Playoff hopes alive after win in Arizona

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Playoff hopes alive after win in Arizona

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Chicago's defense outscored Arizona all by itself on a day when the Bears had to win to keep their playoff hopes alive.
Charles Tillman returned an interception 10 yards for a score and Zack Bowman returned a fumble 1 yard for another TD in the Bears' 28-13 victory over the punchless Cardinals.
It was the third pick Tillman has brought back for a touchdown this season and the eighth overall by Chicago, one shy of the NFL record.
Brandon Marshall caught six passes for 68 yards and a TD, breaking the Bears franchise record for yards receiving in a season in the process.
Chicago (9-6) snapped a three-game losing streak and won for just the second time in seven tries. The Cardinals (5-10) lost for the 10th time in 11 games.
To make the playoffs as a wild card, the Bears must win at Detroit in their regular-season finale next Sunday, then have Minnesota lose to Green Bay or have Seattle lose its final two games. The Seahawks were home against San Francisco Sunday night.
Matt Forte gained 88 yards in 12 carries, including a 4-yard TD run, for Chicago before leaving with an ankle injury early in the second half.
Jay Cutler completed just one of his first 11 passes, then went 5 of 5 on a touchdown drive in the final minutes of the first half. He finished 12 of 26 for 146 yards and a touchdown.
It was the defense's dominance of Arizona's NFL-worst offense that determined the outcome.
The Cardinals continued to search for someone to move the ball.
After he threw the interception to Tillman put Chicago up 28-6 on Arizona's first offensive series after halftime, rookie Ryan Lindley was benched in favor of Brian Hoyer, claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh 13 days earlier.
Kelvin Hayden picked off Hoyer's pass late in the game and returned it 39 yards to the Arizona 10.
But Adrian Wilson blocked Olindo Mare's 20-yard field goal try and Justin Bethel returned it 82 yards with 1:46 to play for the Cardinals' lone TD of the day.
Arizona's Larry Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 111 yards, just his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. The first was in Week 3 against Philadelphia when the Cardinals were off to a 4-0 start.
Marshall made a diving grab of Cutler's long pass at the Arizona 14 early in the game, but Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt threw the challenge flag before the Bears could get the next play off. After the review, the pass was ruled incomplete.
No matter, the Bears scored a moment later anyway.
Chicago pinned the Cardinals deep and, on second-and-11 from the 3, Beanie Wells' right knee gave way and he dropped the ball as he went backside first to the ground. Bowman grabbed it and skidded over the goal line for the first touchdown for the Bears defense since Nov. 4.
Fitzgerald's leaping grab of Lindley's 18-yard pass helped set up Jay Feely's 49-yard field goal that cut it to 7-3.
But Forte rambled 36 yards on the final play of the first quarter and Cutler threw 30 yards to Marshall to the Arizona 4 -- the Bears quarterback's first completion of the game in seven throws. Forte carried it in from there and Chicago led 14-3.
Arizona's defense forced a Bears punt from their 6, and the Cardinals took over at the Chicago 32. But Lindley threw three errant passes, and a fake field goal of what would have been a 50-yard attempt went nowhere.
Chicago soon gave Arizona another chance when Dave Zastudil's punt careened off the Bears' D.J. Moore and bounced into the hands of the Cardinals' Michael Adams. Adams raced to the end zone but, as a muffed punt, it was brought back to the Chicago 36. Arizona advanced to the 18 before Feely's 35-yard field goal cut the lead to 14-6 with 2:18 left in the half.
That was plenty of time for Cutler, who after completing one of his first 11 passes, went 5-for-5, capped by an 11-yarder to a wide open Marshall, to put the Bears up 21-6 with 19 seconds left in the half. The highlight of the drive was a diving grab of Cutler's 35-yard pass by Alshon Jeffery.

The ‘friendly rivalry’ between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman with Cubs, Dodgers becoming NL superpowers

The ‘friendly rivalry’ between Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman with Cubs, Dodgers becoming NL superpowers

LOS ANGELES – A man stepped to the microphone during a Q&A session at Cubs Convention and called Theo Epstein and Andrew Friedman “the two boy geniuses.” The fan told Epstein how his friends used to call the Dodgers baseball boss “your Mini-Me,” asking about their personal rivalry and if beating L.A. in the playoffs had any extra meaning.

