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As Packers keep winning, Bears need 'A' game from Campbell

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As Packers keep winning, Bears need 'A' game from Campbell

SAN FRANCISCO Call it Jason Campbells unfinished business, time to show that living well is the best revenge.

And right now, the Bears are in real need of some living well. The Green Bay Packers won their fifth straight game on Sunday, winning at Detroit, and will move past the Bears in the NFC North, by virtue of beating the Bears in Green Bay, if the Bears fall to San Francisco. The Minnesota Vikings went to 6-4 by beating Detroit last Sunday and will come to Chicago next Sunday after a week off also with a chance to move past the Bears with a victory.

Not the time that the Bears would have chosen to be without their starting quarterback.

But Campbell is not just any backup.

Campbell is 10-4 over his last 14 starts. He had the Oakland Raiders at 4-2 and on course for the playoffs when he broke his collarbone.

He cant replay the 2011 season even if he wanted to. What he can do, however, is finish the year that ended so abruptly and painfully, and disappointingly when the Raiders gave up on him in favor of mortgaging their future in a deal for Carson Palmer.

Well, the Raiders are 3-6 and behind seven other teams for even the second wild-card spot in the AFC playoffs. And Campbell is on Monday Night Football, starting for the No. 2 overall seed in the NFC going into the weekends games.

Its my first time starting since Oct. 16 last year, when I broke my collarbone. And itll be going back to the Bay Area, Campbell said. It feels good to have an opportunity to get back in there and play.

But you never want to have an opportunity to play because someone is injured, but we understand that we play and those things occur sometimes.

Its the third straight year that this has occurred for the Bears, losing Jay Cutler for at least a game to an injury. That raises questions for the organization long-term with Cutler heading into a contract year in 2013 and GM Phil Emery satisfied that Cutler is a franchise quarterback when he is healthy.

Fittingly perhaps, the San Francisco game could be a one-game (if Cutler returns from his concussion next Sunday) audition for Campbell. He signed a one-year deal with the Bears for 3.5 million when interest in him was tepid during free agency because of the collarbone injury.

I think everything happens for a reason, Campbell said. I think when the time is right, that will take care of itself in the right place and time.

The bigger concern

But those are issues that are a long way from the Bears thinking going into a game that, if they lose, would drop them from second only to the Atlanta Falcons in the interim NFC playoff seedings to trailing the Packers in the division.

The bigger issue remains an offense that have yet to reach its 2011 levels despite additions like Brandon Marshall, Michael Bush and Gabe Carimi, whose rookie season ended after six quarters, plus the elevation of Mike Tice to offensive coordinator.

We have to maintain good energy, Mike Tice said. We have to maintain a positive approach with the fact that were working at it, were churning at it, were putting in the time at it and at some point were encouraged that it should it better break in our way and start playing with some rhythm.

The Campbell Factor

An intriguing thread running through the San Francisco game is whether the offense might actually run better under Campbell than it has been with Cutler.

For one big thing, Campbell directs an offense that has rookie Alshon Jeffery back from a broken hand. Jeffery is a big target who had become a starter and the Bears No. 2 receiver before his injury.

Campbell is a timing-based quarterback vs. Cutlers style of waiting a shade longer in a play and then having the arm power to still get the football where it needs to be. Campbell is possibly less apt to force a bad situation.

As a quarterback, you got to not try to dictate the game but do everything you possibly can to get your own rhythm, by not forcing things and everything like that, Campbell said.

But, at the same time, just have fun. You got to let it hang out in a game like this.

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If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

If Kyle Schwarber's back, the rest of the National League will have another reason to worry about the second-half Cubs

Kyle Schwarber’s proper introduction to the Cubs-Sox rivalry came in the summer of 2015 when a fan on the South Side threw a half-empty “tall boy” at him in left field. A little more than a year removed from college, Schwarber didn’t understand why someone wouldn’t finish all the beer first.  

David Ross chimed in, raising his voice loud enough so Schwarber and a group of reporters could hear him inside the visiting clubhouse: “You should have shotgunned it and then went over there and found him.

“I tell you what: I’d hate to try to wrap up Kyle Schwarber. I guarantee you that whoever threw that beer doesn’t want (any) part of Kyle Schwarber. I promise you that one.”

That was the rookie orientation before Schwarber: blasted five playoff home runs that October; suffered a devastating knee injury that almost wiped out his entire 2016 season; made a dramatic return to the World Series; and experienced newfound fame and fortune that would change his life forever.

Mess with Schwarber? That aura of invincibility is gone after his detour to Triple-A Iowa before the All-Star break. But the first-place Cubs will take Thursday night’s 6-3 win over the White Sox as another sign that he is almost back, yet another reason why the defending champs look ready to continue this second-half surge. 

“I told him that if he had a couple more push-ups in there, he would have had three homers tonight, but we’ll take a triple,” winning pitcher Jon Lester said afterward. “Schwarber’s been swinging the bat great since he’s been back.”

No doubt, the Cubs caught the sell-mode White Sox at the right time during the final days leading up to the July 31 trade deadline. Even in going 3-for-4 and blasting his 16th and 17th home runs – which traveled 814 feet combined at Guaranteed Rate Field – Schwarber is still only hitting .191 with 90 strikeouts in 79 games this season.     

But the Cubs have always given Schwarber the benefit of the doubt and will point to his big personality and encouraging numbers since his Triple-A reset ended on July 6, getting on base almost 37 percent of the time and hitting safely in 10 of 13 games with five homers, three doubles and that triple.

“Retrospectively, we should not have expected that much,” manager Joe Maddon admitted. “I’m guilty of that kind of a narrative or a dialogue also, because I was really eager to watch him play a full season of Major League Baseball.

“But the guy missed the whole season and did really well in a small window of time at the end of the year. So maybe my expectations exceeded what they should have been.

“I do believe he is that good. I do believe you’re going to come back and see him play at the level we anticipated. But he might have just needed more time. And we just didn’t recognize that.

“I might have been as guilty as anybody regarding the promotion of that. But I believe in him fully. I know it’s going to happen. There’s been some really good major-league hitters that have gone through the same thing.” 

At this point, the Cubs (54-47) would love to see what kind of wrecking ball Schwarber could be for a half-season. To his credit, Schwarber has been the same throughout all the ups and downs, someone who looks and sounds like a guy you would drink tall boys with.

“I just want to worry about putting the barrel on the ball,” Schwarber said. “I’m just trying to stay within myself, be short (with my swing) and it’s paying off.”