuesday or Wednesday this week, which implied a setback.

When asked about Schweinsteiger’s status, Paunovic has remained coy.

“Basti is very important for the team,” Paunovic said. “We want him as soon as possible. We will provide all the help that we can. As soon as we can have him back it’s going to be very important for the team. Also during that time we have guys who are prepared and ready and want to step in.”

Everyone knows he is a key absence, but the team has a solid 2-1-3 record without him this year.

“It doesn’t take a genius to see the positive attributes that he brings to the team,” McCarty said of Schweinsteiger. “He’s been one of our best players and obviously he’s a focal point for the way that we do things, not only defensively, but attacking as well. He’s a guy who teams have to account for whenever he’s on the ball. His vision, his ability to make plays within the game, knowing what the game needs and what time, you can’t substitute that. It makes my job easier, it makes our strikers’ jobs easier, so it’s a big loss not having him on the field.”

Chicago Fire at Philadelphia Union

Where: Talen Energy Stadium (Chester, Penn.)

TV: CSN + (channel finder)

When: Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live

Records: Fire (14-9-6, 48 points), Union (8-12-9, 33 points)

Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

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Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

On this edition of Nerds in Sports, we talk with io9.com senior editor Rob Bricken.

Rob explains how he juggles being a fan with being a ‘professional’ nerd, how he came to run io9.com, plus his theory on why Rey’s parents are in Star Wars may shock you.

Kevin Anderson and Michael Piff co-host. We are Nerds. In sports.

Listen to the Nerds in Sports Podcast here.