Missed opps, and now a season nearing the brink

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Missed opps, and now a season nearing the brink

Losing three out of four games constitutes falling off a seasons cliff for the Bears after a 7-1 start. No longer are they in any discussion of the NFLs best and they are in danger of being able to look over the edge at the abyss, which in the NFL is no-playoffs.

The Bears will probably clear the bar without real difficulty, although their two gimmes on the schedule are both away games, at Arizona and at Detroit, two teams with a combined eight wins for the season. The chance was there on Sunday against the Seattle Seahawks to move past the San Francisco 49ers into the No. 2 seed and a first-round playoff bye, and now the Bears are a wild-card team.

Which may not be a bad thing. The last two Super Bowl winners (Green Bay, New York Giants) played no playoff games at home. And the Bears had home-field losses to exit the 2001 and 2005 postseason in one-and-done fashion, and their 2010 NFC Championship loss was at home.

Indianapolis Colts (8-4) W 41-21

Balanced identity established with 33-35 run pass ratio and O runs up 428 yards with Jay Cutler throwing for 333 yards and 2 TDs to go with rushing TDs by Michael Bush (2) and Matt Forte (1) as part of 122 rushing yards. Nice to have caught this team while Andrew Luck was still a puppy.

@ Green Bay Packers (8-4) L 23-10

Jay Cutler berates offensive linemen on national TV for seven sacks; linemen just have to accept Cutlers four INTs apparently. Embarrassing offensive performance all around as defense holds Aaron Rodgers and Pack to 3 FGs and one TD.

St. Louis Rams (5-6-1) W 23-6

Defense sacks Sam Bradford six times and holds Rams out of the end zone. Offense scores only one TD for the second week in a row and Jay Cutler continues to find a groove with receivers.

@ Dallas Cowboys (6-6) W 34-18

Five interceptions of Tony Romo, two returned for TDs (Briggs, Tillman) and a workmanlike 360 yards on offense produce a crucial road win on MNF against the most overrated (annually) team in the NFL.

@ Jacksonville Jaguars (2-10) W 41-3

Bears offense runs up 501 balanced yards (214 rush, 287 pass) and explodes after a sluggish first half. Briggs and Tillman make NFL history with TD interceptions for second straight week and Brandon Marshall puts up 144 yards on 12 catches.

Sun., Oct. 14 Off week

vs. Detroit Lions (4-8) W 13-7

Jay Cutler sacked five times and survives Ndamukong Suhs WWF takedown. Bears RBs net 132 yards as run game clicks. Offense cant put Lions away but Charles Tillman D on Calvin Johnson virtually locks Bears DB into a 2nd Pro Bowl.

vs. Carolina Panthers (3-9) W 23-22

Robbie Gould 41-yard FG as time expires caps 16-point fourth quarter and rally from 19-7 deficit. Offense and defense struggle badly for three quarters but Kellen Davis catches TD pass and Tim Jennings TD return to turn back Cam Newton and reeling Ron Rivera team.

@ Tennessee Titans (4-8) W 51-20

Charles Tillmans bid for defensive player of the year got a boost from four forced fumbles, Brian Urlacher returned an INT for a touchdown and Corey Wootton scored on a blocked punt. Jay Cutler throws three TDs to Brandon Marshall in a game Bears led 28-2 after one quarter.

Houston Texans (11-1) L 13-6

Jay Cutler goes out with concussion and offense improves with Jason Campbell. But too many wasted chances with good field positions with 2 INTs and 2 lost fumbles. Arian Foster rushes for 102 but Bears adjust to control Texans offense in second half.

@ San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) L 32-7

Jason Campbell cannot survive an abysmal performance by the offensive line, allowing 5.5 sacks to Aldon Smith, while the defense makes an instant star out of Colin Kaepernick in his first NFL start.

Vikings (6-6) W 28-10

Jay Cutler returns from his concussion, completes 15 of 17 in the first half as the Bears get up 25-3 and cruise. Adrian Peterson loses to fumbles, Chris Conte intercepts Christian Ponder, and the offense turns the takeaways into 14 points.

Seattle Seahawks (6-6) L 23-17

Defense allows 459 yards as Russell Smith runs them ragged on TD drives of 97 and 80 yards for an overtime win. Bears squander numerous chances for stops and fail to convert an early fourth down vs. taking a safe FG.

@ Minnesota Vikings (6-6) Sun., Dec. 9, noon

Vikings cant hold 14-10 halftime edge as Packers score 13 unanswered in the second to give Minnesota its fourth loss in the last five games.

Green Bay Packers (8-4) Sun., Dec. 16, noon

Pack survives 210 rushing yards by Adrian Peterson by intercepting Christian Ponder twice in the red zone to catch Bears in NFC North. Next: Detroit

@ Arizona Cardinals (4-8) Sun., Dec. 23, 3:15 p.m.

