Peterson or Ponder: Which is the real threat?

958395.png

Peterson or Ponder: Which is the real threat?

The Bears defense has gone to sleep this week with visions of Adrian Peterson in its collective head. That may not be its sole cause for concern, however.

Pondering Ponder

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder has been a disappointment in 2012. After a promising rookie year that effectively began with his relieving Donovan McNabb against the Bears, he has muddled along with a passer rating of 75 this season.

In his first six games he had none with a completion percentage lower than 60 and the Vikings were 4-2. In the last six he has had just one game with a completion rate above 55. The Vikings have gone 2-4.

Hes pretty much what you see, said new middle linebacker Nick Roach. Hes very athletic, he can throw the ball if he has time, and he doesnt seem to get rattled, which you would tend to maybe associate with young guys. Hes a good test.

The reason: For all of his inconsistencies, Ponder is 5-1 at home this season.

Visions of 28

But the Bears mission statement is always to make a team one-dimensional by taking away its running game. And nowhere has this appeared to prove more effective than against the Vikings.

Minnesota won four of the first five games in Adrian Petersons career against the Bears. In those, Peterson averaged 128 yards per game. The Vikings have lost the last six (two with Peterson missing due to injury) with the games best running back averaging 73 yards in the four he played, including the 108 he had in the 28-10 loss on Nov. 25.

The quirky part is that Peterson has rushed for no fewer than those 108 yards in each of the last six games and the Vikings won just two of those, against woefuls Arizona and Detroit.

He trampled the Green Bay Packers for 210 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries last Sunday. The Vikings lost 23-14.

But in the mind of the Bears there is still a clear No. 1 target and way to neutralize that.

Gang-tackling, said defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli. Its gap security and knowing exactly what were doing and playing extremely hard and fast. That game he played last week at Green Bay was special. We know what we have in store for us. Were competing for a championship and we got to get him on the ground.

Something missing

The Bears have been successful in their last six games against Minnesota. They also have had Brian Urlacher in all of those. Now they dont.

Roach has been very solid this season with an arrow pointing up at this point of the year. He had four tackles against San Francisco as well as a half-sack and quarterback pressure and pass breakup. He totaled seven stops against the Vikings and forced a fumble, and he followed that with five tackles against Seattle. Of his 16 tackles over the past three games, 11 have been solos.

But as WBBMWSCR Bears reporter Zach Zaidman noted, defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has never handled a game through any other channel than Urlacher. This will be the first time he is communicating his defensive moves through someone other than Urlacher.

Sound off

Communicating is the operative word here.

One popular notion in Roachs previous time at middle linebacker (2009, three games, 1-2) was that he simply was not loud enough. Two of those three games were outdoors.

This game is inside one of the acknowledged loudest venues in sports. Teammates are satisfied that Roach can and will be heard.

His voice has developed, said linebacker Lance Briggs, smiling. I dont know the right word but its matured. He sounds louder on the field.

Communication is not going to be a problem. Even if guys dont hear, weve been in the system long enough where we understand we should all understand by recognizing.

Roach was amused: Lance is a funny guy. I try to make a conscious effort to get the communications clear so the guys can hear it.

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

Blackhawks look to keep rolling vs. Coyotes

The last time the Blackhawks faced the Arizona Coyotes was the first game the current top line of Nick Schmaltz, Jonathan Toews and Richard Panik were thrown together.

Yeah, the combination's worked out well. So has the Blackhawks' game in general, as they've won seven of eight including that Feb. 2 game. Now the Blackhawks will try to keep the momentum rolling with their lines and their game when they host the Coyotes Thursday night at the United Center.

The Blackhawks' current run of success started in the desert and part of that has been finding more consistent lines. Everything else has gradually improved off of that, from goal scoring to puck possession.

"I think it's puck possession, puck control, pace to the game," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we were very inconsistent in that early and we were defending way more than we were accustomed to. You're vulnerable for penalties, you're vulnerable for quality scoring chances against and not generating enough. I think that's the progression in our game now, it seems like all four lines are having the puck and having some zone time and having some rush chances, zone chances and it seems like every line's contributing there, and that's the big difference."

