Bulls need to follow the yellow brick road

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Bulls need to follow the yellow brick road

It's not enough that the Bulls are losing in the playoffs to a bad team. It's insulting, in fact. Especially when Coach Tom Thibodeau still insists on saying "we have more than enough to win" after Friday night's Game 3 loss to the Sixers.

But, to add another devastating injury to the mix is utterly disheartening.

Joakim Noah left the game in the third quarter with a sprained left ankle. He tried to return to game action and played briefly but hobbled so badly it was brutal to watch. It will go down as either the gutsiest moment of the playoffs or the dumbest move ever as he risked further injury to the ankle.

It's just the latest blow to the Bulls who have dealt with one bad injury after another this season. If Derrick Rose is the soul of the team, Noah is it's heart. Now, down 2-1 in the series, the Bulls resemble characters from the "Wizard of Oz."

The entire team seems to be looking for courage and heart to somehow fight their way back in this series. But they don't need to go all the way to Oz. Maybe they need only look to the other end of the floor. The Sixers seem to have stolen much of the strength and will to win that have been a familiar part of the Bulls modus operandi, but seems to have completely disappeared.

Thibodeau is the brains behind the team. The Wizard has nothing on Thibs who won Coach of the Year honors last season and finished runner-up in the voting this year. Why, then, didn't he know better than to put Noah back in the game, and why can't he find the right rotation in the fourth quarter to close it out?

Nobody wants to be Dorothy here. Nobody wants to go home after Round 1.

With this latest collapse and the injury to Noah, I can't help but think there's a wicked witch out there messing with the Bulls' playoff hopes. Like Glinda advises in 'Oz, you have to find it within yourself to get what you want. The Bulls need to dig deep now, follow the yellow brick road or risk staying on this path that leads them nowhere.

Watch: Penn State kicker Joey Julius lays huge hit on Michigan return man

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Watch: Penn State kicker Joey Julius lays huge hit on Michigan return man

Joey Julius is not your average kicker.

The Penn State leg has a significant amount more mass than the run-of-the-miller kicker, and he uses it to great effect.

Saturday, Julius — who is listed on the Nittany Lions' roster at 258 pounds — laid a huge hit on Michigan return man Jourdan Lewis.

Take a look:

That's not even the first time that's happened this season, though.

Check out this Julius hit from the Week 1 win over Kent State:

Return men might want to steer clear of Julius going forward.

Bears reactive offense in need of radical reversal

Bears reactive offense in need of radical reversal

The space between games is typically filled with all kinds of words, sometimes with sound and fury signifying nothing, but sometimes revealing and, if you are an 0-2 football team, concerning.

Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains, two games into his gig in place of Adam Gase, has underscored the John Fox philosophy of their team being a running football team. But if that is to be the Bears’ identity, it was not apparent from Loggains.

Instead of the Bears moving toward a team that can impose its will on a defense and run its plan, Loggains indicated that the Bears’ identity depends upon what an opponent lets it be. The sense is an offense that is reacting, not acting.

“Well I think it depends on how the defense is playing you,” Loggains said in response to an offense-identity question. “Some of the stuff, they're going to play single-high, there are things that are advantageous vs. it, and Philadelphia started playing a lot more Cover-2 and clouding Alshon [Jeffery] a little bit in the second half. It really depends on what the defense is doing to you.”

Defenses can dictate what offenses can do or be. If a team is willing to sell out to stop something, it usually can. If the offense is being denied its primary route to success, then it behooves the unit and its boss to exploit whatever weakness is created within a defense gearing to stop something.

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Through two games, in which the Bears were either leading (Houston) or down by two points (Philadelphia), only five teams have run the football fewer times than the Bears (38). This after the organization invested heavy capital in a physical guard (Josh Sitton) and shuffled the offensive line to work Sitton in.

One adjustment expected Sunday vs. the Dallas Cowboys is an increased role for rookie running back Jordan Howard, who flashed in his three carries in the loss to the Eagles but saw the offense turn back to Jeremy Langford. Howard is bigger and blessed with greater power than either Langford or Ka’Deem Carey, who is out this week with a hamstring strain.

After running the football 46 percent of the time last year, even with a 6-10 record, the Bears are running on just 37 percent of their plays in 2016 in spite of presumed upgrades at left guard (Sitton), right tackle (Bobby Massie), right guard (moving Kyle Long back to his preferred spot) and center (rookie Cody Whitehair, a No. 2 pick).

“We would like to be able to run the ball when we need to,” Loggains stated. “We want to stay balanced, we want to play the games on our terms, and right now, we need to run the ball better to play the game in our terms.”