Bears-Seahawks preview: Seahawks ball

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Bears-Seahawks preview: Seahawks ball

Stop Lynch, stop Seattlenot necessarily; rookie QB Wilson the real worry
The Seattle Seahawks really do just one thing very well on offense: give the ball to running back Marshawn Lynch.
Lynch is behind only Adrian Peterson and Arian Foster in NFL rushing ranks, going over 1,000 yards in 10 games and sitting at 1,051 through 11.
But the Bears have throttled Lynch the last three times they faced him, giving up just 44 rushing yards in their 2010 game and 42 in a loss last season. Not that it did them much good; the Seahawks won both regular-season games.
Indeed, Lynch powering for 100 yards actually does little good for the Seahawks, who traded fourth- and fifth-round picks to acquire him from the Buffalo Bills. Seattle is 6-6 in regular-season games when Lynch has rushed for 100 yards.
By contrast, the Bears in Lovie Smiths coaching tenure are 25-9 when they have a 100-yard rusher.
Lynch has topped 100 yards and averaged more than 4.5 yards per carry in four of his last five games. And the Bears have fallen from No. 1 against the run (77.1 yards per game) to No. 8 in just five games, albeit against a roll call of the NFLs elite backs: Foster, Peterson, Chris Johnson and Frank Gore.
Every week theres someone for us, linebacker Brian Urlacher said, laughing. But Lynch is a hard running back to tackle. He likes to get downhill, makes guys miss, (has) got great speed.
Wilson worries
But the considerably greater problem lies in Russell Wilson, a Wisconsin teammate of Bears tackle, now guard, Gabe Carimi.
Wilson was a borderline afterthought (for a quarterback) pick in this years draft, going to Seattle in the third round, 75th overall.
Wilson already has 17 touchdown passes (vs. eight interceptions), a completion percentage of 63.6 and passer rating of 93.9 better than Jay Cutlers career-bests for completions and rating and only slightly below Cutlers best per-game rate for TD passes (27 in 2009, when he also threw 26 interceptions).
Wilson has thrown seven TD passes and zero interceptions in the last three games, and no interceptions in his last 80 passes. He set an NFL rookie record with 16 consecutive completions in last Sundays Seahawks loss at Miami.
He is listed at 5-11 so clearly too short to be an NFL quarterback, right?
What you have to do is keep him in the pocket and make him throw from a well, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Thats what youd like to be able to do. But thats where the problems come because hes tough to keep in there...
He forces you to defend the width of the field as a pass rusher. He runs a little bit of option, read-option, so you've got to defend that.
The problem is that Wilson is accustomed to throwing out of wells, or at least getting out of them in order to throw.
I know that Im a shorter quarterback, Wilson said. I know that I have to stay tall. I know that I have to have a high, quick release, throw the ball on time. I know I have to understand the game and understand the defenses. I think thats what helps me. I know where people are going, I know where theyre going to be, and obviously my feet help me a little bit too to extend the play and get away from some pressure at times.
Rookie QB? So what?
The Bears have beaten Andrew Luck (Indianapolis) this season in their only game against a rookie quarterback, a notion that is fast becoming irrelevant with the performances of rookies like Luck, Wilson and Robert Griffin III in Washington this season, and Cam Newton and Andy Dalton last year.
Indeed, rookie quarterback is a meaningless standard for assessing Wilson. He has out-performed Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Tony Romo and Newton already this season.
The Seahawks won all four of those games.
All things considered, however, the Bears are just fine with facing a rookie.
He's got a laser for an arm, said linebacker Lance Briggs. He's short -- everybody knows that, that hurt him in the draft and all that good stuff. He's a smart guy, he's producing, they're getting some wins.
But at the end of the day he's still a rookie. He's still a rookie, and you get pressure on him, keep him in the pocket and force him to beat us.

Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Blackhawks break late tie to best rival Blues

Patrick Kane scored his 24th goal of the season and Artem Anisimov scored the game-winner as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Sunday night.

The Blackhawks have won nine of their last 10 and are one point within the Minnesota Wild, whose bye ends on Monday night. Duncan Keith recorded a secondary assist for his 500th career point. Scott Darling, starting for Corey Crawford (illness), stopped 30 of 32 shots.

The Blackhawks got off to a 2-0 start in the first 12 minutes of the game, thanks to Jonathan Toews' 16th goal of the season and Kane's power-play goal. But the Blues kept chipping away and forced a tie game by the end of the second period.

But the second line, which hasn't been quite as productive lately, got in on the act late in the third. Panarin threw a perfect feed to Anisimov, who scored his 22nd of the season with 5:20 remaining in regulation.

Tanner Kero added an empty-net goal with 2.6 seconds remaining.

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

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USA TODAY

Illini keep NCAA tournament hopes afloat with dominant win over Nebraska

Illinois' last-ditch effort to reach the NCAA tournament is still alive.

The Illini won for the third straight time and the fourth time in their last five games Sunday night, using a monstrous second half to fly past the Nebraska Cornhuskers by a 73-57 score in Lincoln.

Illinois started the Big Ten season 3-8, but with this recent surge it's up to 7-9 and with two regular-season games remaining has at the very least given itself a much better position in the upcoming Big Ten Tournament and perhaps has played itself into a spot on the NCAA tournament bubble.

Defense has been the driving force throughout this recent stretch, and Sunday was no different, with Nebraska scoring just 57 points, the second straight game in which Illinois has held its opponent under 60 points.

But offense told the story Sunday, with the Illini catching fire in the second half and shooting the lights out at Pinnacle Bank Arena. Illinois shot 59.1 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, including a stellar 8-for-13 from 3-point range. The Illini outscored the Huskers by a 43-29 margin after halftime.

All in all, Illinois shot 48.1 percent on the night and 13-for-26 from behind the 3-point line. The Illini's 73-point output was their highest since Jan. 25.

Malcolm Hill had a game-high 19 points and moved past Cory Bradford for fifth place on the program's all-time scoring list. Tracy Abrams joined Hill in double figures with 13 points. Hill and Abrams each hit four 3-pointers. Maverick Morgan scored 12 points.

Tai Webster scored 17 points for Nebraska, the only Husker in double figures on a poor offensive night. The team shot 37.5 percent from the field and went just 4-for-15 from 3-point range.

Illinois still seems like a bit of a longshot to make the NCAA tournament given its 17-12 overall record and the weakness of the Big Ten this season. But things are getting real late in the season. This surge could very well help the Illini end their three-year tournament drought and could do big things for head coach John Groce, who has had his job status talked about all season long.

Illinois' final two regular-season bouts come this week against Michigan State and at Rutgers.