[RELATED: By the bye - Blackhawks keep rolling following break]

The Blackhawks' top line didn't have immediate chemistry but Quenneville kept them together and let them work on it. But as Toews said, it was about the group keeping the all-around game going, points or no points.

"Sometimes you just gotta work until things start clicking," Toews said. "Everyone seems to start paying attention when you start scoring goals, regardless of [the fact you're] doing things right. It's nice that we're scoring but we have to stick with what's making us a successful line at both ends of the rink right now."

Corey Crawford will start vs. the Coyotes. Niklas Hjalmarsson did not skate this morning but is expected to play. Quenneville said Michal Rozsival could draw into the lineup.

Broadcast information

Time: 7:30 p.m.
TV: CSN
Live stream: CSNChicago.com

Blackhawks lines

Nick Schmaltz -Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik
Artemi Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Patrick Kane
Dennis Rasmussen-Marcus Kruger-Marian Hossa
Ryan Hartman-Tanner Kero-Vinnie Hinostroza

Defensive pairs

Duncan Keith-Niklas Hjalmarsson
Michal Rozsival-Brent Seabrook
Brian Campbell-Trevor van Riemsdyk

Goaltender

Corey Crawford

Injuries 

None

Coyotes lines (via Arizona Republic)

Tobias Rieder-Martin Hanzal-Radim Vrbata
Brendan Perlini-Christian Dvorak-Shane Doan
Max Domi -Alex Burmistrov-Ryan White
Jamie McGinn-Jordan Martinook-Josh Jooris

Defensive pairs

Oliver Ekman-Larsson-Luke Schenn
Alex Goligoski-Anthony DeAngelo
Jakob Chychrun-Connor Murphy

Goaltender

Mike Smith

Injuries

Lawson Crouse (lower body), Brad Richardson (tibia)

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

Ranking the five best games Mark Buehrle pitched with the White Sox

The White Sox will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 prior to June 24's game against the Oakland Athletics, a deserving honor for one of the best pitchers in franchise history. The left-hander compiled a 3.83 ERA and won 161 games during 12 seasons with the White Sox, and perhaps more impressively, he threw over 200 innings every year he was a full-time member of the team's starting rotation. 

So with the White Sox announcing Buehrle's number retirement ceremony for this summer, let's take a look back at the best games the St. Charles, Mo. native pitched with the White Sox. 

1. July 23, 2009: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 6 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:03

Buehrle's perfect game, complete with Dewayne Wise's legendary catch, sits at the top of mountain of Buehrle's historic achievements with the White Sox. This was a vintage Buehrle game, with him working quickly and getting plenty of weak contact. It just turned out that Tampa Bay couldn't get anyone on base in it.

2. April 18, 2007: 9 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K vs. Texas. Time of game: 2:03

By game score, this was actually the best game Buehrle pitched in his career thanks to the two more strikeouts he had than in his perfect game. And in no-hitting the Rangers, Buehrle still faced the minimum — after walking Sammy Sosa, he picked off the former Cubs slugger. 

3. April 16, 2005: 9 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 12 K vs. Seattle. Time of game: 1:39

The 99-minute game might get lost in Buehrle's career thanks to his no-hitter and perfect game, but it's right up there in terms of how impressive it was. Not only did Buehrle set a career high in strikeouts against Seattle, but only one Mariners player got a hit that day (Ichiro, who naturally had all three). And it was the first — and still only — nine-inning game to be completed in under 100 minutes since 1984.

4. Aug. 3, 2001: 9 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Tampa Bay. Time of game: 2:12

Before Buehrle was an All-Star, World Series winner and no-hitter/perfect game thrower, he took a perfect game into the seventh inning against the Devil Rays before Damian Rolls singled to break it up. This wasn't Buehrle's first great start of his career — that came in a three-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers on May 26, 2001 — but it stood up for a decade and a half as one of the best games he pitched in the majors. 

5. July 21, 2004: 0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER, 3 K vs. Cleveland. Time of game: 2:31

This was another brush with perfection for Buehrle, who only allowed a one-out, seventh-inning single to Omar Vizquel (he got Matt Lawton to hit into a double play after, allowing him to face the minimum for the first time in his career). This is the longest game in Buehrle's top five thanks to the White Sox blasting Cliff Lee and the Indians for 14 runs, but even then, barely over two and a half hours was a relatively brisk pace.