A new low for Cards, losing 7-6 to the N.Y. Jets who play so poorly that Mark Sanchez is benched. Five first downs and 0-for-15 on third downs to run string to eight straight losses. Next: @ Seattle

@ Detroit Lions (4-8) Sun., Dec. 30, noon

Just when you think the Lions have reached the pinnacle of classlessness, they raise their own bar, taunting and laughing at an injured Colt still down with a concussion after an Ndamukong Suh hit. Last laugh to Colts on Andrew LuckDonnie Avery TD flip. Next: @ Green Bay

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster

Fire midfielder Dax McCarty named to U.S. national team roster

The Chicago Fire are one of the hottest teams in Major League Soccer and Dax McCarty has been rewarded with a spot on the U.S. national team ahead of the squad's World Cup qualifiers.

McCarty will join the U.S. as part of a 27-player roster for a friendly and a pair of 2018 World Cup qualifiers in June.

Things start with a friendly against Venezuela June 3 at Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of Real Salt Lake. Five days later is the first qualifier, which will take place at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., against Trinidad and Tobago. The U.S. will conclude the stretch of games June 11 at Mexico in the famous Estadio Azteca.

McCarty was also a part of the roster for the last two World Cup qualifiers, but did not play in either game. He would likely miss two Fire games, June 4 at Orlando and June 10 against Atlanta.

McCarty has already joined the team in Denver.

U.S. MNT Roster By Position (Club):

GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge/BEL), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)

DEFENDERS (11): DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham/ENG), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana/MEX), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach/GER), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER)

FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Jose Abreu relishing opportunity to help mentor Luis Robert, White Sox newest Cuban addition

Call it the White Sox latest Cuban connection.

When news came out of the team pursuing 19-year-old Cuban outfielder Luis Robert, it was pretty easy to guess that Jose Abreu, the franchise’s previous big-time, free-agent signing from Cuba, would be involved.

But not only was Abreu involved in the White Sox courting of Robert, sending a personalized message as part of the team’s video pitch, he’s been a willing participant. And now that Robert is officially signed after Saturday’s much-hyped introduction, Abreu is ready to take on a mentorship role, much like he has with another one of the organization’s Cuban prospects, Yoan Moncada.

In the lead up to Saturday’s press conference, it was Abreu touring Robert around Guaranteed Rate Field, chatting with him in the dugout and taking pictures on the infield.

“I was very excited to have him here, and I’m very happy right now because he’s signing with the team,” Abreu said through a translator ahead of Sunday’s series finale with the visiting Detroit Tigers. “He’s a very good player. I just told him that he has to keep working hard and keep doing the things to get here as soon as he can. He’s a nice guy.

“I’m excited to have that opportunity (to be a mentor). That’s something that I like to do. I like to advise the guys and tell them what to do for their best like I am doing right now with Moncada. I’m just waiting for that opportunity to happen with (Robert).”

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While Abreu arrived on the South Side an older, more experienced player who was ready for the big leagues, Robert’s journey to the majors will be a much different, much longer one. Abreu recognizes that and talked about how tough the transition will be. He also has confidence Robert, who has received glowing scouting reports comparing him to perennial All Stars, can succeed.

“It’s not an easy thing to do to come here straight to play in the majors because this is a very high level and a tough one to play,” Abreu said. “I think the best for him is the decision that he’s making for him, to have some games in the minors and let him develop there. He’s had a long time without playing baseball. Baseball in Cuba is good, but it’s not as good as baseball here in the U.S. and you have to adjust. I think that process for him is going to be perfect in the minors.”

Saturday, Robert talked about the White Sox tradition of Cuban players, mentioning how it helped motivate him to sign with the team. Abreu has been one of the franchise’s most successful Cuban players, a list that includes the legendary Minnie Minoso as well as more recent players like Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo and Moncada in the minor leagues.

While that tradition might not be the entire or even main reason Robert is now a part of the organization, general manager Rick Hahn talked about how it’s created an environment that will help Robert develop. Banners featuring Minoso, Abreu, Ramirez and Moncada flanked the table where Robert signed his contract.

Abreu said it’s a tradition he’s very proud to be a part of.

“That made me feel happy and proud. Not just for this organization that I’m a part of, but also for my heritage because I know that this is a very good organization and they are trying to take care of the Cuban players,” Abreu said. “I also feel a huge respect for Minnie Minoso because he was the first one who opened this door here with the White Sox.”

Through his mentoring, Abreu could keep that tradition going into the future. Robert and Moncada are huge pieces of the White Sox rebuilding puzzle, and Abreu is helping put those pieces together for the White Sox.