Beware the 'game manager' and Gore

943905.png

Beware the 'game manager' and Gore

While the Bears were going through their Jason Campbell-or-Jay Cutler drama, the San Francisco 49ers were going through one of their own.

Starting quarterback Alex Smiths recovery from a concussion last Sunday had him still going through the evaluation process as late as Friday. If not Smith, then Colin Kaepernick, one of the 2011 quarterback draft class that included Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Jake Locker and Blaine Gabbert.

The real problem, however

The 49ers offense runs, literally, through Frank Gore. The weekly goal of the Bears defense is to render the opposing offense one-dimensional by shutting down the run first.

Not always a simple task. The Bears went 18 straight games without allowing a back to rush for 100 yards; there have been two in the past two weeks, Chris Johnson (141) in Tennessee and Arian Foster (102).

The Bears will including Foster, Gore and Johnson, the Bears will face top-eight rushers in six straight games beginning with the Titans.

But Gore is their immediate problem.

The 49ers are the NFLs No. 1 rushing offense with 170 yards per game. Over the last 25 games Gore has rushed for 1,964 yards and 13 touchdowns on 422 carries, seventh in the NFL over that span.

Hes one of the better running backs in the NFL, if you ask me, said linebacker Brian Urlacher. Very underrated, doesnt get a lot of pub but he does a lot of the dirty work for them. Just get a bunch of guys to the football. Theres going to be some missed tackles. Thats just the way the game goes.

But if we get 11 guys to the football, wrap him up, we should be OK. Hes going to make some plays, though. Hes a good running back.

Very, very good in fact. San Francisco is 18-1-1 when gore and running back Kendall Hunter combine for 20 or more carries. It is a formula favored by the Bears but San Francisco just does it better.

They run the ball, Urlacher said. Theyre big up front, big, athletic offensive linemen, great skill players. They dont make a lot of mistakes with the football. Theyve allowed some sacks but they run the ball so well, they dont get behind the sticks so much. They just keep trying to pound it.

Kaepernick vs. Smith

While the Bears will never say it, they would much prefer to face an San Francisco offense directed by Kaepernick.

The reason: The Bears defensive scheme likes impatience in a quarterback. Smith does not have nearly enough of that at this point of his career. The Bears do sound more afraid of what he wont do turn the ball over than what he will.

I just think hes a great quarterback, said defensive tackle Henry Melton. But I think they really love that running game, and hes just kind of there to just dont mess up the game, kind of.

Kind of.

He doesnt want to get that turnover just like every quarterback shouldnt if youve got a great defense, Melton said. You should try to not have any turnovers. Thats what I see him back there doing.

Hes actually doing a good bit more. Smith ranks No. 1 in the NFL in completion percentage (70.0) and is third in the league in passer rating (104.1). The 49ers are getting the Bears backup; the Bears hope they are getting San Franciscos.

Theyre both extremely mobile. No. 7 Kaepernik has got some juice but Alex has some mobility, too, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Nice job in the pocket, a little bit of option football in there, and they stretch you with personnel packages.

Theyve got a great formula going for them.

Pedigree O

The attention of the week has focused on Jason Campbell dealing with a San Francisco defense that allows a league-low 14.1 points per game. But the firepower coming to bear on the Chicago defense is cause for concern.

The 49ers start seven No. 1s on offense Smith, Gore, three offensive linemen and two wide receivers. They have three No. 1s, two 2s and a 3 on the bench.

They know how to run the ball, they have a plan and they stick to it, Marinelli said.

Only five teams have given the ball away fewer times than San Franciscos nine.

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

miguel_montero_cubbies.jpg
AP

Wake-up Call: Miggy gets the boot; Rodon's rocky debut; More bad news for Cubs?

Where it all went wrong for Cubs and Miguel Montero

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

Kris Bryant’s sprained ankle is more bad news for Cubs: ‘You can’t cry about it’

Can Leonard Floyd break out in 2017? The Bears like the early signs

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: What's next for Blackhawks as free agency looms?

Preview: Cubs wrap up series with Nationals today on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Yankees tonight on CSN

Bulls Talk Podcast: An NBA gone wild and Zach LaVine sit down interview

How Rick Renteria has tried to help White Sox players combat travel fatigue

What pushed Theo Epstein over the edge in making Miguel Montero decision: ‘It screamed out’

 

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

White Sox willing to overlook 'rough' patches as healthy Carlos Rodon returns

The two fastballs that soared to the backstop on Wednesday night should give you a strong indication that Carlos Rodon was far from perfect.

But in making his first start of the 2017 season, the White Sox pitcher also offered his team plenty of signals that his health isn’t going to be an issue.

Rodon returned to the mound for the first time since last September and brought the goods that made him one of baseball’s top pitching prospects several years ago. Given he’d missed three months with bursitis in the left shoulder and the potential value he offers to a franchise only half a season into its first rebuild in 20 years, that was plenty for the White Sox to overlook the rust Rodon showed in a 12-3 White Sox loss to the New York Yankees at Guaranteed Rate Field.

“He started a little rough early obviously, got some high pitch counts,” manager Rick Renteria said. “And then he kind of settled down.

“Having him back in the rotation and getting him back out there on the big league field, coming out of there feeling good, healthy. I'm sure he will continue to get better as he continues to get out there and move forward.”

Renteria said he wasn’t surprised that Rodon struggled with his command as much as he did against the Yankees. The issues the pitcher displayed in uncorking a pair of wild pitches, walking six batters and throwing strikes on only 41 of 94 pitches were also present during Rodon’s four rehab starts in the minors.

But as long as the stuff was there, the White Sox would be OK with any issues that accompanied the performance. Rodon began to alleviate those concerns immediately when he earned a called strike on the game’s first pitch with a 93-mph fastball to Brett Gardner. Featuring a four-seamer with an absurd amount of movement and a nasty slider he struggled to control, Rodon checked all the boxes the White Sox hoped for from a pitcher they believe will be a frontline starter for years to come. Rodon also was pleased by how he felt before, during and after the contest.

“I was pretty excited,” Rodon said. “I was going a little fast in the first. But it was good to be out there. Next time out, it’ll hopefully be a little better. Arm feels good, body feels good, all you can ask for.”

Well, it’s not ALL you can ask for, but it’s pretty damn good out of the gate given how slow Rodon’s return took. His four-seam fastball averaged 94.9 mph according to BrooksBaseball.Net and touched 97 mph. His two-seamer averaged 94.4 mph and touched 95. And his slider, though he couldn’t control it, nor locate it for a strike, averaged 86 mph.

“You could see (Omar Narvaez) going over to try to catch some balls that were having tremendous run,” Renteria said. “That's (Rodon). He's got some tremendous life, he's just trying to harness it the best that he can and being able to execute where he wants to get as many strikes as possible.”

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

The strikes were about the only thing Rodon didn’t bring with him. He walked Gardner to start the game and issued two more free passes after a Tim Anderson error allowed a run to score and extended the first inning. Rodon threw 37 pitches in the first, only 15 for strikes.

He also reached a full count to each of the batters he faced in the second inning. Rodon walked two more with two outs in the third inning after he’d retired six batters in a row.

And there were those pesky first-inning wild pitches that resembled something out of ‘Bull Durham.’

But all in all, Rodon and the White Sox ultimately saw enough in the first outing to be pleased.

“Great stuff, great life, but the goal is to put it in the zone and let them swing it to get guys out early,” Rodon said. “That’s not what happened. I’ll get back to that.”

“It’s a tough loss, but it’s better to be with the guys out on the field grinding than sitting on the couch and watching, for sure.”