Defense deserves credit and blame for Carolina result

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Defense deserves credit and blame for Carolina result

The defense has been the answer for Bears problems in 2012. But while everyone was staring at the offense in the three-quarters debacle against the Carolina Panthers, the defense was a question.

Indeed, blame defense for no small part of the mess that the Bears found themselves in against the Panthers. While the offense couldnt stay on it, the defense couldnt get off it.

Like the offense, the defense turned its game on and around in the fourth quarter. A three-and-out plus Tim Jennings game-changing interception helped save the afternoon.

But the defense held the Carolina offense without a first down on only one of the first nine possessions. For the game, the Panthers had six drives of 45 yards or longer and Carolina sustained drives of eight (twice) 11, 12 and 17 yards, part of why the Panthers after three quarters held a 369-61 advantage in yards and were on the field effectively 30 of the first 45 minutes.

Field goals, schmield goals

The feel-good perspective would be that none of those drives ended in touchdowns. The defense held the Panthers to field goals.

Even when things werent going well, defensively we kept them to field goals and didnt let them get as many touchdowns, said coach Lovie Smith.

When someone drives 80, 74 and 63 yards on you, and drives from their 20 for a late go-ahead field goal, you didnt hold them to anything.

With the game in its hands after Tim Jennings interception, the defense allowed the Panthers to control the ball for 11 plays and move down the field for a go-ahead field goal with a little more than 2 minutes to play, albeit with 15 yards of help on a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty on Israel Idonije.

The Bears ran just 53 total plays on offense; that was a problem. The Panthers ran 77 plays; that was a bigger problem. Only the Detroit Lions (84, second 2011 game) and New England Patriots 78) had more snaps in regulation over the last two-and-a-half seasons.

As ineffectual as the offense was, that groups failure to stay on the field isnt an excuse for the defense dragging. The 17-play and one of the eights were in the second quarter, and the Panthers wet 80 yards in 12 plays on their first possession of the third quarter, after the defense had halftime and a couple minutes of Bears possession to rest.

If the defense was tired on those drives, the strength and conditioning coach should be fired (he shouldnt).

How they think

The Lovie SmithRod Marinelli scheme is sometimes characterized as bend-dont-break. Not exactly.

The front four plays a one-gap, up-the-field attack approach. It is not a wide-body, two-gap style. Behind them, the mindset is about controlling the game.

Sooner or later somebody is going to make a play, Jennings said. We know its tough to drive the field on us. Were going to give up plays but we want to keep things in front of us and hopefully theyre going to break before we do. Thats our mentality.

The problem on Sunday was that the Panthers werent breaking. Carolina converted seven of its first 12 third downs and had 10 plays of 15 yards or longer; the Bears had three.

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

White Sox: Jose Quintana pleased with final warmup before Opening Day start

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Jose Quintana was pleased with his final warmup before Opening Day.

The White Sox Opening Day starter threw 48 pitches (30 strikes) against a Milwaukee Brewers minor league team at Camelback Ranch on Tuesday. Quintana allowed two hits, two runs (one earned), walked one and struck out three in three-plus innings. He next pitches at home on Monday against the Detroit Tigers.

"I finished my preparation on a high note," Quintana said. "I'm heading to the season with good energy and satisfied with all the worked and effort that I put in my preparation.

"I'm absolutely ready for the season to start."

A tweet from USA Today's Bob Nightengale on Tuesday suggested Quintana will start the season as a member of the White Sox despite myriad rumors. Nightengale noted that the Houston Astros refuse budge on what they're willing to pay for the 2016 All-Star. The White Sox have also held firm on their asking price and haven't been motivated by any of the offers they've received to move Quintana.

The team reduced the number of players still in camp to 34 on Tuesday with the trade of Peter Bourjos and by cutting nonroster invitees Cory Luebke and Matt Purke. Luebke, who has been sidelined for six days after he tweaked his hamstring, finished the spring with a 0.96 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. He can opt out of his minor-league deal in May. Purke struck out eight in eight innings and finished with a 2.25 ERA. 

Both had been in the mix for one of two open bullpen spots.

Fellow reliever Jake Petricka looked much calmer on Tuesday than he did after taking a comebacker off his hand Monday. X-rays were negative and Petricka played catch. He hopes to pitch as scheduled this weekend in Milwaukee. 

"This is just one of those you do everything you can do to stay healthy, and its part of the game you can't control," Petricka said. "You never want that to happen, especially this late in camp. "But we dodged a bullet and we're good to go."

The White Sox also had a close call with second baseman Tyler Saladino, who was hit by a pitch in the left wrist in minor league action on Monday. Saladino received treatment and could return to action on Wednesday.

"He's doing good, we're just holding him back today for my well being," Renteria said.

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Renteria said reliever Juan Minaya is improving but still likely to start the season on the DL. Minaya suffered an abdominal tear in mid-March. 

"He has been improving solidly and responding to the treatments," Renteria said.

Yolmer Sanchez went 2-for-2 with an RBI and scored a run in a 7-4 loss to the Kansas City Royals at Surprise, Ariz. 

Michael Ynoa allowed an unearned run and a hit in 2 1/3 scoreless innings. 

Zack Burdi struck out three in a scoreless inning.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Cubs wrapping up spring training

Today on the Sports Talk Live podcast, David Kaplan, Seth Gruen, Teddy Greenstein, and Mark Grote discussed Addison Russell’s injury, if Szczur or La Stella should get the Cubs final roster spot, if the Bulls would be better off facing the Celtics or Cavs in the first round of the playoffs, and Jay Cutler’s butt all over the internet.