Grades: A woeful offensive performance

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Grades: A woeful offensive performance

The concussion suffered by Jay Cutler overshadowed some elements of the game played by the offense.
But not all.
The offense was presented with the ball at the Chicago 45, its 37 and the Houston 45. The result: zero points, three turnovers and 10 plays in arguably the worst single quarter of the 2012 season. Of the Bears 14 possessions, nine started at no worse than the Chicago 35, yet the offense managed just six points for the game.
It is not automatically a positive that the Bears offense got better when Cutler was out.
The defense, as it has so frequently through this half-season, gave the Bears opportunities on Tim Jennings interceptions twice in the first 16 minutes. Devin Hester returned Houstons punt after the first possession to the Chicago 45. None of hose mattered.
The problem is that the offense turned those into just three points. The offense gave away the ball on its first two first-quarter possessions on fumbles, by Kellen Davis and Michael Bush, when players simply failed to secure the ball on basic tackles, no overt strip. Add to that Cutlers puzzling mis-throw toward Davis and the Bears were very lucky to end the first quarter down just 3-0.
In the end, luck had nothing to do with it.
QUARTERBACK    D
Jay Cutler threw 14 passes. Seven were caught by his receivers, two were caught by Texans and five were caught by no one. His 16.7 passer rating was the second-lowest of his career behind only his 7.9 in 2009 at Baltimore.
Cutlers first interception thrown into double coverage to Kellen Davis was a poor decision and wasted a first-quarter scoring opportunity after a Jennings interception. He squandered a drive in the Houston end with another throw into coverage, forced toward Brandon Marshall.
Jason Campbell was an upgrade, at least for the moment. Campbell completed 11 of 19 for 94 yards, 45 of those coming on a toss to Marshall. The Texans committed to taking away anything deep but Campbell, the receivers and backs were not able to exploit anything underneath.
RUNNING BACK    D
Matt Forte was controlled with 39 yards on 16 carries (2.4 ypc.), the first time this season he was held below four yards per carry. Forte had no run longer than eight yards and was less than ineffective in the passing game, with five receptions for a net two yards (minus-1.5 yd. average).
Michael Bush had a 20-yard carry but squandered a scoring drive with a fumble after a good fourth-down conversion run in Houstons end in the first quarter. Backs provided support in pass protection with fullback Evan Rodriguez delivering solid blocks that helped keep Bears quarterbacks from being sacked.
RECEIVERS   F
Brandon Marshall recorded his standard 100-yard game (107) with eight catches. But the rest of the receiving group was close to useless, particularly the tight end group.
Kellen Davis position in the starting lineup has to be evaluated. His fumble on the Bears first play after a big Devin Hester punt return was a disastrous start in a game where the Bears desperately needed a fast start. Davis also committed a decisive drop late in the fourth quarter on what would have been a big third-down conversion. Davis finished with one reception from the five passes on which he was targeted.
Matt Spaeth caught all three of the passes thrown to him but for a total of four yards. He got no depth on routes and netted five yards on one catch, meaning his net was minus-1 on two other catches. Kyle Adams had one reception for seven yards.
Devin Hester produced little from his two receptions, a total of four yards. Earl Bennett caught one ball for nine yards.
OFFENSIVE LINE   C-
A difficult group to assess. The run game was effectively stuffed virtually the entire game but Bears quarterbacks were unsacked for the first time this season against one of the leagues best attacking fronts.
The Texans moved rush terror J.J. Watt to multiple spots for matchups, including most of the first quarter against JMarcus Webb. Webb and Gabe Carimi got some help from their guards but both held up well against one of the NFLs elite pass rushers. Watt had no sacks, two tackles, one tackle for loss and one quarterback hit. No passes defensed by someone with 10 on the year.
The Bears were without penalty in the first half but saved the worst til last. Chilo Rachal drew a false-start flag in the third quarter and holding in the fourth. Carimi had his holding penalty on the Bears final possession.
COACHING     C-
Deciding what is poor execution and what was poor design is never easy. Play calling was surprising. The offense had 19 running plays and 37 pass plays (including quarterback runs off pass calls). The Houston defense schemed to take away the deep balls in the second half but too many plays were designed for less than yardage for first downs and little effort was made to loosen a defense that was giving up very little underneath.
The 150 yards in the second half after 99 in the first were a step in the right direction but not enough to overcome shortcomings in all areas.

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with'

The majority of the talk surrounding Tuesday night's pitching matchup at Guaranteed Rate Field will be focused on the guy pitching against the White Sox.

Chris Sale returned to the South Side for the first time since being traded to the Boston Red Sox this past offseason, and he'll take the mound against his former teammates Tuesday. But the White Sox, who traded away one of the best pitchers in baseball, will be sending another All-Star hurler to the mound to oppose Sale.

Jose Quintana gets the ball for the White Sox, and while the attention will be squarely on Sale — and the emotions he does or does not show and the reaction he receives from the fans — Quintana will have his own emotional roller coaster going on, pitching against a guy who served as a mentor of sorts for the first five seasons of his career.

"Throwing on the same day will be a different feeling for me because he was the best teammate I ever played with," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling watching him go against me after the last four years when he was my teammate. We talked last night. He said, ‘Hey, I’m in town. I can’t wait to see you guys.’ So I’m excited to play against him."

