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.

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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