Bears looking to figure out Seattle

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Bears looking to figure out Seattle

Bears-Seahawks is all about control season still in Bears own hands
Lovie Smith likes to break the season into a series of four-game sprints, and the Bears will finish their third of those on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks. From here starts a fourth quarter with three of the final four against, in order, Minnesota, Green Bay and Detroit, with the Arizona Cardinals between the Packers and Lions.
Where this becomes a problem on Sunday is if the Bears have been thinking about being within a win or two of clinching a playoff berth, and possibly the NFC North, depending upon what happens Sunday between the Packers and Vikings.
No Lovie Smith team has won its final four games, which means getting to 9-3 becomes significant for staying on the heels of San Francisco (8-2-1) for a chance at the No. 2 seed. A Bears' win and 49ers' loss at St. Louis Sunday would slide the Bears a half-game ahead of the team that crushed them less than two weeks ago.
Were in first place right now and we control what happens to the Bears, Smith said. And thats what its all about.
Unwelcome guests
Seattle has won just once on the road this season. But Seattle also has not lost in Soldier Field in the regular season since 2006, the Bears Super Bowl season. The Bears have beaten the Seahawks twice in divisional-round playoff games, but Seattle put 24 points on the Bears in both the 2006 and 2010 games.
The 2011 loss marked only the 10th time in the Lovie Smith era that the Bears lost a game when leading at halftime (14-7).
And that stung.
"It still does, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. They beat us bad last year They beat us up up front. They came in here, late December, in our weather and put it on us pretty good.
Theyve beaten us the last two times in the regular season when they played here. They beat us the year we went to the playoffs, then we beat them in the playoffs. But they beat us in the regular season two in a row here.
Which Seahawks?
Seattle has been a conundrum this season, defeating the likes of Green Bay, New England and Minnesota, while losing to Arizona, Detroit and Miami. The tipping point, as in real estate, has been location-location-location. The Seahawks are 5-0 at home and 1-5 on the road.
Indeed, Seattle has beaten more teams with winning records (three) than the Bears (two). And the Seahawks had possession for a potential tying final drive against the 49ers in San Francisco, a situation markedly different from the Bears on their trip there.
A fatal flaw has been failure to stop the run, giving up 175 or more yards in three of the last five game. Seattle defeated the Vikings despite giving up 242 rushing yards but the Miami Dolphins, ranking 20th in yards per attempt, averaged six yards per carry in their win over the Seahawks.
Finding Forte
An underused core element of the Bears offense has been Matt Forte, who left the Minnesota game with an ankle injury but is expected to start against Seattle. With the offense running through Forte in 2010-11 the Bears had an identity, something that has not taken firm root even at this late part of 2012.
Its difficult right now to try to get involved in the passing game when youre trying to establish the run so much, Forte said. I think it all will come along.
Curiously perhaps, maybe the key to the balanced offense isnt as much Fortes running as Michael Bushs, or at least a hefty distribution of carries for Bush. The Bears are 5-1 when Bush has 10 or more carries.
Use of running backs has been a problem for the Seattle defense beyond just the running part. In San Franciscos win, for example, Frank Gore rushed for 131 yards and caught six passes for another 51, in addition to backup Kendall Houstons 62 yards on 13 combined touches.
The Bears are expected to maintain the commitment to the run that worked so well against Minnesota, particularly because of the help it gives an offensive line still settling in after a spate of changes.
It does because they can come off the ball and instead of pass-blocking, Forte said. You can come off the ball and not have to worry about people blitzing or where theyre coming from.

In case you missed, my in-game tweets (@csnmoonmullin) and commentary will be part of our whole Bears Pulse package this and every Sunday. See you on CSNChicago.com.

White Sox offense can't stay hot in loss to A's

White Sox offense can't stay hot in loss to A's

A day after having quite the offensive party, the White Sox didn’t save any production for Friday.

The White Sox couldn’t muster any offense in a 3-0 loss to the Oakland Athletics in their series opener at Guaranteed Rate Field in front of 25,370 fans.

After recording 18 hits in Thursday’s game against the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox were held to just seven on Friday, but it felt like fewer. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position.

Mike Pelfrey, who fell to 3-6 on the season, took a step back after delivering a strong performance in his last outing against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The 33-year-old struggled with his command against the A’s all night. He pitched 4 2/3 innings and issued five walks. Pelfrey also allowed all three runs on four hits and two homers.

The A’s got on the board early with a two-run shot to center field by Khris Davis. In the fifth, Pelfrey allowed another homer, a solo shot, to Matt Joyce to make it 3-0.

The White Sox bullpen staved off any further production and combined for 4 1/3 shutout innings between four relievers. But they weren’t able to generate any of their own.

Not even ejections from Tim Anderson and Rick Renteria could spark a cold offense.

The White Sox best chance came in the bottom of the ninth, where Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu opened with back-to-back singles. After an Avisail Garcia flyout, Todd Frazier popped one over A’s first baseman Yonder Alonso, but Abreu was thrown out at second. Matt Davidson flew out to center field at the warning track to end the game.

Friday marked the start of a season-long 10-game homestand, somewhere the White Sox were happy to be after playing 15 of their last 19 on the road.

Together again: Toews, Saad expect chemistry to return quickly

Together again: Toews, Saad expect chemistry to return quickly

Brandon Saad talked to plenty of people after he was traded back to the Blackhawks. Some were now ex-teammates from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Others, soon-to-be-teammates again from the Blackhawks.

One of the first people he talked to on Friday? Jonathan Toews.

“He’s someone I talked to shortly after it happened. He’s a guy I’ve always kept in touch with, great friend,” Saad said. “To be reunited, getting that chance to play with him again, he’s an incredible player and his resume speaks for itself. I look forward to trying to rekindle that.”

The two didn’t lose touch the past two years. Now that they’ll be reunited on the ice, they hope they didn’t lose the chemistry either. Saad and Toews formed a great combination a few years ago, a steadiness that’s been missing from the top line, especially at left wing, ever since. With Saad’s return, however, the Blackhawks are looking to get that top line consistent again.

[MORE: Blackhawks trade back, select Henri Jokiharju at No. 29

Toews was at the NHL Draft on Friday night, announcing the Blackhawks’ first-round pick with Patrick Kane. The thought of getting Saad back on his left wing was appealing.

“Well there’s no doubt getting an old teammate, an old friend back, another guy who shared that same bond, friendship and having the experience of winning a Cup together with Saader. I guess there’s some reconciliation because you know what you’re getting,” Toews said. “You know what type of guy he is and how he’s going to fit into the locker room and what he’s going to bring.”

Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman said via conference call today that, while Toews and Saad had great chemistry the first time around, Saad could fit with others. It all depends on what works best.

“That’s up to Joel [Quenneville] on where he wants to use him,” Bowman said. “No doubt they had tremendous chemistry; he found a home on Jonathan’s left wing. But the one thing I’m trying to stress to everyone, even internally, is we don’t want to look backward and replicate some old formula. He’s had great success with Jonathan and if they go back to that, great.”

Toews and Saad found their niche together pretty quickly the first time around. It’s only been two years since Saad departed, so finding that chemistry again shouldn’t take long at all.

“I don’t think so,” Toews said of chemistry taking long to rekindle. “You play at that caliber you just worry about your own game. Go out there and have fun. be prepared, be ready to roll and it shouldn’t take long for things to happen out there.”