“We have a friendly rivalry,” Epstein told a packed hotel ballroom in downtown Chicago in January. “First off, didn’t he interview for an internship with us and we turned him down way back in the day?

“And then like nine months later, he was GM of the Rays. When he was with Tampa and I was with Boston, we never spoke, because we were in the same division. It was kind of a heated rivalry. We literally never called each other on trades or anything like that.”

But where it’s so difficult for the small-market Rays to keep up with the ultra-rich Red Sox – and replace Friedman’s vision and Joe Maddon’s star power and survive a string of wasted first-round draft picks and find a long-term stadium solution – the Cubs and Dodgers are positioned to be superpowers for years to come.

That’s what makes this Memorial Day weekend showdown at Dodger Stadium so compelling beyond the National League Championship Series rematch. It’s not just upcoming free agent Jake Arrieta returning to the site of his onesie no-hitter on Friday night, a reigning MVP (Kris Bryant) and Rookie of the Year (Corey Seager), two of the best closers on the planet (Wade Davis and Kenley Jansen) and a classic Jon Lester vs. Clayton Kershaw matchup on Sunday afternoon.

The Cubs eliminated the Dodgers less than a month after Epstein finalized a five-year contract worth in the neighborhood of $50 million, likely surpassing Friedman as the game’s highest-paid personnel executive.

“Jed developed a pretty good relationship with him, because I didn’t like talking to him,” Epstein said, referencing GM Jed Hoyer, another Boston transplant on the Cubs Convention panel that day. “But then when I came out here with the Cubs, a different league and everything, I developed a much better relationship with Andrew and we became friends, so now it’s much more of a friendly rivalry.

“I will say that losing to the Dodgers would have been a bitter pill to swallow on a number of fronts, including that one. But they’re developing a powerhouse out there.

“We see them as a team we have to go through each year to get where we want to be.”

[MORE CUBS: Summing up the Cubs' impressive, potentially season-altering homestand]

Backed by Guggenheim Partners’ financial muscle and flush with new TV money, the Dodgers have won four straight division titles and 90-plus games each season while ramping up a farm system that’s now ranked fourth, fifth or sixth by Baseball America, ESPN and MLB.com.

“Everyone’s got their own style and their own approach,” Epstein said. “Ours was more kind of bottom-up (where) they needed to keep it rolling at a high level in the big leagues while retooling their system and nurturing the talent that was already there.

“We had to go out and transact and bring some stuff in. We were at different points of the success cycle. They’ve done a really nice job of winning while kind of establishing something new at the same time.”

The blue-blooded franchise that produced 17 Rookie of the Year winners last month rolled out Cody Bellinger, a 21-year-old, left-handed first baseman with nine homers in his first 28 games in The Show. Julio Urias – who might be the next Fernando Valenzuela – is supposed to be conserving some innings at Triple-A Oklahoma City for another October where the Cubs could be standing in the way of the Dodgers’ first World Series title since 1988.

“They’ve been producing great young talent for a long period of time,” Epstein said. “If you go back and look at some of the young studs they have in the big leagues that (former scouting director) Logan White and (the previous regime) brought in, some of the guys are still coming.

“They’re stocked and the Dodger tradition runs really deep. With Andrew and his front office, we know they’re going to be dynamic. They’re going to have more resources than anyone. And they’re a big threat to the whole league for a long period of time.”

Could Derrick Rose reunite with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

Could Derrick Rose reunite with Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota?

Tom Thibodeau was without Derrick Rose for the first time in his head-coaching career last season, coaching the Timberwolves while Rose suited up for the New York Knicks.

But a reunion may be on the horizon. Rose is an unrestricted free agent and the Timberwolves, though they don't have a real need at point guard, are showing interest in the Chicago native. We'll have to wait until July 1, when free agency begins, to see what happens.

See what special guest Nick Friedell, Bulls beat reporter for ESPN, had to say about the topic on SportsTalk Live in the video above.