Sale had a few years on Quintana in major league service, but the duo looked like they would be a near-untouchable 1-2 combo at the front of the White Sox pitching rotation for years to come.

They both represented the White Sox at the All-Star Game last season and both finished in the top 10 in voting for the American League Cy Young Award.

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Sale was shipped to the Red Sox to start the White Sox rebuilding effort, breaking up that duo leading the staff. But as is often the case, it's not the performances and the statistics that Quintana misses the most about Sale but rather the qualities he brought as a teammate.

"I learned from his focus on the game and his passion for baseball," Quintana said. "We talked a lot over the years. But the first thing I learned from him was focus.

"I miss him. He was one of my best teammates ever that I played with. I understand it was part of the game. It’s a business and that happens. ... I miss his energy. We have a lot of guys here with energy too, but I miss the energy he had every time we talked in the dugout, watching the game."

Sale is having one of the best campaigns of any pitcher in baseball through the season's first two months. And while Quintana's start has been shaky at times, he's still the White Sox ace. It's that standing, though, that has had his name the subject of plenty of trade rumors during the offseason, spring training and since Opening Day. There is an expectation, warranted or not, that he will soon join Sale in departing the White Sox for a big prospect haul.

Until then, though, Quintana is taking over for Sale as the team's No. 1. The two old mates will go head to head Tuesday night in a monumental matchup, and Quintana is already projecting that focus he learned from Sale.

"I have just one game, and I have my focus on throwing the ball well for my team, to get a 'W.' That’s my focus every time, to do my job," Quintana said. "It will be a different feeling because I’m pitching against him, but I don’t want to pay attention to the other team. I just want to do my job."

Chris Sale has 'no hard feelings' as he returns to face White Sox

Chris Sale has 'no hard feelings' as he returns to face White Sox

Though he had a “couple blips on the radar,” including a few high-profile instances last season, Chris Sale has no regrets about his White Sox tenure.

The former pitcher returned to Guaranteed Rate Field as an opponent for the first time on Monday morning and said the majority of his White Sox memories are fond. The five-time All-Star takes the mound for the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday night in a highly anticipated matchup against former teammate Jose Quintana. Despite an, at times, intense final campaign that included a five-game suspension imposed by the club for destruction of team property, Sale wouldn’t change anything about his six seasons with the White Sox.

“It got me to where I am today,” Sale said. “Can't change the past, just try to become better in the future. Appreciative of my time here, the people I met here, the relationships I built, most of the things I did here, too. I'm appreciative of everybody involved that got me to this point right here. Without a lot of people in this building I wouldn't be sitting here right now, that's for sure.”

Sale’s current seat is atop the world.

Not only does he pitch for a perennial contender at “buzzing” Fenway Park, Sale has thrived. He’s 5-2 with a 2.34 ERA and 101 strikeouts in 73 innings over 10 starts. During those 10 turns Sale tied the major league record he already shared with Pedro Martinez with at least 10 strikeouts in eight consecutive starts.

It’s all part of a transition he has found easier than he expected. Sale spent spring training at home because the Red Sox train in Florida. He also has liked working with Boston pitching coach Carl Willis and appreciates a fresh set of eyes.

“It wasn’t as crazy as I thought,” Sale said. “Boston has been nothing but great to me.”

If Sale holds any ill will toward the White Sox front office, he wasn’t letting on.

The 2010 first-round draft pick is still highly thought of within the White Sox clubhouse and known as a great teammate. Quintana and James Shields both called Sale one of the best teammates they’ve played with in their careers. Nate Jones described Sale as a “model citizen” who stood up for what he believed in. Those beliefs led to Sale erupting twice publicly during the 2016 campaign, including a lengthy rant in spring training directed at executive vice president Kenny Williams after Adam LaRoche’s abrupt retirement. In July, Sale objected to the team wearing throwback uniforms and cut them to pieces during batting practice, which led to a five-game suspension for insubordination.

[MORE: Jose Quintana on Tuesday opponent Chris Sale: 'He was the best teammate I ever played with']

But Sale sounds as if he has moved on.

“There's no hard feelings,” Sale said.

He admits there could be a few strange moments on Tuesday night when he sets foot on the mound. Sale had already experienced some abnormal emotions when he set foot in the building he called home for seven seasons for the first time since last October. Aside from a brief visit following a 2015 brawl with the Kansas City Royals, Sale set foot in the visiting clubhouse for the first time -- “a little longer walk,” he said. He wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more in store when he faces some former teammates on Tuesday.

“It's going to be hard not to crack a couple of smiles out there, just because I spent a lot of time with these guys,” Sale said. “These guys were my teammates for a handful of years, some of them. We've had some good times together so it would be hard not to smile out there.”

Sale looks forward to Tuesday’s atmosphere and has thought about how he’ll be received by White Sox fans. He said he feels like he run into more White Sox fans since he’s left than when he played on the South Side. While he’ll be a little nervous, Sale said he expects he’ll have fun with the experience.

“I just want to let everyone know that I appreciated my time here,” Sale said. “There’s a couple of blips on the radar amongst a lot of really good times. So more times than not it was great. I appreciated it.  I always had good teammates. I always had a great coaching staff. I’m appreciative of that so I don’t want to lose sight of that.”