Points: Bears struggle scoring, particularly vs. Green Bay

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Points: Bears struggle scoring, particularly vs. Green Bay

The tipping point for the Bears in their hope of staving off further disaster and defeating the Green Bay Packers was put in straightforward perspective by their coach last Monday.

Against Minnesota, we put a lot of yards up, said coach Lovie Smith. We did some good things third downs, passing yardage and all that. But its about points and we still havent scored enough points. Its as simple as that.

Nothing about scoring points for the Bears has been simple, however, particularly against Green Bay.

MORE: Bears must worry about more than Rodgers

The Bears have played the Packers close. Six of the last nine games with Green Bay have been decided by seven point or less, meaning most have come down to or play or two. Seconding Smith: Its as simple as that.

Cutler vs. Capers

The biggest single reason among multiple causes that the Green Bay Packers have beaten the Bears five straight times and are favored to make a sixth has been that one quarterback (Aaron Rodgers) has been better than the other (Jay Cutler).

In the eight games with Green Bay since trading for Cutler, the Bears have scored more than 20 points just once and that was in game 15 last season (21) under Josh McCown. They scored 20 in the only Cutler win over the Packers (first game, 2010) when the Packers contributed 18 penalties.

As to why the Packers have effectively owned Cutler, they have a good game plan, Cutler said. Defensive coordinator Dom Capers does a good job of getting those guys prepared and showing different looks and taking away things offenses are good at and what they want to do with the ball.

Maybe it is a Capers thing. Capers arrived in Green Bay the same year the Bears were trading for Cutler. He already had been a problem for Cutler, however.

Capers was a special assistant and secondary coach under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots in 2008. The Patriots held Cutler to a 64.5 passer rating and intercepted him twice in a 41-7 mauling of the Broncos.

Capers devised a two-man bracketing of wide receiver Brandon Marshall that limited the franchise wideout to two catches and 24 yards, second only to the 2-21 game Marshall suffered through at San Francisco, also a loss on which the Bears scored only one touchdown.

We had a plan and we stuck to it, said Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy. I thought our defensive line played well in the first game. We have a lot of respect for Brandon and his game and what he brings to the table. Hes a target and obviously the favorite target for Jay Cutler.

Marshall was dismissive of the defensive efforts of the Green Bay defense beyond Capers plan. But he dropped a touchdown pass in the game and the fact was that the Bears could not solve the Packers plan.

Just as they failed to solve the Minnesota Vikings.

We also let the team down this past weekend against the Vikings. Marshall said. We had some crucial drops that could have changed the game. That falls on us, that falls on me being one of the leaders in that receivers room, and we have to change it now.

Whither Forte?

The receivers collectively have failed other than Marshalls 101 catches. But the Bears put 441 yards on Green Bay in game 15 last year (yet only two touchdowns) in major part by running 42 times for 199 yards. And that was with Kahlil Bell netting 121 and Armando Allen 40 in place of Matt Forte and Marion Barber.

Most notably, McCown was not sacked. He ran eight times but came off better than Cutler, who was sacked three times in the game-three loss to the Packers.

That worsened to seven sacks in game one this season, in which Cutler threw four interceptions. Coordinator Mike Tice later took responsibility for poor protection scheming, particularly on the edge against Clay Matthews (3.5 sacks) but Forte was given only seven carries. Michael Bush had 14 but is nursing rib injuries and may be of limited value this week.

Its not just one area, said Cutler, himself dealing with neck and reported knee soreness. Ive got to play better, first and foremost and get the rest of the guys up to speed with me. Youve got to run the ball better, pass the ball better, block better theres no one area we cant improve in.

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

Blackhawks blow three-goal lead, fall in OT at Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Yanni Gourde had a breakaway goal 4:25 into overtime and the Tampa Bay Lightning rallied from a three-goal deficit to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Monday night.

Victor Hedman set up the winner with his third assist of the game.

Tampa Bay, which trails Boston by a point for the second Eastern Conference wild card, also got two goals from Jonathan Drouin. Ondrej Palat and Anton Stralman also scored, and Andrei Vasilevskiy, who got pulled 14 minutes into the first after allowing three goals on eight shots, returned to the start the second and finished with 25 saves.

Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane, Tomas Jurco and Richard Panik scored for the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, who were coming off a 7-0 loss Saturday night at Florida. Scott Darling stopped 25 shots.

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

Cubs will have Ian Happ one phone call away at Triple-A Iowa

MESA, Ariz. – After an impressive camp where he looked like the next homegrown Cubs hitter to roll off the assembly line, Ian Happ will go to Triple-A Iowa and get ready to make his big-league debut, or perhaps build his value for a trade-deadline deal.

Along with Happ, the Cubs assigned outfielder John Andreoli and catcher Taylor Davis to minor-league camp on Monday while optioning pitchers Eddie Butler and Rob Zastryzny to Iowa, cutting their roster to 31 as the Opening Night picture comes into focus.

Happ – the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft out of the University of Cincinnati – batted .417 with five homers, four doubles and 17 RBI in 24 Cactus League games.

"Offensively, what was there not to like?" general manager Jed Hoyer said. "I feel like he hit the ball hard every at-bat for six weeks. It's always fun to see a young guy like that come in and open a lot of eyes."

Happ, 22, is a switch-hitter who can play second base and the outfield, skills that could help him escape from Des Moines once the need arises on the major-league level.

[MORE CUBS: How Cubs came to fully believe in the legend of Kyle Schwarber]

Though there are questions about Happ's defense, Theo Epstein's front office and Joe Maddon's coaching staff clearly value versatility and trust young talent, moving Addison Russell to shortstop in 2015 and elevating rookie catcher Willson Contreras last season.

Stay tuned to see when/if the Cubs will have a spot at Wrigley Field, but Happ looks like he will be on a fast track.

"Whenever you're in Triple-A, you're always a call away," Hoyer said. "Sometimes it happens quicker than you think. We never expected Addie would be up in April of that year, and he was. I feel like with Willson last year, if you had asked me in spring training – would he be up in June? – I probably would have thought it would be more like a September call-up or something like that.

"You never know. Things happen. When you have good players in the minor leagues, sometimes it speeds up on you a little bit."