Bears have their 'backs against the wall'

954729.png

Bears have their 'backs against the wall'

Right tackle Jonathan Scott is a relative newcomer but he cut to a painful core reality after Sundays 20-17 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks:

Our backs are against the wall, Scott said.

Losing a third out of four games against teams with winning records will put a team, even one that is still 8-4, in that unpleasant spot.

But thats precisely where the Bears realistically are after being in the discussion of NFLs best along with Atlanta and Houston before the Texans and San Francisco 49ers games effectively ended those musings.

Lovie Smith said during his pregame visit with WBBM play-by-play announcer Jeff Joniak that the Bears were already in playoff mode. The problem is that they are now in danger of slipping out of the playoffs, sitting at the No. 5 seed right now.

Green Bay (8-4) is the de factor NFC North leader after putting down the Minnesota Vikings (6-6) on Sunday. Beyond the Packers having beaten the Bears already, which can be addressed by a Bears win in two weeks when Green Bay comes to Soldier Field, the Packers also are 3-0 in division play. The Bears and Packers are the only teams on each others remaining schedule with a record above .500.

So what?

But all that playoff analysis means absolutely nothing if a team that prides itself on defense cannot make one stop with a game on the line. And Lovie Smith knows it.

Once you get a lead, youve got to be able to hold a lead at home with our defense, Smith said. Defensively we didnt get a lot doneJust not the type of football that we play around here.

Smith needs to hope not. His defense allowed drives of 94, 107 (Seattle was penalized 10 yards and made that up a play later) and 85 yards (also with a penalty of their own thrown in and overcome).

The defense wasnt admitting it was tired at the end of the game, but it clearly was, just looking at some of the 1,000-yard stares in the locker room afterwards. The concerning part of that is that it had nothing to do with age, heat or anything else, just bad play.

I dont think we were gassed, said defensive end Shea McClellin. We rotate in and out enough; we shouldnt be gassed. I dont think that was the issue.

It wasnt. You get tired when youre on the field too long, and the issue was not finishing off Seattle on third-and-longs when they presented themselves.

Smith acknowledged that poor tackling was a problem, and we couldnt get off blocks, we didnt take the ball away enough.

Seattle jinx?

The ignominy on Sunday was that it was the third straight loss, at home, to Seattle. And it came just as the 49ers were losing in overtime, which would have put the Bears back in the No. 2 playoff spot had the Bears been able to make any sort of defensive stand. Just one, against rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, whom they couldnt entirely keep up with even with the help of a spy system of assigning speed end Shea McClellin to keep an eye on the guy.

Changes coming?

Coaches have made performance-based position changes this season, at two different spots on the offensive line, at defensive end and at nickel back.

CSNChicago colleague Jim Miller posited on our Bears Postgame Live that after two dismal defensive performances in three weeks, more changes perhaps should be in the offing.

Lovie Smith and Rod Marinelli have rarely suffered perceived under-performance for long. And while virtually everyone is perhaps already on the field, playing time may be apportioned differently based on evaluations over the next few days.

Surprised

Seattle threw some minor surprises at the Bears defense by using some shotgun formations that said Pass but were run plays or options, defensive players said.

The task then was just to stay on keys, which the Bears didnt do, keep Russell Wilson in the pocket, which the Bears also didnt do, and make tackles when they did get to where they needed to be, which they also didnt do too well.

We pride ourselves on playing defense, said safety Major Wright, who missed a chance at an interception in the final minutes that would have ended Seattles go-ahead touchdown drive. Russell Wilson got out of the pocket a couple of times and we had to break down and make tackles.

Which didnt happen soon enough.

Road Ahead: Cubs look for revenge against Pirates

Road Ahead: Cubs look for revenge against Pirates

CSN's Cubs Pregame and Postgame host David Kaplan and analyst David DeJesus discuss the upcoming matchups in this edition of the Cubs Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

The Cubs' bats are finally coming around. 

On the back of Anthony Rizzo, who hit three homers this weekend, the North Siders took two out of three from the Cincinnati Reds and have been winners of four out of five overall. 

The offense will attempt to stay in their groove against the Pittsburgh Pirates, who swept the Cubs at Wrigley during the teams' last meeting. 

Luckily for Chicago's pitching staff, Starling Marte won't be anchoring the Pirates' order. The outfielder is serving a suspension for performance-enhancing drugs. 

After Pittsburgh, Joe Maddon's club hits Fenway Park for what should be a wild three-game set against the Red Sox. 

Watch David Kaplan and David DeJesus break down the upcoming matchups in the video above. 

 

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg criticizes officiating on Celtics' Isaiah Thomas

Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg criticizes officiating on Celtics' Isaiah Thomas

You could see it building, with Fred Hoiberg's usually-monotone voice rising with his opening answer after his Bulls gave up a 2-0 lead to the Boston Celtics and now have to win at least one more game on the road to win a first-round matchup that's now tied at two games apiece.

Whether he was taking a page from Memphis Grizzlies coach David Fizdale or finally succumbing to his own frustration after pleading with the officials to enforce the rules as he believes them to be, he made his most direct statement as Bulls coach in his assessment of the officiating surrounding Isaiah Thomas.

He believes Thomas carries the ball for a palming violation, a tactic could make an already-difficult player to defend even more so. 

"Let me say this: Isaiah Thomas is a hell of a player, an unbelievable competitor, a warrior, everything he's going through right now. He had a hell of a game tonight," Hoiberg said. "When you're allowed to discontinue your dribble on every possession, he's impossible to guard. Impossible to guard. When you're able to put your hand underneath the ball, take two or three steps and put it back down. It's impossible to guard him in those situations."

Thomas scored 33 points and added seven assists with four rebounds in 35 minutes, helping torch virtually anyone who came near him and in his postgame news conference, pronounced himself as being an "impossible cover" to defenders.

"Not one man can guard me," he said. "That's just the confidence I have."

When told about Hoiberg's comments, Thomas said, "That's not the reason. It is what it is. I guess (Hoiberg) is just going to continue to say it. I've been dribbling that way my whole life, I don't know what to say to that."

Thomas repeatedly sliced through the defense for layups and open shots, and repeatedly told Bulls reserve guard Michael Carter-Williams "You can't guard me", to the point of earning a technical foul for the talk through the game.

Palming has become as prevalent through the game as the sneakers and mascots, so the timing of it seemed a bit peculiar. One wonders if it's more a motivation tactic to let his players know he's in the fight with them and maybe get a little something in Thomas' head before Game 5 as opposed to wanting it called every time down.

Several Bulls said they see Thomas do it repeatedly, and Hoiberg said it was a point of emphasis for the officials in the offseason—but Thomas was likely to break down the Bulls defense anyways, as he averages nearly 30 points a game on the season.

Thomas said he doesn't recall being called for a palming violation the entire season, and considering the violation seems so miniscule in the context of this playoff series, it could strike as a form of desperation or even motivation for Hoiberg, should his next check be a little lighter because of an impending fine for criticizing the officials.

Fizdale's statement seemed more in line with his personality, while it seemed Hoiberg was struggling with it a bit.

He didn't want to elaborate on it much when follow-up questions were asked, and when Jimmy Butler was asked to address it, he wouldn't wade into those waters.

"First off, Isaiah is a terrific basketball player," Butler said. "I don't really pay attention to if he's carrying the ball. It's not my job to watch that and call that. Even if I do call it, I can't do anything about it."

What Hoiberg and the Bulls can do is presumably come with a better start and a more sustained effort to Game 5, as opposed to complaints about the officiating on one particular issue.