Changes expected on Bears offensive line

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Changes expected on Bears offensive line

The assault on the Bears' offensive line didnt end when the group left San Francisco last Monday night. Offensive coordinator Mike Tice said Wednesday that the performances that allowed six sacks of Jason Campbell were being evaluated with an eye toward changing what and who didnt work.

And the quarterback who is expected to be behind that line Sunday against Jared Allen and the Minnesota Vikings was virtually conceding that the front five as it is currently constituted wasnt going to be enough.

Were going to have to help them, said quarterback Jay Cutler. Going to have to do some stuff protection-wise, chip, slant some guys, get the backs involved, some of the tight ends, be smart with our play-calling, try to limit the second-and-longs, third-and-long.

Theres a lot of things to do but ultimately theres going to be some times where weve got to let those five block and theyre going to have to do their jobs well.

That did not happen against San Francisco, where the only blockers to receive tolerable grades were center Roberto Garza and right guard Lance Louis. Not enough.

We have a couple of guys who are solid, who we can win with, Tice said. If three guys fail, you dont have much of a chance.

Right tackle Gabe Carimi was repeatedly embarrassed by bull rushes from undersized edge rusher Aldon Smith. Tice pointedly said of all his lineman that sometimes you have to buck up and win a fight, speaking about the inability of the tackles to handle straight-ahead power rushes.

Its pretty hard to chip and help out on bull rushes, Tice said.

Carimi went down in Week 2 last year with a season-ending knee injury. He has not indicated any problems this preseason and through the first 10 games of his de facto rookie season and Tice acknowledged that Carimi has handled himself as a professional.

But at the end of the day we all need better results," Tice said. Gabe is intense and if something happens early, he gets all worked up and doesnt settle down. It compounds and its happened more than once.

The alternative in a straight-up switch is veteran Jonathan Scott, signed after the first game but whose use has been largely as a third tight end.

Louis shifted from guard to tackle in 2010 and performed well enough in the Bears run to the NFC Championship game. But he has become arguably the Bears best lineman inside, a key if the Bears have any hope of establishing a viable run game.

In any case, Cutler left no doubt that what the front five did against the 49ers would not allow the Bears to be a winning football team.

The way we played against the 49ers, no, Cutler said. Were not going to be successful against anybody playing like that. But I dont think thats who they are. I think theyre better than that. Were going to have to do some things to help them out as well.

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

Wonky streaks, good fortune over Cavs on the line for Bulls

No matter the metric or the occasion, the only thing definitive about the Bulls over the last two seasons has been their mystifying dominance over the Cleveland Cavaliers in head-to-head matchups.

That, and their fascinating streak of consecutive wins while playing at home on TNT, a streak that could end at 19 games Thursday night when the two teams with varying objectives clash at the United Center.

The Cavaliers are searching to find themselves, along with a light switch that will perhaps alert them to a lost defense over the past several weeks that has been worst in the league since the All-Star break.

The Bulls are searching for consistency, but since it’s probably a little too late in the season for that, they’ll settle for a playoff spot with eight games left.

They’ll take two straight wins for the first time in a month, if they can get it.

They’ll extend a goofy streak, if that’s what things will come down to.

“The big thing is obviously you have to execute very well against this Cleveland team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “You have to go out there with great urgency, great energy. I anticipate them coming in and playing with a ton of energy tomorrow. We’re going to have to match that. We’re going to have to come out and play physical basketball.”

Having a big break between games this late in the season is a rarity, as the Bulls have been off since Sunday evening, but it’s just another weird detail in this weird Bulls experience.

An experience that the mild-mannered Hoiberg has to experience from his couch some nights, such as watching the Miami Heat furiously steal a game in Detroit at the buzzer with a Hasaan Whiteside tip-in to extend a lead over his team to a game, followed by another win Wednesday to put more distance between the two teams.

“I did, actually,” said Hoiberg with a smirk when asked if he’s scoreboard watching and paying attention to the teams ahead of the Bulls in the playoff race.

After being prompted to give his raw emotions when Whiteside’s tip-in occurred, he slipped right back to Robo-Hoiberg—although one can imagine how animated he must’ve been while looking to catch a break from a previous contender for the eighth spot in the Pistons.

“It is what it is,” Hoiberg said. “You have to go out and worry about yourselves at this time of year. It was a great finish for Miami, obviously, the way that game ended. But there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve got to worry about yourselves and hopefully go out and execute.”

Going 6-1 against the Cavaliers in his two seasons as Bulls coach is probably the biggest feather in his cap, including three wins in all three meetings this go round.

The rhyme or reason doesn’t seem explainable, but Nikola Mirotic seemed to give a few keys to the Bulls’ success over LeBron James’ Cavaliers: Sharing the ball, controlling the glass and getting back on defense.

“Against big teams, we play much better,” Mirotic said. “I don’t know why is the reason for that. We need to find a way to play against everybody like that. It’s on us. We just have to prove it.”

Usually, those tenets seem to work against most teams, not just the supremely talented champions who’ve just lost a grip on first place in the conference.

But their inconsistencies have left the Bulls here with a handful of games left before the April 12th finale.

A win over Cleveland could mean everything, or nothing at all, or something in between.

“Sure, we understand,” Mirotic said. “We’ve been in a very similar situation last year. We didn’t make the playoffs so this year we want to try to make that push. I think we have a good schedule for the last. Very important game tomorrow, huge one. I think we have played very well against Cleveland until now. We have a chance. We need to get out there and play with energy.” 

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